WE all remember the chant. “Ten men couldnae...” You know the rest. Christian Nade is 6000 miles away in Thailand and certainly hasn’t forgotten.
When Hearts and Hibs trot out at Easter Road for tomorrow’s Scottish Cup tie, he will allow himself a wry smile recalling the havoc he once caused there in the face of some cruel taunting.
It was Nade’s goal which set the tone for Hearts’ victory in the last Scottish Cup Edinburgh derby in Leith, back in January 2009. Gary Glen tapped home the decisive second in the dying seconds to spark some rapturous celebrations in the away end. Yet it is doubtful whether anyone finished that afternoon with as much satisfaction as Nade.
His physique, or lack of it, made him a regular target for abuse in Scotland. Even some Hearts fans were amongst his detractors. Hibs fans were merciless and turned the aforementioned tune into something of an anthem at derby matches. Nade heard the chants. He couldn’t really miss them. He managed to produce the ideal answer with two goals in five appearances at Easter Road. Enigmatic and capricious during much of his three-year Hearts career, there is no doubt facing Hibs brought the Frenchman to life.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening News, Nade reveals he would return to Tynecastle in a minute. You sense he actually misses the vitriol. The Thai Premier League, where he recently finished the season at Samut Songkhram, can’t compete with the feverish intensity of a derby match in Scotland.
“People used to talk about the songs and I just used to laugh,” he said. “It just made me want to play against Hibs every week. If I could have played every game against Hibs, if every team in the league was Hibs, I would be happier than any man in the world. I could hear what Hibs fans said about me during the games and I used it as extra motivation. It was really difficult but that game was special to me.
“I just remember the atmosphere that day in the cup. It’s always great for a Hearts player to score against Hibs, you cannot describe it. It’s not the same when you score against another team. Scoring against Hibs is an amazing feeling and when you win the game it’s the best feeling ever.
“Hearts was my best ever time in football, apart from when I scored the winning goal for Sheffield United against Arsenal. Hearts is a club in my heart and I really appreciated being there. I have really good friends there. Some of the fans did not like me but others did like me. That happens anywhere. Sometimes it was very difficult for me to play there but I would like every player to play for a team like that and in front of fans like that. I would like to play there again.
“I have had the possibility to come back to the UK but some of the offers I declined. It’s kind of weird but I had a really great time at Hearts and my girlfriend is still there so I wish I could go back there. Maybe not now, but one day. When I left Hearts it was a hard time but if they called and said they wanted me back, I would go. If an agent asked me if he could put my name to Hearts I would say, ‘just do it’.”
The cloud under which Nade left Edinburgh means he is unlikely ever to rejoin Hearts. After a defeat to Celtic in February 2010, he assaulted team-mate Ian Black in the away dressing-room at Parkhead following an argument over their performances. Nade later apologised but the damage was done. He made just two more appearances for Hearts before being released. The effect on his reputation forced him to leave Europe to continue his career in Asia following a brief spell with ALKI Larnaca in Cyprus.
“After I left Hearts I spoke to some clubs in Europe. Most of them said, ‘you have a bad reputation, you are violent, you make problems in the team’. I don’t know where this reputation comes from. Of course I’ve done some bad stuff, especially with Blackie and I’m very sorry for that. That’s the only thing I’ve done. Somebody has been saying things about me.
“An agent asked me to come to Thailand to try and rebuild my reputation. So I came here and I like it. I just signed a new contract but if I really want to leave I’m sure we could find a solution. Now, in football, a contract means nothing. If a club doesn’t want you any more, they give you money and you leave. If you want to leave and the club doesn’t want you to leave, you stop playing and the club has no choice. I’m not saying I would do that because I really love the club where I am right now. I love the place and the people here, but you can always find a solution.”
Two regrets linger from Nade’s time in Edinburgh. The first is the incident with Black, which he is eager to speak about. “I never got a chance to explain to the Hearts fans. I wanted them to understand. To be honest, it’s hard for them to understand because what I did was really bad, but I wanted them to know why I did it. They never got the real version of what happened.
“Of course it was my mistake and I should have reacted like this. I cannot ask anybody to forgive me for this except Blackie, and he’s done it. I cannot tell exactly what happened. If someone is to tell what happened, it must be Blackie.”
The second regret surrounds a court action which led to Nade being ordered to pay almost £100,000 to a finance company for missing cars. He leased a yellow Lamborghini Gallardo and a white Cadillac Escalade Station Wagon whilst playing for Hearts. When they disappeared he stopped the monthly payments, resulting in legal action. Former team-mates called him asking if he had stolen the vehicles, but the striker said they were stolen from him.
“Everybody thinks that I stole the cars. I’ve spoken with some Hearts players and some of them think I stole the cars but I didn’t. When I was caught by police for speeding, I couldn’t drive any more so I wanted to give the cars back. I used to pay for them monthly but there were some problems with one of them. I sent it to the guy who sold me the car to fix it so I could give it back to the agency who gave me the loan.
“When the guy came to my house, he took the cars but he never brought them back. I spoke with him and told him to bring them back but he said he couldn’t because he had already spent the money that the agency gave him. He didn’t want to give them back, he wanted to sell them to somebody else. I told him to bring them back because it would put me in trouble. I was ready to pay every month, that wasn’t a problem, but I just had to give back the cars.
“If I don’t have the cars then I won’t pay. He refused to bring the cars back. An agent from the company spoke with him and he said he didn’t have the cars. We did many things to record the conversation but it never worked. He ran away to Florida for months. That is what happened. I never stole the cars. I wouldn’t steal my own cars. I’ve done many bad things in my life. I don’t say that I’m an angel, but I wouldn’t do that kind of thing. I don’t like to be on the wrong side of the law.”
He would have no qualms, though, about being on the wrong side of Hibs supporters again. Even if it meant enduring more renditions of that song. Christian Nade would probably walk the 6000 miles back from Thailand for the opportunity to be on the Easter Road pitch tomorrow.