BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CHRISTIAN NADE is adamant Christophe Berra is the “leader” Hearts are sorely lacking and has backed his former skipper to be the cornerstone of Ian Cathro’s Jambos revolution.
The capital club are in pole position to re-sign the 32-year-old after it was confirmed that he will leave Ipswich Town at the end of his current deal, seeking to return to Scotland to spend more tie with his family.
Nade played alongside the classy centre-half between from 2007 to 2009 and still recalls with admiration how Berra commanded a vast, multi-national dressing-room during the often tumultuous stewardship of Vladimir Romanov.
That was all the more remarkable, Nade insists, given he was just 22 years of age – the youngest captain in the Scottish Premier League at the time.
As Hearts navigate a miserable run of six wins in 23 matches under their new head coach, reeling from a January transfer window that saw nine players from seven different countries arrive with meagre success, Nade cannot think of a better man to kick-start Cathro’s tenure.
“Christophe was a great guy in the dressing room and, more than anything, I remember that he was a leader and I think that is exactly what Hearts need now,” said Nade.
“The pressure of being captain of that club is massive and he was still very young at the time, but he took responsibility, was a big personality and was very helpful to everyone.
“We had a big squad with senior players from lots of countries but he commanded respect and was also very welcoming to all the new players.
“I think the fans related to him as the captain, because they wanted some more Scottish influence in the team – I know very well that many people thought there were too many foreign players! I can see a lot of fans feel the same way now.
“Signing Christophe – someone that knows the club, the people and the fans – would be perfect as the new head coach (Cathro) builds his own team.”
It has been suggested that Berra will be offered the captaincy, currently held by Perry Kitchen, as an incentive to return to Gorgie.
Nade added: “It doesn’t matter who has the armband, it is about what you do on the field and the dressing room – and Christophe will be a captain no matter what.”
While Nade is fulsome in his praise for Berra’s personality and influence, he reckons his importance on the pitch should not be overlooked.
The Frenchman reckons it was always clear Berra would enjoy a top-level career and, having made 146 appearance for Hearts, he indeed earned a £2.5 million move to Wolves in 2009 before captaining Ipswich and racking up 16 Scotland caps.
“You could see from the very start that he would play at the top,” continued Nade. “When you played alongside him you saw the intelligence, the speed and the quality.
“He was also important in the other box. When you were sometimes thinking ‘who will get us a goal?’ Christophe would attack a cross or be a threat in attack. Hearts also need that now. He is an all-round player.
“I think the exciting thing for Hearts fans is that he will be an even better player now. He has been playing at a very high level in England for years – even this season – and I think his ability will shine in Scotland.”
And, allied with Aaron Hughes signing a new one-year deal and the prospect of a fit-again John Souttar, he believes the capture of Berra would allow disgruntled Hearts fans to look forward to a brighter campaign next term.
Nade added: “It is important to have a strong spine and, if you can stop conceding goals, that is the platform to build from. Those are very strong players, so would give the fans a reason to be positive.
“I want to see Hearts do well, just like the supporters, and they should always be in the top three of Scottish football. Hopefully this could be a big step to that.”