BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
GARY Locke has plenty experience of derbies as a player and fan but has revealed how an octogenarian ‘ball boy’ has been teaching him what he needs to know in the build-up to Saturday’s Fife version.
The Raith Rovers manager came through the ranks at boyhood heroes Hearts and savoured success against bitter rivals Hibernian during nearly nine years at Tynecastle.
The defender also tasted the West Yorkshire rivalry of a clash with Leeds United during his time at Bradford City and was then reacquainted with the Edinburgh encounter as manager of Hearts.
And, as his table-topping Raith side prepare to host local rivals Dunfermline, Locke has admitted he has not been short of advice of what to expect – with 80-year-old Joe McCafferty particularly vocal.
The pensioner is known as ‘Mr Glenrothes’ and is highly regarded in Fife football circles after helping to bring through the likes of Colin Cameron, Stevie Tosh and Chris Templeman at youth side Glenrothes Strollers.
Despite his advancing years, the fit McCafferty helps out at some Rovers training sessions in his spare time and has been making sure Locke knows the importance of tomorrow’s match.
Locke explained: “We’ve got a couple of Raith fans that come to the training and there’s a guy we call Super Joe, who is 80-years-old and he’s been around Fife football for an unbelievable number of years.
“Joe’s great. He runs everywhere and must be the fittest 80-year-old you’ve ever seen. He’s a fantastic guy to have about the place.
“I certainly knew that Raith was a great club but when you’ve got a full-time ball collector then you’ve cracked it!
“So, we get told by them every day just how important everything is.
“But, I’m well aware of that. Every derby you’re involved in is a special game.
“Derbies are normally hectic and 100 miles an hour, so it’s important we’re prepared for that and we can go and put in a good performance.”
The derby will bring Locke face to face in the dugout with friend Allan Johnston.
The pair first met as youth players at Hearts and Locke spent time as Johnston’s assistant at Kilmarnock before taking over the hotseat following his pal’s decision to leave Rugby Park.
They have met as managers before when at Kilmarnock and Hearts, when Johnston racked up three victories to Locke’s two.
However, the Rovers boss, who has overseen back-to-back league wins over Ayr United and St Mirren, knows tomorrow’s derby will be different.
He added: “We’re great mates. We go way back and obviously I was his assistant at Kilmarnock as well. We’ve been friends since we were 16 and on the ground-staff at Hearts.
“I’ve got a great relationship with Allan and (Dunfermline assistant) Sandy Clark. They’re two people I’ve got huge respect for in football.
“They’ve done a fantastic job there and I was over the moon for them last season when they got Dunfermline promoted.
“But friendship goes out of the window for 90 minutes and we’ll see what happens in the technical area this weekend!
“He was manager at Killie when I was manager at Hearts, so I’ve faced him before, but it’s a derby this time.
“I spoke to him the other day because we had a closed-door game against Dunfermline. We’re looking forward to the game and hopefully we’ll still be mates after the game!”