ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
NEW Hearts captain Christophe Berra is determined to ensure he can walk the streets of Edinburgh with his head held high after proudly embracing the armband.
The 32-year-old was previously skipper of the Gorgie club in his first spell at Tynecastle, during which he made 146 appearances before joining Wolves in a £2.5 million deal in 2009.
Eight-and-a-half years and more than 300 games in English football later, the Jambos have wasted no time in reinstating Berra to the position.
Born-and-bred in Edinburgh, and returning to the city to be close to his family, particularly daughter Savannah, Berra remains humbled by the responsibility and has vowed to do the club justice – on and off the pitch – as they seek to rebuild from a miserable campaign.
‘‘I know Tynecastle can be a cauldron. When you’re winning it can be a great place to play,” he smiled. “But when you’re not winning …It’s like anywhere. I played at Ipswich, played at Wolves, played for Scotland. If you’re not playing well, you get booed. Fans can be fickle. That’s just the way it is.
“I’ve been made captain and I take that responsibility, on and off the pitch.
“I live in Edinburgh and walk the streets. I want to be able to walk those streets with my head held high, having won games and done well – not shying away from people because we’ve lost. I’m 32 now, and ready for that responsibility.
“Like any football club, be it Celtic, Rangers, Man United or West Brom, if you’re not winning games, you’re going to get stick.
“It’s our job to go and win those games, put in good performances.”
‘Character’ was the buzzword as Cathro addressed the assembled media at Riccarton yesterday to name his new skipper.
“Character is being in the changing room when things are down,” continued Berra. “It is having thick skin and keeping spirits high.
“On the pitch you have to be a moany b******! People might hate you, but that’s fine. It’s all about getting reactions.
“I’ve not come here to think it’s easy. I have pride in my performance and I want to do well as an individual but also for the team.
“I remember good times but also tough times at Tynecastle – and you get through them all.”
The rivalry with Hibernian, in particular, is one he is looking forward to reprising.
Berra lost just three of his 14 Edinburgh derbies during his first stint in Gorgie, a far cry from the Jambos current run of six encounters with the Hibees without a victory.
He cannot wait to return to a fixture he reckons beats anything East Anglia or the Midlands can offer.
“Going to Easter Road on the bus for the derby, getting people sticking the finger up at you … you’re buzzing because you know what it means to the people,” he continued. “I come from here, I know what it means to play in those games.
“No disrespect to Wolves and West Brom or Ipswich and Norwich, but I never had that same feeling in those games.
“There is always a hype about any derby but, when you’re from somewhere, it means smooch more.”
With a dressing room containing the likes of John Souttar, Jack Hamilton, Liam Smith, Jamie Walker, as well as even younger prospects such as Jamie Brandon and Euan Henderson, Berra is ready to shoulder the responsibility of nurturing a batch of emerging talent.
He added: “When I came through there were professionals such as Paul Hartley, Steven Pressley and the like. I was a youth player and if I was in the first-team dressing room doing my job I wouldn’t talk back or look up – I did my job!
“So, I want to help the team to do well and help younger players. Hearts are renowned for bringing young players through and I want to help them.”