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Brown's presence key to crucial spell for Hearts

GARY LOCKE, the Hearts manager, insisted it was vital his close-knit coaching team was not torn apart ahead of a "huge" few weeks for the administration-ravaged capital club.

Gary Locke celebrates after his side defeated Ross County last weekend. Picture: SNS
Gary Locke celebrates after his side defeated Ross County last weekend. Picture: SNS

Billy Brown, the assistant manager whose contract was due to expire on Friday, has been handed a month-long extension, allowing him to be in the dugout for Sunday's League Cup semi-final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. It also means Brown will be at Locke's side for the next four SPFL Premiership outings, starting with this evening's re-arranged home match against St Mirren.

"We're delighted that Billy will be here for the foreseeable future," said Locke. "The backroom staff, the players - everyone at the club - are over the moon. He is an important member of the backroom team and someone I lean on a lot.

"It's massive for the games coming up. Any manager will tell you that their assistant plays a huge part and Billy has certainly done that since coming back to the club. I have nothing but admiration for him.

"He never changes, he comes in every day with a smile on his face, and we're happy that is going to continue. Any manager doesn't want their assistant to agree with everything you say. We are a close-knit backroom team and we talk about things all the time. I'm not a manager who would make a decision without consulting anyone else."

While a miraculous escape from relegation remains unlikely, Locke was buoyed by a long-awaited victory against Ross County on Saturday. Hearts are still 19 points adrift of second-bottom Partick Thistle, but a triumph a victory tonight would bolster their slim hopes of survival. And with a semi-final to build towards and developments expected in the club's bid to exit administration, Locke is in no mood to downplay the significance of the next few weeks.

"There is a massive game against St Mirren and then the League Cup semi-final," said Locke. "Hopefully after that, things sort themselves off the pitch - so it could be a huge two or three weeks ahead. It is important we get a bit of momentum. That is not something we have had much of this season. When you come off the back of a good result you want the next game quickly and the players are high in confidence and looking forward to the game. There certainly won't be anyone thinking about the semi-final, we have a big, big game against St Mirren first."

Meanwhile, Danny Lennon, the St Mirren manager, insists that his club will never make the kind of mistakes in the transfer market that could lead them down a path to financial ruin. The Paisley manager has made just two signings this month after borrowing striker Adam Campbell from Newcastle for six months and securing Gregg Wylde following the winger's release by Aberdeen.

He did, though, admit he has been frustrated after losing out on a number of other targets to big-spending rivals. But he insisted that the Paisley club, who were forced to sell their old Love Street home to supermarket giants Tesco nine years ago in a last-ditch bid to clear £2m of debt, will not follow the likes of Hearts and Rangers into administration by spending wildly.

"January has been a frustrating month," he said. "It's been busy and we have identified a few players that we want to come in and help the group. Our club doesn't have the deep pockets that others have and we have lost out on one or two players.

"But I would rather remain debt-free and make sure that we live properly than go out and spend money on players. You just have to look at the position some other clubs are in at this time to see what can happen but that would not happen at this club."

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