Gary Locke believes John Souttar is a Hearts captain-in-waiting with all the attributes to succeed Christophe Berra. The Tynecastle club’s ambassador feels the 21-year-old can step in as skipper whenever Berra, 33, steps aside.
Souttar and Berra were both disappointed not to be named in Alex McLeish’s first Scotland squad after outstanding seasons at club level. Locke – named Hearts captain when only 20 – has watched Souttar mature thanks to Berra’s leadership. He predicted that the young centre-back could be next to don the captain’s armband.
“John certainly has all the attributes to be a Hearts captain,” said Locke, speaking as the Edinburgh club prepare to launch season ticket sales for 2018/19. “He is probably quieter than Christophe. Hopefully Hearts can keep a hold of him first and foremost as his performances have generated interest.
“No matter what age you are, if the manager thinks you are the right man for the job then so be it. That happened with myself and I was quite vocal on the pitch and I was handed the armband at a very young age. Jim Jefferies saw a lot in me to make me captain and I think John will suit that role moving forward. Christophe may have something to say about it, though.”
Berra’s leadership has been vital to Hearts since he rejoined the club from Ipswich Town last summer. He has two more years of his three-year contract to run, so Souttar will need to be patient. “The more games you play in the first team the more confident you become. I had the older lads in the dressing room and I still spoke to them and asked for their advice even though I was the captain,” explained Locke.
“At the end of the day they had been there, seen it and done it and, although I was a young captain, I hadn’t achieved anything. I always took their advice on board and I always listened to more experienced people in the game. That is why I got the respect that I did in the Hearts dressing room. I looked up to the older lads who, in turn, liked me and got on with me. The senior guys were great for me.”
Locke urged fans to get behind Hearts and renew season tickets to help manager Craig Levein rebuild his squad this summer. Levein wants between seven and ten new players.
“For Craig to do his business early, which I know he wants to do, and if he is to bring in the amount of players he has spoken about, then the season ticket sales are massive. That can hopefully give him the finance to get players in and tied up,” said Locke.
“When you go away for pre-season it is great for you to have the nucleus of your team there. I imagine we will go away somewhere. If you are training, then spending the night with each other, you get to know your team-mates. If we are going to bring in seven or eight players, then it’s huge.”
Details of Hearts’ 2018/19 season tickets were due to be released at www.heartsfc.co.uk today.