Hearts boss Gary Locke insists his young players should feel no shame if they are finally relegated by city rivals Hibernian on Sunday.

The Jambos head into the Edinburgh derby knowing their 33-year stay in the Scottish Premiership could be ended if results go against them.

St Mirren need only a point against Inverness on Saturday to hand the Tynecastle side's oldest enemy the scythe which could cut their top-flight status to ribbons.

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But Locke insists that even if Hibs do win and send his men crashing into the Championship, there will be no black stain left on their CVs.

The administration-hit club are still battling to push through a rescue plan following the misguided Vladimir Romanov-era, but Locke insists it is the points penalty and transfer restrictions imposed on him at the beginning of the season which did the damage to their on-field ambitions.

He said: "Should these lads feel any shame in being relegated? No I don't think so. I'm a realist and a lot of the Hearts fans are realistic too. They understand the situation and the most important thing is that the club is still here.

"We will all be disappointed if are relegated. We are all realistic enough to know avoiding it is a near-impossible task now.

"But there has been circumstances which have contributed to our struggles. We have a depleted side with young players and we had to start the season minus 15 points.

"It's not been ideal but there has been a lot of positives to take out of this season. I can look to the progress a lot of younger players have made and hopefully that will stand us in good stead for the future."

The Jambos supporters have made sure to milk every opportunity to gloat at their Leith rivals' expense since smashing them 5-1 in the 2012 William Hill Scottish Cup final.

But the Hibs faithful now have the opportunity for some sweet revenge if their side can claim the win in Gorgie which sends Hearts down.

Locke, though, has warned his opponents fans that they cannot take the credit for his side's demise.

"It's a big game but not any bigger than any of the other derbies we have played," said the former Tynecastle skipper. "People keep going on about the fact Hibs can put us down. But it's not Hibs who will do that. We've had the 15 point deduction and that has been a big ask to overcome, especially with the youthfulness of the squad.

"It's not one game that will relegate us. It's the fact that over the season we have not been able to claw back that 15 points."