Hearts Looking Towards Europe

19 April 2012 05:03
Position in the SPL is key to Hearts European ambitions.

Gary Locke is keen for Paulo Sergio to stay as Hearts manager whether he steers the Jambos to Europe and Scottish Cup glory or not. Hearts have decided to focus on the final games of the season and leave the 19 May Scottish Cup final with Hibs to its own devices for now. Their first post-split challenge is a game against Rangers at Tynecastle. Due to their financial predicament, Rangers look to be excluded from Europe next season, but Hearts are well-placed to be in continental competition, and Locke hopes Sergio will be manager for another assault on the Europa League. Nothing can ever be taken for granted as far as managers are concerned at Tynecastle and Sergio is out of contract at the end of the season after succeeding Jim Jefferies as manager last August. Locke said: "I hope he can get everything sorted out and he is the Hearts manager next season because he has done brilliantly since he's been here. His attention to detail is first-class. He knows everything about the game, tactically he's magnificent. He's proved over the course of the season how good a manager he is. I've thoroughly enjoyed working under him and feel like I'm learning all the time. If we can get into Europe, it means bringing in more money for the club. If that can help keep the players I'm sure it's going to be beneficial to all of us. They're certainly players we'd all like to see at the club next season." Sergio has put an embargo on his players regarding next month's final after the place was achieved by last Sunday's semi-final defeat of SPL champions Celtic and Locke was reluctant to mention the showpiece just yet. He said: "It's a month away, the game will take care of itself. We've got big league games coming up." With Rangers problems taken into account, fifth place in the SPL could be enough for a club to make it into Europe. Sixth-placed Hearts are eager to leapfrog St Johnstone and Dundee United, who meet in Perth on Saturday, and finish fourth. Saints are two points above in fourth, with United a point and a place further back. Locke, who praised Rangers' recent performances amid the turmoil at Ibrox, added: "If we can get ourselves up the league table we'll get into Europe through our league position. I think that's vitally important. It means over the course of the campaign you've been consistent and you've done well."