BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CHRISTOPHE BERRA is adamant Hearts were the only club that could have tempted him back to Scotland – and insists he wants to end his career at Tynecastle.
The 32-year-old has penned a three-year deal with Jambos, shunning reported interest from Rangers in favour of rejoining the club where he made his name.
Berra, who was available on a free transfer after leaving Ipswich, was keen to return north of the border to be closer to his daughter, Savannah, while the emotional draw of Hearts was a massive draw.
He made 146 appearances between 2003 and 2009 in his first spell in Gorgie before joining Wolves in a £2.5 million deal.
It is understood Hearts are considering handing the captaincy – currently held by U.S. internationalist Perry Kitchen – to Berra in the hope he can be the cornerstone of Ian Cathro’s rebuilt side next season.
“I wanted to come back and there was only one team I really wanted to come to – that’s Hearts,” he said. “I left eight and a half years ago but it has always held fond memories.
“I’m born and bred in Edinburgh, my family lives here and all my friends are from here. I’ve got a daughter up here, which is one of the main factors too. Hearts are the only club I’ve ever played for in Scotland and hopefully I can end my career here.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there playing in front of the great fans and, with the new Main Stand and the new manager’s vision, it’s really exciting stuff. Hopefully we can make good progress, get a couple more signings in and push on to where we should be.”
The move reunites experienced defender with Hearts director of football Craig Levein, the man who gave Berra his Jambos debut and also worked with him on international duty while manager of Scotland.
And he is enthused by the partnership between Levein and head coach Ian Cathro.
“Craig Levein was a big factor, he gave me my debut as a youngster. A lot of my career is down to him, his coaching and his methods,” continued Berra. “He was a big pull. Him and the manager seem to work well together.
“Speaking to other boys in the team, they only have good things to say about the manager [Cathro]. I’m looking forward to working with him. It has been a bit of a building process of late, so hopefully next season we can really kick on and push for the top two or three.”
Following four years at Molineux, Berra joined Ipswich, where he ultimately captained the Tractor Boys. He returns to Edinburgh with more than 300 appearances in English football under his belt.
“Am I a better player now? I think so,” he told Hearts TV. “Being a central defender, you get better by playing games and gaining experience.
“I’ve played down there at a good level, but I’m not coming back up here to swan about. I want to do well, I’ve got my own pride in my performances and I want to help the team to do well.
“We want to get to cup finals, finish as high up the league as possible and make Tynecastle a fortress again. We have got to be up there challenging with Aberdeen and Rangers.
“It will be difficult, but if we put the work on the training ground, have a good spirit and good players, then we’ll have a real chance.”