Perry Kitchen has said there are no hard feelings after it was announced that he had replaced Alim Ozturk as the Hearts club captain.
The 24-year-old said he had addressed his team-mates earlier in the day after manager Robbie Neilson decided to hand him the captain’s armband and he revealed that Turkish international Ozturk had been quick to congratulate his successor, who has been a mainstay in the side.
“We had a meeting today and the guys are happy with it. Again, it’s a tough position. It’s tough for Alim because he is a leader of this team. He’s a good professional and he’ll respond in the right way. He said nothing specific, just congratulations,” added the midfielder, who stressed he understood how difficult it must have been for his team-mate to stand aside. “It’s a tough position to be in for him but he’s a good professional.”
Kitchen said he intends to keep doing what he has been doing after being handed the captain’s armband, claiming that is what afforded him the honour in the first place. Speaking at a preview night at the new Hearts Museum – This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, which houses artefacts from pre-1900 through to the present day, the American said he would love to lead the team to fresh success and secure a place for himself within the club’s fabled history and the long list of leaders.
“Absolutely, that’s the goal, not just as captain but as a player. We all want to win something and put your name in history, so that is definitely important. Looking around, the history of this club, what it means to the supporters, the duration it’s been around, it’s a big role to fill and I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I’ve read the Hearts At War book and learned about McCrae’s Battalion so I think I’ve got a good understanding of what the club is about and what it means to the fans. I’m very honoured, it’s going to be exciting.”
Speaking about his new captain, Neilson said he leads by example on and off the park. “He’s also a really good player and will inspire those around him to reach the highest standards. Ideally, we want 11 captains on the pitch every week. In recent times we’ve had Don Cowie lead the team out and Alim Ozturk skippered us to third place last season, so there’s that experience already there that will help us through games.
“I’d like to thank Alim for the huge part he played, and will continue to play, in helping the team to the top end of the league. It’s now Perry’s time to take over that responsibility and I’ve absolutely no doubt that he will flourish in the role of Hearts captain.”