The eyes of the nation will be on Stark’s Park this weekend as Raith Rovers and Hearts go head to head in an intriguing Scottish Cup fourth round tie.
The game carries extra sentiment for Raith boss Gary Locke, who was club captain when Hearts won the Scottish Cup in 1998, although injury robbed him of a place in the final, while he was also a member of Paul Sergio’s backroom team for the famous 5-1 victory over Hibernian at Hampden in 2012.
The Rovers squad also contains several former Jambos, most notably Rudi Skacel, a double Scottish Cup winner with Hearts, and a living legend among the club’s fans.
The match has attracted a great deal of media interest, so much so that kick-off has been moved to a 1.05 p.m kick-off on Sunday to accomodate the live BBC cameras.
Locke is hopeful his players can put their recent league form aside to rise to the occasion against Ian Cathro’s side, who will be playing their first competitive fixture since December 30 following the Premiership winter break.
“It can work one of two ways,” Locke said. “They can maybe come back fresh, buzzing and raring to go or they might be a wee bit off it. Time will tell.
“We’ve got a lot of young boys and I’m saying to them that it’s a great opportunity to go and show that you can play at a better level. I’ve been really impressed with the standard here. If we play well on the day and Hearts aren’t on their best, we feel we can get a result.”
One of Locke’s biggest decisions will be whether to play Skacel, given the adulation the 37-year-old Czech is likely to receive from the 3500-strong away support.
“Rudi is a huge favourite at Hearts - there won’t be too many players that have scored in two cup finals for them,” Locke said. “But he will be the same as 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 hopeful he can cause Hearts problems.”
While a bumper crowd and revenue from TV coverage will boost club finances, Locke admitted that he is unlikely to be given any more transfer funds, with the cash set to be used to help balance the books.
“Getting Hearts in the cup has been a godsend for us because we went two months without having a home game,” he said. “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.”
Raith go into the match on the back of a three straight defeats and nine games without a win in the Championship but Locke hopes the cup can restore some confidence.
“We had seven draws which weren’t ideal but we had drawn with Dunfermline away, Hibs at Easter Road and against Dundee United,” he said.
“They’re not bad results but when you lose three it soon turns into, ‘they’ve not won for ages’.
“The team have not been playing too badly. This is a fresh challenge for us and a result would give us a massive lift.
“It’s a great group of players and I’ve really enjoyed working with them.”