An emotional Gary Locke today outlined his pride at how his players have managed to remain focused and keep fighting for the Hearts cause despite the uncertainty surrounding the club and their own futures over the past season.
The Tynecastle club’s very existence was in serious doubt until yesterday morning when Ukio Bankas, Hearts’ second biggest creditor, agreed to transfer their 29.9 per cent shareholding in the club to BIDCO 1874, the vehicle being used to facilitate Ann Budge’s takeover.
With the threat of liquidation lurking, the latest developments were the most significant yet for the Jambos, who could now be out of administration and under Budge’s control within a matter of weeks.
“I’m just over the moon that things look to be moving in the right direction and that the club that I’ve supported all my life looks to be getting out of this mess. It’s never been about me or the players – we were just all desperate for the club to survive and yesterday morning was a huge step towards that happening,” the manager told the Evening News.
“Over the last two years or so there hasn’t been a lot of light at the end of the tunnel and I’ll still never forget about the people that lost their jobs. But yesterday was a great day for the football club because we’ve passed another major obstacle. Hopefully there aren’t too many more to go and we can get back to being a normal football club.”
Among the main tasks awaiting Budge when she takes over at the helm will be to resolve the futures of Locke and several of his players, who are also out of contract at the end of the season. The manager welcomed the sense of “clarity” and “peace of mind” that the latest events will provide for every member of staff at Tynecastle.
“We’re coming to a critical period in terms of getting plans in place for next season,” the manager said. “It’s been very difficult so far because everything’s been up in the air but at least now there’s a bit of clarity. It would be great to see Ann come in and take over in the next few weeks but the way [administrator] Bryan Jackson is talking, there’s still a wee bit to go. We’ll just get on with the football side of things and whatever will be will be for me.
“You do think about your own situation, but as a manager, it’s the players who are at the forefront of my mind, in particular the experienced players who have got families to think about. I could sense in the last couple of weeks that they were getting a little bit anxious, and rightly so, so it’ll be a big relief for them, as well as the younger players whose contracts are up, to get that bit of positive news that they’re going to find out soon what’s going to happen to them. It gives you peace of mind to know that one way or another your future’s going to be sorted out.
“The most pleasing thing for me is that all the players’ biggest concern has been about Heart of Midlothian Football Club surviving and not about themselves. They could easily have thrown in the towel recently. [But] all they’ve spoken about was wanting the club to survive and now that that’s looking likely, they can now hopefully all get their own futures sorted out, which would be great.”
Foundation of Hearts chairman Ian Murray confirmed that, as a result of yesterday’s landmark development, resolving contractual issues in time for the new season will be a priority. “I’m sure that, after yesterday’s announcement, Ann will be taking forward her work on that front pretty quickly,” he said.