Jamie Walker insists Gary Locke must stay at Hearts and be given the chance to manage without restrictions next season.
The winger stressed that Locke has been “brilliant” throughout a turbulent first full campaign in charge and called for him to lead the team into the Championship next year.
Prospective owner Ann Budge is waiting to complete her takeover at Tynecastle, with Locke’s future one of the first major decisions she must make.
The manager is out of contract and Budge has consulted Craig Levein among others ahead of her impending takeover.
However, she has yet to make any decision on who will manage Hearts next season.
Walker, pictured right, believes Locke must be given the opportunity having so far coped admirably with administration, a 15-point deduction, a registration ban and a relegation fight.
“He’s been brilliant. He’s just learning as well. It’s his first full season as a manager and I think he deserves a lot of credit. Hopefully he’ll still he here next season,” said Walker.
“I think he has to be given the chance to take us into the Championship. He’s had the 15-point deduction and the signing ban. He’s had a tough time, but hopefully he can still be here next season and give it a good shot.
“He’s taken the club through a tough time and now he deserves the chance to show what he can do.
“When we were going through a tough time as young boys and we weren’t picking up results, he motivated us and kept us happy.
“We weren’t picking up many points but he had to come in every morning and keep us going.
“Hopefully he’s still here next season and we can kick on from there.”
The 20-year-old added that he would not be keen to go through another change of manager just 14 months since Locke replaced John McGlynn.
“It would be difficult under a new manager. It would be different, he would have different methods,” said the 20-year-old.
“The gaffer has started getting his points across, he’s started getting results and everyone’s gelling, so hopefully he can continue that next season.”
The improvement in Hearts’ youngsters has been well documented of late. Kids like Dale Carrick, Sam Nicholson, Billy King and others have taken on added significance having learned so much during this season.
Walker missed more than three months with a broken metatarsal but, previous to that injury in January, was enjoying an outstanding season himself.
“Obviously it’s been very difficult and there’s been a few ups and downs but I think as a team we’ve gained a lot of experience and we’re all better people,” he explained
“We’re looking forward to next season. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, boys can get offered contracts and know about their future, and hopefully we can bring in a few experienced players and a few quality signings and we can give it a good shot next season.
“I’ve got another season on my contract so hopefully I can do well next season and take it from there.”
There remains a slight air of frustration around Riccarton that the season is drawing to a close just as the young players produced there are finding their feet.
“If the season was just starting a few weeks ago we would be delighted but unfortunately it’s not,” said Walker. “Without the 15-point deduction we would be safe. That’s a big achievement for the young boys.
“Over the course of the season we’ve gained a lot of experience and we can look forward to next season with a bit of pride over the way we’re finishing this season.”
And, if Walker gets his way, Locke will again be in command and be free to make decisions without one hand effectively tied behind his back.