GORDON Durie, the Rangers Under-20s coach, has acknowledged that the appointment of Craig Levein at Hearts has made the chances of the SFA Youth Cup being taken to Ibrox even harder.
The Tynecastle club announced yesterday that former manager Levein has returned to the club as director of football.
He will be at St Mirren Park this evening to watch the capital club's youngsters - many of whom have featured for the first team this season - in action against Rangers. Durie, who felt sympathy for both Gary Locke and Billy Brown after they were dismissed from Tynecastle yesterday, believes the presence of Levein will lift Hearts' performance.
However, the coach is confident that his Rangers team, which last week missed out narrowly on winning the Under-20 league title, can still end the 2013/14 campaign on a high.
"This will be [the Hearts players'] first chance to impress their director of football," said Durie. "The cup final will be the first time they have had the chance to show what they can do and I am sure they will be up for it. I have got to say I am really disappointed for Lockey. I feel for him and Billy. I am as shocked as anybody that Lockey is no longer involved.
"He is Hearts through and through. Gary played when I was at Hearts and Billy was in at East Fife after I went there. I know the two of them and know how hurt they will be feeling. I wish Lockey and Billy every success wherever they go."
Durie is confident that his own players are determined to atone for stumbling in their pursuit of the league title. Rangers needed only a draw with Celtic in their final fixture on Tuesday to clinch the championship but conceded twice in the second half as their Glasgow rivals went on to lift the trophy a week later.
"It was a disappointment the way the league campaign finished, but the boys have been fantastic for the whole of the season," said Durie, who has considered playing both Fraser Aird and Lewis Macleod tonight. "We didn't have the best of starts in the league and if you had said to us we would end up in second spot just a point behind we would have snapped it up.
"It was a disappointment, but the boys have trained well this week. They have given us their all this season. They could not have given us any more than they have. You get highs and lows in football and last week was a big low. But they have an opportunity to end a cup final on a high."