BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS captain Perry Kitchen has described his historic trip to Cuba as like stepping back in time after being part of the first USA squad to ever play a fixture in the communist nation.
However, the 24-year-old is very much looking to the future as the Jambos seek to prove their meek surrender against Kilmarnock was nothing but a temporary blip.
Kitchen enjoyed an unforgettable international break earlier this month after being named on Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster for the journey to Havana, an encounter which represented yet another step in the growing relations between the two countries.
From buildings that time forgot to the vintage cars which line the sun-kissed streets, it was an eye-opening experience for the Indiana native.
He was also afforded a sense of perspective after witnessing the poverty which still afflicts a substantial portion of the island, prior to the USA claiming a 2-0 victory at the Estadio Pedro Marrero.
“We played Cuba which was an interesting experience down there,” said Kitchen, who won his fifth cap against New Zealand four days after the clash in Havana. “We were made very welcome.
“The Cuban people are great. It’s interesting to see how a political regime can have that effect on a people. But it was positive, nonetheless. We were made aware of how historic it was.
“It was very interesting, some things I’d never seen before. It was like being in a time machine, with all the old cars, the older buildings, things like that. It is one off the bucket list. And yeah, I think I’d go back. The beaches are incredible.
“It’s something to see – but it’s sad at times; the situation that the people have been put in, without their will. It does make you appreciate what you have, for sure.”
After breaking new ground in Central America, Kitchen’s focus is now on improving Hearts’ recent history in Inverness.
Remarkably, the Jambos have not registered a win in the Highland capital since September 2010, when strikes from Calum Elliot, Ryan Stevenson and a Chris Innes own goal secured a 3-1 triumph.
And Kitchen knows it is imperative that they improve their lamentable record at the Caledonian Stadium after a poor showing in Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat to Kilmarnock.
“It’s never easy after a loss but I think we learned from the game and it’s a positive that we have a quick turnaround to put that result behind us,” continued the Tynecastle skipper.
“I think we learned that it doesn’t matter who you are playing in this league – if you don’t show up and you’re not on your game, you’re going to lose. We have to be better in all aspects of the game.
“For sure, as captain, after tough results, you have some responsibility to make sure the guys are ready for the next game and everyone understands what’s at stake in Inverness.”