BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hearts star Perry Kitchen is praying Jurgen Klinsmann does not give up on his American dream to pick up the pieces from England’s Euro 2016 nightmare.
The 24-year-old was pitched into Jambos duty on Thursday night just 12 HOURS after landing in Edinburgh on a transatlantic flight from New York, where he was part of the USA squad at the Copa America.
He was greeted in the UK by the news that many were tipping his national boss, Klinsmann, to succeed Roy Hodgson as manager of the Three Lions in the aftermath of their catastrophic exit against Iceland.
Kitchen has established himself in the international set-up under the German, culminating in his call-up for last month’s summer showpiece in the States.
So he is naturally hopeful California-based Klinsmann bats away any advances from the English FA – albeit he understands why the former Tottenham Hotspur striker and BBC pundit would be in the frame.
The ex-DC United favourite said: “We want to hold onto him and I don’t think any of us would want him to go to England. He has done very well and the guys in our squad respect him a tonne.
“I hope he doesn’t go to England but I can see why people would be interested in him. He gets the most out of his guys and he is a great coach and a great person to play for.
“I definitely don’t want him to go. I have to accept whatever happens but, if I’m being honest, then it would be far from ideal. He is the one who has picked me and shown faith in my qualities.”
Klinsmann, formerly manager of Germany – who he led to the World Cup semi-final in 2006 – has enjoyed highs and lows since taking charge of the USA, most recently securing a fourth-placed finish at the recent Copa America.
He also guided the U.S. out of a group containing Germany, Portugal and Ghana at the 2014 World Cup.
Nevertheless, his tenure has not been without criticism, with a dismal 2015 Gold Cup and poor performances at youth level cited as failings of his reign. Kitchen, however, has nothing but admiration for the affable Klinsmann, reserving particular praise for his man-management.
He combative midfielder continued: “Jurgen is a very positive coach. He is always motivating the guys and he always wants us to do better. If we make a mistake he tells us to forget about it and move on. Working on mentality is such a big thing with him and he is a strong character.
“He does get the best out of players. This last tournament was a big step for us and, for the players, being in his squad is definitely a very positive experience.”
There is no rest for the wicked as Kitchen immediately turns his attention from the Copa America to the Europa League, foregoing any sort of summer break.
No sooner had he stepped off his flight from Newark Airport, he was back in competitive action for Hearts, entering the fray as a second-half substitute in their 2-1 win over FC Infonet on Thursday night.
Understandably fighting jet-lag, he smiled: “It wasn’t an ideal way to prepare for me because I only flew back on the morning of the match, it felt like it a very long day.
“I only got back at 8am. It was a gruelling day and the situation was far from ideal. I just wanted to get away after the game and get to bed!
“I could have asked to sit it out but it is up to Robbie [Neilson] and I had told him that if he needed me I would be ready so I have no complaints.
“Flying back and going straight into the new season is not ideal but I have spoken about the situation with Robbie and he has said they will give me days here and there to help me out and I will take advantage of that as much as I can. But when it comes down to it I will just need to dig in and push through because that is part of the game.”
Kitchen helped to steady ship against the Estonians in the first leg, ensuring the hosts limped to an unconvincing victory, which brought about some jeers from the home fans at full-time. However, he fully expects a response in Tallinn on Wednesday evening.
He added: “It was a good result but we know it has to be better. We will go away and review it but we know what we have to do when we go to their place.
“It is tough because we have only had two weeks to prepare and to still go out there and get the win is huge.
“I think we need to be a little better on the ball and we need to up the tempo. We always knew that they were going to sit back so we need better movement and we need to do things a bit quicker. We need to get more crosses in and make things tougher for them.”