Raith Rovers manager Gary Locke insists Rudi Skacel is as big a Hearts icon as all-time leading goal scorer John Robertson.
Former Czech Republic internationalist Skacel will be reacquainted with the adoring Hearts supporters tomorrow afternoon when the sides lock horns in the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup.
Striker Robertson’s place among the pantheon of the club’s greats was secured on the back of notching an unrivalled 271 goals in his 17-year associated with the Tynecastle outfit.
After scoring in each of the 2006 and 2012 Scottish Cup triumphs over Gretna and city rivals Hibs, and netting a total of 48 goals, Skacel is worshipped by the club’s fans and Locke insists the attacking midfielder is just as popular as former team-mate Robertson.
Former Hearts manager Locke said: “Rudi is a huge favourite at Hearts and probably as big an icon as John Robertson is, and it’s very rarely that you can say that about a player.
“There won’t be too many players that have scored in two cup finals for Hearts.
“But Rudi will be the same with me, our only focus is Raith Rovers and he’s here to do a job.
“He’s still fit, he’s done reasonably well in the games he’s played and he’s a huge asset in terms of the younger players here.
“They can look at the career he’s had and learn from him. If he plays I’m hopefully he can cause Hearts problems.”
Dyed-in-the-wool Hearts fan Locke will aim to cause a shock against a Hearts side that sacked him as head coach in summer 2014 in the wake of Ann Budge taking the club out of administration.
A transfer embargo and a 15-point deduction were significant factors in Locke being unable to prevent the club from being relegated from the top-flight that year.
He faced his old club as manager of Kilmarnock and insists he harbours no animosity towards the Gorgie outfit, nor director of football Craig Levein.
He added: “At the end of the day it was disappointing. But that is football. I have learned that you are a number in football, no-one owes you anything.
“Hearts will still be going strong when I am not here.
“But I am not going to lie to you – it was difficult to take at the time.
“I didn’t see it coming. It was tough to take. But hopefully it has made me a better person for it and a better manager for it.”
Asked if he reassessed his relationship with Levein, who was ultimately responsible for appointing Robbie Neilson as his successor, Locke added: “Not at all. You meet a lot of people in football, some you get on well with and some you don’t.
“I’ve got a decent relationship with Craig, we played together at Hearts.
“He’s got a job to do there and at the moment he’s doing it well.
“They’re up near the top of the league and they’ll certainly be looking for a run in the cup but my aim will be to stop that. We want one ourselves.”
The odds are stacked against Raith progressing in the cup but the Locke insists the money-spinning tie will be a welcome boost off the pitch.
Over 4,000 Hearts fans will make the journey across the Forth, with a crowd in excess of 6,000 expected at Stark’s Park.
He added: “I don’t have a bolt to bring in any new players but even with getting Hearts in the cup, that’s been a godsend for us because we went two months without having a home game.
“It was a struggle for us, when you’re not playing at three o’clock on a Saturday the crowds are affected and we didn’t have any money coming in.
“Getting Hearts in the cup has pulled us out of a hole.”