BY JAKE SIMMONS
After making over 200 competitive appearances in a Heart of Midlothian shirt, scoring seven times and skippering the club with consummate professionalism, Christophe Berra felt that he deserved more than being dumped into the Hearts’ reserves by new boss, Daniel Stendel. Berra admitted to the press when he signed a new contract extension that he always intended to retire as a Hearts player.
The Edinburgh club has always been in Berra’s blood. Born and bred in the city, Berra was with the Jambos for seven years before making the move south of the border to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Nevertheless, even after eight years away from the Scottish capital, he was lured back to his family base from Ipswich in the summer of 2017. Even with a four-month absence due to a hamstring problem, Berra has since clocked up another 82 appearances in his second spell at Tynecastle.
Although he may be entering the twilight of his playing days, Berra was certainly contributing on the field and anything but a drain on resources. So, it was somewhat mystifying to the Jambos’ faithful to see Berra instructed to train with the reserves and being told that he can leave the club by Stendel. Berra went public, saying how “hurt and angry” he felt about the situation, with the bombshell dropped just 48 hours after getting married.
Tynecastle ain’t big enough for both Stendel and Berra
Berra admitted that he asked Stendel whether the decision was a financially motivated one, but he didn’t receive a “straightforward answer”. Stendel opened up and said that he and his backroom staff “respect” the entire dressing room at Tynecastle, “especially our skipper”, but it would appear Berra’s days are well and truly numbered as the German attempts to stamp his own mark on the club.
Stendel certainly has a major rescue mission on his hands, with the club rooted at the foot of the SPL table going into the winter break. Most leading sports betting providers that cover Scotland’s major leagues have since priced the Jambos odds-on for a bottom two finish and a possible relegation to the Scottish Championship.
Unfortunately for Berra, it looks like he won’t be enlisted to help his boyhood club avoid the drop. Although he still has 18 months remaining on his contract, he has insisted that he’s not prepared to sit on his deal and run the clock down. With that in mind, who would be Berra’s potential suitors? It’s quite possible Berra could be used as a makeweight in any January transfer deals Stendel wants to make. A Scotzine report suggests that Stendel has offered Berra to St Johnston either on loan or on a permanent basis in part-exchange for Saints’ winger, Matty Kennedy.
Kennedy’s contract expires in the summer and he has so far not shown much willingness to agree a new deal. Aberdeen are also said to be sniffing around but Stendel will hope that Berra’s availability could sweeten the deal for Hearts. Nearby Livingston could also prove a suitable destination for Berra, particularly if Livi feel the need for another experienced head at the back to steer them to a solid top-six finish. Either way, it seems there isn’t room for both Stendel and Berra at Tynecastle.