Cooney and Black

Hearts have risen from the footballing grave, courtesy of Ms Ann Budge – but, for Gary Locke, life is all about “bananas and f****** porridge

Cooney and Black - Ann Budge


LET’S be honest and say Hearts chairwoman Ann Budge doesn’t get much wrong.

She’s rejuvenated the capital side in a finite amount of time after an almighty slump, and implemented a highly-commendable standard living wage across the board – in spite of initial floods of angst and confusion from the Jambos faithful.

Gary Locke was one of the few at Tynecastle who could walk around with his head held high before 2014. He ploughed every ounce of his being into the club. Every week, following yet another defeat, he’d lumber into press conferences, emitting a sense of hope that his players could turn around their 15-point deduction and stay in the Scottish Premiership.

And when Hearts were indeed eventually relegated to the Championship, it seemed only fair to offer him the chance to lead them back up.

Ms. Budge, however, ignored the saviour persona that was immediately lumped upon her as she took over the reins at the ravaged club. Locke was chopped and the backlash on the chairwoman was fierce.

Twitter pundits questioned if she was a “Hibby”, “Romanov’s sister”, “an old cow”. Another online post went vilely further.

I haven’t inspected Mr Romanov’s family tree, but I think it’s quite safe to say she isn’t any of them.

She made a calculated decision and even her appointment of Locke’s replacement, the highly-talented Robbie Neilson, wasn’t met with unconstrained optimism. The re-introduction of Craig Levein to the club was also met with scrutiny. Budge had made a mistake, and replaced it with a bigger one, apparently.

For Hearts fans, though, time has been the finest of judges. Neilson and Levein’s partnership is now lauded, and Budge is somewhat of a hero. The sacking of Locke has been justified.

Kilmarnock took the chance on Locke last season to replace Allan Johnstone. He had come in on an interim basis in February, having been appointed assistant to Johnstone in the summer.

With limited success in his interim spell from February to April, he was awarded a three-year-contract.

Locke’s a good character and a dedicated one at that, but his management savvy is in question. Now into the new season, fortunes have declined furthermore, and fans of the Ayrshire side are vociferous again in their condemnation of the club.

It came to a head when Gordon Sawers, the ranting ball of emotion that is Youtube’s very own Kilmarnock FC pant math, took to the small screen to lampoon the goings-on at his supported club.

Locke’s footballing idealogy probably does not apply to Sawers’ proposition that the players of Kilmarnock FC are “in at ten on a Monday morning, eating fucking fry-ups instead a’ bananas and fucking porridge,” but it wasn’t just his assessment of Locke’s methods that was construed, it was the direction of his frustration.

The newly-appointed chairman, Jim Mann, was the one who put Locke’s name on the door in April. By then, Hearts when running away with the division below, a team unrecognisable to the one just 12 months beforehand; they’d been transformed following Locke’s departure.

If that wasn’t enough to indicate that Locke wasn’t a manager of Premiership quality, then the principle of his appointment should have been warning enough.

It happened at St Mirren with Danny Lennon when he was unfairly shown the door. His assistant, Tommy Craig, took over. The result? More sub-mediocrity and eventual relegation. Locke took over after being assistant. It rarely ever works.

Gary Locke seems in an untenable position with three years left in Ayrshire; relegation looks an inevitability even this early in the season, but he’s not unaccountable altogether.

As soon as he left Hearts, he was straight back in football, desperate to prove that Budge and her new entourage were wrong.

He never gave himself time to reassess, to ponder different possibilities. Someone who did was Craig Levein. He was three years out of football before he came back to the Gorgie side, albeit as Director of Football, but the results have been spectacular.

It may be too much to suggest that Locke should be shown the door of Rugby Park this early in the season, but as the pressure builds, positive results become increasingly difficult to attain.

As the walls were caving in at Hearts, Locke wasn’t able to turn it around. There’s little, if anything, to suggest he will at Kilmarnock.

The Killie board may risk looking foolish for persisting with him throughout the season should results not improve, but sacking a manager in September is hardly an appealing H.R. proposition for potential replacements.

They’ve brought it upon themselves, but what they would give for a fraction of the natural knack of judgement Ms. Budge showed, not just with his appointment, but now.

They’ve got a decision to make.


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