Gary McDonald can still recall coming up against Hearts teams that were replete with experienced internationalists.

Those memories remain clear despite acknowledging that the Edinburgh side is now facing a far foggier future. It is likely that it will all come screaming back to the midfielder when he lines up against Hearts again this afternoon.

He will recognise the voice too, since he once shared a dressing room with Gary Locke while the pair were at Kilmarnock. Back then Locke used to talk incessantly about the glories of Hearts - a midfielder who was then at his third senior club but who always had his mind on one in particular. His plaintive cries this season have comprised more of a narrative for the Tynecastle club's descent towards relegation.

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It never appeared likely that the Hearts manager would be able to prevent that fate, especially without some help. The club's administrators this week informed his assistant, Billy Brown, that he would be let go at the end of his contract this month.

That has invited some supporters to suggest that Locke should follow too - Hearts travel to Perth today still to overcome the full 15-point deficit they were given at the start of the season - but McDonald has dismissed the idea. He is not convinced that any other coach would be able to get more from Hearts than Locke.

"Lockey and Billy are Hearts men. Even when we were together at Killie, Hearts was all they talked about," said the St Johnstone midfielder, whose side will have Brian Easton available after he overcame a muscle strain. "It's a great job for Lockey. Some fans might want someone else in but I don't see what a change of manager would improve because anyone coming in can't change the team. Without being disrespectful, a lot of their players wouldn't be playing regularly at this level in normal circumstances."

The situation is uncomfortable at Tynecastle but Locke is not itching for a way out. He has not been scratching at the sore left by the decision to remove Brown, either - despite suggestions that the club's administrators are trying to undermine the Hearts manager.

"I've got a job to do here," said Locke. "It's a difficult job, no doubt about it, and I've faced a lot in my short time as a manager. As I've said all along, hopefully it stands me in good stead for the future.

"They spoke to me about the decision, told me it was obviously for financial reasons. That's what the club have said so we get on with it. It's a big blow to lose him."

Perhaps typically, the Tynecastle squad has rallied round Locke after the loss of his assistant. "He's doing a great job and all the boys are behind him," said Danny Wilson, the club captain. "It's tough for him."