BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CHRISTOPHE BERRA insists Hearts’ astonishing 4-0 win over Celtic was the most unforgettable afternoon he has experienced at Tynecastle – and he is determined to replicate that showing and end the Jambos’ Edinburgh derby woes.
The capital club smashed the Hoops’ record-breaking 69-game domestic unbeaten run in scintillating style earlier this month, with goals from Harry Cochrane – suspended today following a red card against St Johnstone – Kyle Lafferty and a David Milinkovic double doing the damage.
The performance on the pitch was matched by the wall of noise off it.
“I think it was the best experience I’ve had at Tynecastle,” said Berra. “We have beaten the Old Firm in the past but not like that. We deserved to win and it was comfortable in the end. To win 4-0 against Celtic happens rarely.”
The is something of an understatement. It was Hearts’ biggest league win over Celtic since 1895 and Berra knows the result has set the bar high for the visit of Hibs, who he is adamant are a very different, and more varied, challenge.
“People might expect that sort of result now but we’ve got young players in our team and there will be inconsistency,” Berra cautioned. “There will be ups and downs but we will have to deal with that, and it will be up to the senior players to help the younger ones through it.
“You would think replicating the performance against Celtic would be good enough. But Celtic are a different team to Hibs. They play in different ways so it will be a different game. Celtic try to play all the time and that actually played into our hands, whereas Hibs can do a bit of everything.
“If we can recreate the atmosphere against Celtic last Sunday we have got a good chance. But we know it will be difficult. Hibs have had a good season and they have a settled team. You could probably name eight, nine or 10 of their starting XI now.
“We are still missing key players and we are chopping and changing. But that’s no excuse, it’s a derby and if we perform like we have in recent weeks we can do well.”
Hearts’ attritional 0-0 draw against St Johnstone on Saturday was a seventh league match without defeat, while they have not conceded a goal in six hours and 20 minutes of football.
However, their recent record on derby day is abject, failing to register a win in their last eight outings against the men from Leith. A 2-1 win in the Championship in 2014 courtesy of goals from Sam Nicholson and Prince Buaben was their last victory.
“The last time I was here we were the more dominant team in the derbies. It’s swings and roundabouts,” continued Berra. “It’s Hibs’ turn at the moment but it’s up to us as players for Hearts to turn it around.
“Neil Lennon inherited a team that was doing well and won the cup. It was a good, balanced squad and he has added quality to it. He’s progressed them. But our manager is an experienced manager who knows what the derby is all about.
“He’s managed in these games, he’s played in them and over the piece he has a great record in them. He will be looking to continue that and turn it round to the maroon side of Edinburgh.
“You have to win your individual battles and show no fear and try and get the better of your opponent. If you do that in eight, nine or 10 positions across the pitch you are more than likely going to win the game. It’s about giving your all. It’s not always going to be pretty. It will be hell-for-leather at times.”
Berra, who has been a rock at the heart of defence since returning to the club for a second stint in the summer, will not be fazed by what promises to be an breathless night in the first Edinburgh derby at the newly developed Tynecastle, having starred in fierce rivalries in the Midlands and Anglia in England.
However, as a proud Hearts academy graduate and someone who resides in the capital with his family, he is adamant nothing beats derby day.
“I’ve played in derbies before for Wolves against West Brom and I’ve played for Ipswich against Norwich but because I’m a local lad from Edinburgh this is something different,” said Berra. I live in the city and I know what it’s like to get stick off Hibs fans.
“It means a lot more as a local boy. It’s going to be an electric night under the lights. You can’t beat it. These are the games you live for as a footballer.”