Hearts boss wants new owners to secure his top stars

Gary Locke is concerned that 12 players are out of contract in the summer
Gary Locke is concerned that 12 players are out of contract in the summer
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Gary Locke hopes Hearts’ new owners will make player contracts a priority when they take control of the club.

A total of 12 members of Locke’s team have deals expiring this summer and the manager is eager to see many retained by prospective chairwoman Ann Budge and the board she appoints.

Budge is awaiting news from Lithuania on the transfer of Hearts shares from Ukio Bankas and Ukio Bankas Investment Group before completing a £2.5million takeover at Tynecastle. With so many players soon out of contract, she will need to move swiftly to tie up the club’s best talent.

Jamie MacDonald, Jamie Hamill, Dylan McGowan, Mark Ridgers, Callum Tapping and Sam Nicholson all become free agents at the end of the season. Jamie Walker, Jason Holt, Brad McKay, David Smith and Dale Carrick are also in the last few months of their contracts, but Hearts have options to extend their agreements for another year.

By the time Budge assumes control at Tynecastle, which is likely to be during April, negotiating contracts will be a pressing issue. “There are a few of them out of contract and we don’t have a big squad. A lot of them have improved this year and done very well. I’m pretty sure, when the new owners come in, we can sit down and try to get everybody’s future sorted out,” said Locke.

“I think, in general, everybody is improving as the season goes on. That’s the most important thing from my point of view. All the young lads are coming on and they’re not making the mistakes they were making earlier in the season. Now, they look more comfortable playing in this environment.”