GARY LOCKE believes whoever signs Darren Barr this summer will get the consummate professional, although the versatile defender still has a major role to play at Hearts between now and the end of the season.
The Edinburgh club revealed last week that Barr and striker Gordon Smith will be released when their contracts expire in a matter of weeks. In Barr’s case, the decision is mainly financial because he earns more than many of his Tynecastle colleagues. However, Locke said he will continue to play the 28-year-old in Hearts’ final SPL matches.
Barr delivered an efficient display in central midfield on Saturday as Hearts’ began their post-split fixtures with a 1-0 win at Kilmarnock, courtesy of John Sutton’s early goal. Locke acclaimed Barr’s professionalism after receiving the news that he was surplus to requirements for next season.
“Darren was told last week that he is going to be moving on, yet he goes out on Saturday and puts in a performance like that,” said Locke. “It’s exactly what I expected from him and that’s why I played him. Darren is a fantastic professional and a good lad. I said to him after the game that he deserved enormous credit for the way he went about it on the day. Whoever signs him next season is getting a really good player. I’d expect to see him in the SPL next season, although I don’t know what he’s got planned. I’ve certainly got no qualms about playing him between now and the end of the season.”
Locke restored Sutton to the starting line-up and his was rewarded when the Englishman converted Michael Ngoo’s low cross after just five minutes.
Despite Ryan Stevenson missing a second-half penalty, Hearts left Ayrshire with three points.
“Sutty did justify his place. I was really pleased with the goal because it was a good move,” continued Locke. “Big Michael Ngoo did well with a great ball across the box and Sutty was there to tap it in. It’s great to see the front two linking up. John has been in and out of the team, but you know what you’re going to get with him up front. He’ll hold the ball in, he’ll challenge and chip in with the odd goal. I’m just grateful he chipped in with one on Saturday.”