Football - Youthful Hearts ready to fight

Hearts manager Gary Locke goes into the season with the youngest and thinnest squad in the SPL by far but he takes solace from the commitment his players have shown during a difficult summer.

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Hearts manager Gary Locke has endured a difficult summer

Hearts begin attempts to overcome their 15-point deduction when they take on St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Sunday with a doubt over the fitness of 20-year-old Kevin McHattie, their only recognised left-back.

McHattie was one of four players who agreed wage cuts after the club went into administration in June, while 21-year-old club captain Danny Wilson also agreed reduced terms to allow him to sign on a permanent basis following his loan spell from Liverpool.

Locke only has two outfield players who are older than Wilson - Ryan Stevenson and Jamie Hamill - but he feels his players have a chance of defying the odds because of their spirit and feelings for the club.

Locke said: "The squad is depleted, no doubt about it. A few players left after the end of last season and I felt we needed another seven or eight in but that was obviously not the case.

"But you look at the summer, and the most important thing is Heart of Midlothian is still here and it survives.

"That's the main thing and we have a right good chance of that happening.

"The main thing is we can put a team on the pitch. It's not the most experienced but I have a squad of players who are desperate to do well for Heart of Midlothian.

"That's all you can ask for as a manager.

"The players here all want to play for the club. You've seen that with the sacrifices they have made through the summer.

"I'm fortunate John McGlynn last year did a brilliant job in bringing a lot of these youngsters in, it's good we're not bringing them in for their first season."

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