GARY LOCKE stressed today that every Hearts player should be itching to get on to the pitch at Celtic Park on Saturday despite being overwhelming underdogs.
The manager believes his young players must relish the atmosphere in Glasgow and believe in their chances of recording an unexpected win.
Celtic’s 7-0 Scottish Cup win at Tynecastle earlier this month illustrated the gulf between the two sides, but Locke will demand more resilience from his squad on Saturday. Despite losing Ryan Stevenson, Jason Holt and reserve goalkeeper Mark Ridgers to injury, he expects every member of his squad to respond to the big occasion.
Locke wants a performance similar to the one Hearts delivered at Pittodrie last month, when they defied the odds to leave with a rousing 3-1 victory. He said they should also take some inspiration from Capital rivals Hibs, who lost narrowly at Parkhead last weekend.
“It will certainly require a similar performance to the one we put in at Aberdeen,” said Locke. “It’s a place everybody should be desperate to play at and looking forward to. Celtic Park is a great place to play. Hibs went there at the weekend and ran Celtic close so you’ve got to take belief from that.
“It was probably a good time for them to go there because Celtic were coming off the back of an away match in the Champions League. It’s going to be difficult, but we’ve got to go there with belief. If we don’t have belief, there’s no point turning up.
“The players we have need to make sure we put up a better fight than we did a couple of weeks ago. We didn’t compete last time against Celtic and we need to do that this weekend.”