GARY LOCKE believes scoring in the Edinburgh derby has sparked Hearts winger Billy King to life and given him confidence to establish himself in the first team.
The teenager’s late strike completed a 2-0 win over Hibs two weeks ago, followed up by a scintillating goal and two assists at Partick Thistle last week which had fans singing his name.
Having taken time to adjust to senior football this season, 19-year-old King is now in top form as Hearts prepare for their post-split fixtures. They are already relegated, but manager Locke feels King is now rising to the fore. He said the catalyst was scoring against Hibs.
“It’s confidence. That’s hit the nail on the head,” Locke told the Evening News. “Billy is one of these players who has unbelievable ability. Earlier in the season when he came off the bench, he wasn’t full of confidence. The goal against Hibs has been the boost he’s needed. You can see it’s given him a massive lift.
“We watch him every day in training and the lad has absolutely fantastic ability. We’ve been saying to him that he needs to take it into games. You can see he can do it in training but it’s different from training in front of nobody to playing when there’s 13,000 or 14,000 people watching you.
“Physically, he looks a lot better than he did and he’s taken that wee bit of confidence from the goal against Hibs. I thought he was fantastic again against Partick Thistle last week.”
As King was replaced by Gary Oliver five minutes from the end at Firhill, the visiting Hearts support broke into a chorus in his honour. “That’s one thing the young boys thrive on,” continued Locke. “It’s great to hear them singing Billy’s name and singing Dale Carrick’s name as well. They’ve given the young boys tremendous backing all season and it really gives them a lift. When the players are confident and supporters are singing their name, it gives them a big boost and I think you can see that in their performances.”