Christophe Berra says he’d want season over if it wasn’t for cup final
Craig Levein’s men were beaten for the fourth time in their last six Ladbrokes Premiership matches thanks to a thunderous 86th-minute finish from Kilmarnock defender Stuart Findlay. Though they weren’t dominated for any period in the match and put in plenty of endeavour, Hearts were once again a blunted weapon in attack, particularly without talismanic striker Uche Ikpeazu, who was removed just seconds into the second half due to a tight hamstring.
The men in maroon continue to bear little resemblance to the side that took the top flight by storm in the opening three months of the season and look almost certain to finish in sixth place for the second consecutive campaign. But even though their campaign in the league is pretty much done, the players know they can’t completely take their foot off the gas with only four of five players assured of a start against Celtic at this moment in time.
“Is the final keeping spirits up? It’s got to, really. If you’ve got nothing to play for in the league it’d just be a case of wanting the season over, but there’s that light at the end of the tunnel, a dangling carrot. It’s massive for players to try and get in the team and keep standards high,” said captain Christophe Berra.
“If you do take your foot off the pedal then that’s when you do yourself an injustice. You can do yourself a little niggle by pulling out of challenges and getting injured, stuff like that.
“In this day and age, if you’re an ultimate professional, then you can’t play like that in a competitive match. Don’t get me wrong, there will be days when you’re not fully at it, you might not be playing your best and making mistakes, but it’s not down to the will for trying.
“For me personally, and I think I speak for the boys, when you cross that white line you’ve got your personal pride, first and foremost. You’re doing it for yourself, the fans, your family, everyone.”
Findlay’s goal was one of few highlights from a match that, while played at 110mph, lacked a bit of quality in the final third. That was, until he rifled home a weak clearance from Gary Dicker’s cross, prompting scenes of unbridled joy in the away end.
In terms of the chase for Europe it was a huge result for the Ayrshire side. Not only does it pull them ahead of Aberdeen in third place, it also ensures their place in the top four, which will be enough for a Europa League spot if Celtic do as expected and defeat Hearts at Hampden on 25 May. Kilmarnock finish with matches at home to Hibs and away to Rangers.
“Even without thinking about Europe, just finishing high up the table would be a really good achievement,” said the goalscorer. “It’s clever the way the gaffer treats it, though, just telling us to look at the points total. If you do that, you only look at the table at the end of the season – and it will speak for itself.
“I obviously don’t need to tell you that we’re in that third spot now, so getting the six points would be enough.”