Christophe Berra has been appointed captain at Hearts for the same reason the club wanted to sign him in the first place – his character.
The Scotland international confessed to being a bit of a whinger but claims that the odd well-timed grumble is a good way to get the best out of colleagues and prevent standards slipping or heads going down.
“Character is being in the changing room and when things are down you have to be thick-skinned and keep spirits high. On the pitch you have to be a moany bastard. The lads at Ipswich talk about Scots moaning but that’s fine. People might hate you, but that’s fine, it’s all about getting reactions.
“I’m not moaning because I don’t like people, I’m just being moany to get the best out of people. You learn who can take it and who can’t and you deal with things accordingly.”
Berra returned to the Tynecastle club eight years after his £2.3million move to Wolves to be close to his young daughter, but he said that he had always intended to return ‘home’ one day. Signed on a three-year deal, at 32 he is likely to be a pivotal figure in the coming seasons, with the club looking to fashion a team around him and rely on his on-field guidance as Cathro looks to turn around fortunes and opinions.
As a youngster coming through the ranks Berra had the likes of Steven Pressley and Paul Hartley to guide him and he wants to fulfill a similar role with the next crop of academy graduates. “I’ve not come here thinking it will be easy. But I have pride in my performance and I want to do well as an individual but also for the team. 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. I want to make Tynecastle a fortress again and make it difficult and intimidating for opponents.
“I remember good times but also tough times at Tynecastle and you get through them all. Last season was negative but our job is to make next season positive.”
The club has changed, with new people at the helm, superb training facilities and a refurbished ground to look forward to but Berra is well aware of the advances that need to happen on the pitch next term.
“I know Tynecastle can be a cauldron. When you’re winning it can be a great place to play. When you’re not winning it’s like anywhere. I played at Ipswich, played at Wolves, played for Scotland and if you’re not playing well, you get booed. Fans can be fickle. That’s just the way it is.
“I’ve come here, been made captain and it’s a big responsibility on and off the pitch. I live in Edinburgh and I want to be able to walk the streets with my head held high, having won games and done well – not shying away from people because we’ve lost. I’m ready for the responsibility.
“Even when I left Hearts, I kept in touch with results. Even in the changing room at Ipswich for a three o’clock kick-off, I’d be switching the telly over to Scottish football to see the derby. I would get stick for that. But I come from here, I know what it means to play in those games.
“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.”
Which is where the character comes back into it. For a team that has been accused of missing backbone in recent months, with Don Cowie being asked to drag too many of his team-mates through games in the absence of Callum Paterson, John Souttar or Aaron Hughes, Berra is an indication of the spirit and understanding the club are seeking in their summer arrivals as they attempt to put last season well and truly behind them.