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Hearts coach Gary Locke urges Tynecastle board not to lose boss Paulo Sergio

Apr 20 2012 By Euan McLean

GARY LOCKE loved Hearts too much to consider quitting when his mentors Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown were booted out to make way for Paulo Sergio.

And his decision to stay on as coach has been vindicated by helping the Portuguese boss settle into an impressive first season that could finish with Scottish Cup glory at Hampden.

But now Locke fears seeing another managerial guru taken from him if the board doesn’t pull out all the stops to keep Sergio at Tynecastle.

The club have opened talks with Sergio to negotiate an extension to the deal that expires in the summer – and Locke claims it’s vital they don’t lose the man who has salvaged success from a turbulent season off the pitch.

Locke said: “It’s massive for us that Paulo stays. I don’t know what the situation is but from a personal point of view I can only hope he is here next season.

“He’s completely different to Jim and Billy but his attention to detail is first class.

“Paulo knows everything about the game. He is magnificent with tactics and has proved to everyone over the course of this season just how good he is.

“It was a difficult time for me at the start of the season but these things happen in football and you just have to go along with it.

“Everybody knows what this club means to me and leaving never crossed my mind.

“I was just glad Paulo saw me as part of his backroom staff. He felt he needed someone like me around the place and I have enjoyed working under him.

“I feel I am learning all the time, first from Billy and Jim and now from Paulo. It’s a completely different way of doing things and it will help me in the future. If you asked Paulo just now I think he would say he wants to stay but I honestly don’t know what is happening. Only Paulo will be able to answer that.”

After months of uncertainty when wages were repeatedly paid late – plus talk of savage cost cuts to the squad – it is testament to the players and the manager who inspires them that Hearts are still in the frame for silverware and a place in Europe.

Victory over Hibs in the Cup Final would guarantee the Europa League spot that looked such an unlikely ambition at the height of the Jambos’ cash crisis.

But they can also secure a European spot before then if Sergio’s men can put together a winning run in the remaining five SPL matches.


Hearts trail Motherwell by seven points, St Johnstone by two and Dundee United by just one in the battle for Euro places.

So a victory over Rangers at home tomorrow would be a big step towards closing the gap.

That’s a huge motivation for the Jambos because Locke believes there is more merit in booking a European place through the league than courtesy of a cup run.

He said: “There is more pride from getting there through your league position.

“That means over the campaign you have been consistent and it has been a long season for us. We’re now near the end of it and if we can get ourselves into Europe through our league position that would be fantastic.

“You could say it has been a rollercoaster campaign. I’ve never known a season like this in terms of the highs and lows. But when you go into the last five or six games of the season you are hoping to be involved in the race for Europe. Doing that and having a decent cup run is our aim and we’ve managed to do both.

“We now have massive games coming up and we want to win them. The five league matches are huge. We’re not far behind United or St Johnstone so our aim at the moment is to catch these teams.

“They play each other at the weekend and they can’t both win so it is a possibility for us to climb the table. That’s what our focus has been on this week – not the Scottish Cup.”

All talk of the big final has been banned in the Gorgie camp while they focus on that bid to climb the SPL and claim a Euro slot. The Jambos landed a place in the Europa League qualifiers on the back of last term’s third-place finish and lined up a glamour tie with Harry Redknapp’s Spurs.

The English giants came to Edinburgh and dished out a football lesson in a 5-0 thumping but incredibly Locke looks back on that memory fondly.

He added: “The experience of playing against world-class players in Europe is one of the reasons why people come to Hearts.

“They know they will hopefully get that opportunity.

“The experience against Tottenham certainly whetted my appetite for more and it’s the same for the players as well.

“We all loved the build up and the occasion itself so it’s something we want to be involved with next season as well.

“Let’s be honest, there was a big gulf between the sides. They pay millions for players and that is something we can’t do.

“But when you take on the best you want to prove yourself and do well against them.

“I think our players have improved from that night and they will be looking to play in that arena again next season.

“If we can get into Europe through our league position then it has to go down as a fantastic campaign for the club.”

Taken from the Daily Record

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