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Locke future to be decided in the next two weeks

GARY Locke expects to know within a fortnight whether he will be definitely kept on as Hearts manager under the prospective new owner Ann Budge.

Ann Budge will take control of Hearts
Ann Budge will take control of Hearts

There has been ongoing uncertainty over whether Locke will continue once Budge has completed her £2.5m takeover. That deal should be formalised next month, or by June at the latest, after Ukio Bankas' creditors this week agreed to transfer their 29% shareholding. There has been speculation that Budge would like to have the former Hearts manager Craig Levein back at the club, possibly as manager again. Budge and Locke met in February and some assurances were given but the speculation resurfaced.

Locke was hugely enthusiastic about Budge's takeover yesterday - she will eventually transfer the club into the ownership of the fans collective Foundation of Hearts - and insisted that his personal circumstances were far less important than the wellbeing of the club.

Decisions taken by UBIG and Ukio Bankas in Lithuania will mean Budge and her BIDCO takeover company will own 79% of Hearts once the sale and purchase agreement is completed over the next few weeks. Without her bankrolling the Foundation of Hearts' effort the club would have slid into liquidation.

"It's all been a bit of a whirlwind," said Locke. "Ann will come in now and she will put her plans in place, which is great because we are now going to have a Hearts-supporting owner who has the best interests of the club at heart."

Locke has been on the Hearts management team since 2010 and was made permanent manager 13 months ago but his contract runs only until the end of this season. Despite the club being relegated there has been widespread sympathy for Locke given Hearts' 15-point deduction and transfer embargo. Did he feel he had done enough to convince the club's owners that he deserved a new deal?

"Who knows? Who knows? I've worked hard and I've tried to do the very best I can for Hearts. But it's not about Gary Locke. It's been about the survival of this great football club. We are on the right road for that happening and whatever happens with myself will happen, probably over the next couple of weeks. But I'm a Hearts fan and I'm no different to any other: all I've ever been concerned about is Hearts surviving."

Locke acknowledged that it is only human nature that he wants his own future resolved as soon as possible. "But Ann has a lot of decisions to make over the next couple of weeks so I am certainly in no hurry to sit down and iron out my future.

"It's not about me. Ann will come in, she'll have her own plans and her own ideas and, once she comes in and sorts all of that out, my position will take care of itself. At the minute the most important thing is we get as many fans through the turnstiles as we can for the last three home games and try and finish the rest of the season on a high.

"I've not had a great deal of previous dealings with Ann. I have met her a couple of times and it has obviously been good to hear her opinions on stuff and she's heard mine. That's been about it.

"I have not really thought about my own future too much. I have loved being Hearts manager; I have tried to do the job to the best of my ability and, no doubt about it, it has been difficult. As I say, I'll wait and see what happens over the next couple of weeks but the most important thing is the football club has a positive future.

"I have certainly learned a lot and I think, whatever happens to myself, I hope I have come out of it a better coach and a better manager. A better person. We have tried to handle everything the best way we can and we have done what we felt was right.

"I think if you ask the majority of Hearts supporters they have seen an improvement in the team."

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