Gary Locke: Kilmarnock youth players key to manager's vision

Kilmarnock manager Gary Locke
Locke has signed a three-year deal as Kilmarnock manager

Gary Locke wants Kilmarnock to "bring through as many young players as we possibly can" after securing a longer tenure as manager.

Locke, 39, has signed a three-year contract after a spell as interim boss.

And the former Hearts boss wants to build on the success of youth players already in the first-team squad.

"We're very fortunate at the moment," he told BBC Scotland. "We've got eight or nine in or around the first-team squad that have all played."

Locke also wants to "bring the local community closer to the club. Every single night here, there are hundreds of kids coming through the door and it's important that rather than losing them to go and watch Rangers and Celtic that we try and get them into Kilmarnock and watching Kilmarnock.

The former Hearts manager has been impressed with the vision of those controlling the Scottish Premiership club.

"The board of directors are certainly very ambitious," he said. "They've got a lot of plans in place to try and make the club better and it's something that I'm really keen to be part of.

Kilmarnock forward Greg Kiltie
Greg Kiltie is one of the youngsters Locke has fielded in recent weeks

"I know what the club means to the fans here. They want us to be as successful as we possibly can. The board have put a lot of faith in me and hopefully I can repay them.

"We want to try and produce our own players and bring through as many young players as we possibly can."

Club chairman Jim Mann also highlighted the need to develop players and do so "the Killie way".

"If you look at any other big clubs that are successful, they've got this going where there's a bottom-to-top development process and we want to have that here," said Mann.

"The second [ambition] is to become a regular, top-six, best Scottish provincial club performer, which has kind of been missing for the last few years and we want to try and get into that.

"A big part of the success in that is actually being able to blood some of these youngsters that we're developing into the first team and getting them to be stars on the park.

"The third part is learning to live within our means. We're good now because we're debt free, but we have to live within our means and that means getting more people to come here and watch the games.

"You can see the linkage between good kids coming through, good performance on the park and more bums on seats here.

"Gary's well aware of the constraints that we have as a football club, but there are a number of good players available in the market that we can get a hold of and Gary's got good reach and good access to who those players are, so I would expect to see some player change over the summer.

"There's not a big pot of money, I'd be kidding you if I said there was. Gary maybe does feel he needs to maybe trim a little bit in order to have less spend on lots of players but have more spend on a few better players."

And Mann outlined on what his manager would be engaged in the short term.

"The next thing for Gary is to choose his backroom staff and that we'll be working on over the coming week or so," added Mann.

"Then I want to sit down with Gary and actually work out in a bit more detail what are the plans for the summer, what are the plans for next year, etc."

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