Barr bringing back the guid stuff to Hearts

DARREN BARR was once commended by John Hughes as a "guid, honest, Scottish laddie" after being red-carded for an altercation with Hearts' Andrius Velicka at Tynecastle. Ironically, those commodities became central to him joining the Edinburgh club, who are seeking to restore home values to a previously cosmopolitan squad.

The rebuilding process is underway, orchestrated by manager Jim Jefferies who has enlisted two Scotland internationalists for next season following last week's capture of Kevin Kyle. Neither Barr nor Kyle cost a penny in transfers but their traditional British playing styles will offer a dignified assurance to fans disenchanted by predecessors like Larry Kingston and Christian Nade.

Barr strolled into Tynecastle's executive suite yesterday with a refreshing aura of modesty. He sat in jeans, T-shirt and hooded fleece looking unpretentious to the core, the sort of guy you could walk by in the street and never glance twice at. It's the way he wants it.

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He spoke softly about the satisfaction of joining a team expected to challenge regularly for domestic honours and European football. He also expressed sincere gratitude for the upbringing and overall education he received at previous club Falkirk. Humble, honest, but hungry – precisely the type coveted by Hearts' majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov.

"No matter what happens you just want to be part of things here, no matter who else the manager brings in," said the 25-year-old. "In the past it's been foreign boys, but the new manager will bring in nothing but good players. That can only be a positive thing."

It was Csaba Laszlo who recommended the signing of Barr to Romanov, but the Hungarian's departure shortly after the pre-contract deal was signed did not deter the defender. "Hearts are a massive club and I never doubted that side of things. It was a surprise, what happened with the manager, but I knew this was a huge step up for me. I want to kick on now."

Barr recalls the Velicka incident as the most disappointing of all his experiences as a visiting player at Tynecastle. In January 2007, he was red carded for head-butting the Lithuanian but the offence was later reduced to a caution. Hughes, then managing Falkirk, fought his player's corner tenaciously in the aftermath of the match. "I'm not getting a young boy of mine, who is as honest as the day is long, tarnished with that kind of brush," was one of his less vociferous quotes. Thankfully, Barr's reputation was scarcely affected. He even helped exact some revenge of sorts two years later in Falkirk's Scottish Cup victory of February 2009.

"Probably more than anything that cup game was my best memory," he said. "There have been a few ups and downs for me here over the last four or five years. On the park, things are going to boil over at some point but you don't want it to go as far as it did when I got sent off. You just want to show a bit of passion and that's what I hope to do here. It's one of the reputations that can come with the job, I just try to get on with things and take people how they are.

"That was a down point, it was only my second year at first-team level. But every time I've been here it's never been short on atmosphere. The fans are always on top of you and it's good to play in that environment."

Someone who shares that theory is the former Tynecastle captain Steven Pressley. Hearts resisted competition from their city rivals Hibernian, plus several other clubs north and south of the Border, for Barr's signature. When decision time on his future arrived back in January, he turned to the Pressley for advice. The then-Falkirk coach was only weeks away from succeeding Eddie May as manager and would have been conscious of his own acrimonious departure from Tynecastle. However, he had only praise for Hearts as a club and strongly advised Barr to accept the proposed pre-contract offer.

"At the time, when things were panning out, I had a wee word with him and he said nothing but positive things about Hearts," explained Barr. "He told me it was a good club and he really helped me. He's one of those people you can go and speak to and I spoke to a few others as well. Elvis was definitely a help.

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"Maybe things went a bit sour for him here but I think he just wants the best for players. He's been really good to me since coming in as manager. Even when he worked under Eddie (May], he was great. I didn't know what was going to happen, how the season was going to pan out at Falkirk. The fans there were always good to me and the people at the club were great, even after I'd signed with Hearts. Sometimes things can go differently with pre-contracts. I'm just disappointed with how the season panned out for myself and the club. I was there when we got promoted to the SPL, although I didn't play, so to be there as captain when we got relegated was not nice."

His aim now is to look only upwards, with many citing his sell-on potential as a major attraction for Hearts. The multi-million-pound transfers of Craig Gordon, Roman Bednar and Christophe Berra to England remain a feather in the club's cap and, with Chelsea, Wigan and others monitoring Andy Driver, the attraction of the Riccarton protgs has not diminished.

"I want to get my head down, and get playing. Wherever the manager wants to play me is fine. The only thing I'm thinking about is playing for Hearts. I'd play anywhere. I will probably have a chat with the manager about my position. I've seen Hearts bring through some very good players. I don't see why we can't keep doing that. I came through with the likes of Scott Arfield at Falkirk and young players coming through will only help the club. That's the most important thing."

Barr touched the heights of a Scottish Cup final and European football with Falkirk before crashing back to earth with the club's relegation. Those experiences allied to his grounded outlook make him an ideal candidate to succeed at Hearts.