Hearts Pre-season plans afoot under Gary Locke

Hearts manager Gary Locke speaks to his squad during training. Picture: SNS

Hearts manager Gary Locke speaks to his squad during training. Picture: SNS

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Hearts manager Gary Locke has begun making pre-season plans despite not knowing whether his future is safe at Tynecastle.

Locke is inquiring about summer friendlies to ensure the squad is ready for the 2014/15 campaign kicking off on Saturday, August 9. However, there is no guarantee he will still be in charge after Ann Budge takes control of the club.

Budge is expected to become chairwoman of Hearts before the end of April, pending a transfer of the club’s shares from Lithuanian companies Ukio Bankas and Ukio Bankas Investment Group. She does not intend making any immediate decisions but, with Locke out of contract, must decide on whether to keep the manager in place.

That issue will remain unresolved but Locke has already started planning Hearts’ pre-season schedule regardless of his own future. Friendly matches in both Scotland and England are expected to be arranged. “We have to consider thefinancial situation,” Locke told the Evening News. “Once the new owner comes in we can sort most of that out. We normally play a couple of games in England and a couple up here so that will certainly be the plan again for this summer.

“We’ve just got to prepare as professionally as we can. We’ll try to put things in place because this is the time of year when you need to look at your pre-season plans. We’ll be doing that as normal and trying to get a few games organised to make sure the team is as prepared as well as possible for the start of next season.”

Hearts must also decide what will happen in the goalkeeping department, with the triumvirate of Jamie MacDonald, Mark Ridgers and Jack Hamilton all eager to play first-team football. MacDonald is the established first choice but is out of contract along with Ridgers. If all three are retained, at least one is likely to be loaned out next season. “You can chop and change players quite a lot but if a goalkeeper is playing well then there isn’t much you can do in terms of putting the second choice in,” said Locke.

“Mark’s been very patient. He’s had a couple of injuries this year and had a knee operation but I’ve been delighted with the progress of all three keepers.

“Working with Alan Combe, our goalkeeping coach, we’ve seen a massive improvement in the three of them. We have two fantastic young goalkeepers allied to a top first-team goalkeeper. It’s a great situation.

“The three of them have a great relationship with each other and, from my point of view, the goalkeeping position at Hearts is in safe hands. I’d like to have sent Jack out on loan but when we were considering doing that Mark got injured. We then couldn’t afford to farm him out. They both play in the under-20s and we try to make sure they get as much game time as possible.”