Since falling out of favour at Cardiff City last summer, Loic Damour has been busy preparing for the chance to resurrect his career elsewhere.
That opportunity has arisen with Hearts, whom he yesterday joined on a four-year contract. The French midfielder almost signed for the Tynecastle club from Ligue 2 side Bourg-en-Bresse two years ago before his move to Edinburgh was hijacked by Cardiff at the last minute.
After a mixed time in the Welsh capital, where he featured regularly in a promotion-winning side in his first season before being restricted to only 21 minutes of action in the Premier League last term, Damour jumped at the second chance to join Hearts. He insists he arrives in Edinburgh steeled by his experiences under Cardiff manager Neil Warnock.
“My time there was good,” he said. “As a person, as a footballer, I improved a lot. The first year was very good, the second year very bad, so I had those two different experiences, a good season and a bad season. You learn in both cases.
“There is no need to lie – the gaffer didn’t trust me last season. I respected his choice, I fought all year to try and get a start in the team. I knew it would be hard, almost impossible, but I worked for myself all season. I knew my career was not going to end in Cardiff, it would carry on afterwards.
“I needed to be ready for the next chapter and that is here, so I worked hard last year to be ready for this year. It was frustrating, but that was the gaffer’s choice and I respected it. I can’t say it wasn’t hard because not playing is always hard.
“It affected me a bit because I couldn’t play football. I knew I was just training for myself and sometimes my head would go. It was hard but I can’t complain, that is football.”
Damour was glad to learn that manager Craig Levein was still keen on him even though he had rejected Hearts two years previously. “Yeah, I said I was going to Cardiff, but I’m sure he understood my decision,” said the midfielder, who will make his debut against Ross County today. “And I was right because it was a good two years for me in Cardiff, mostly. I have kept an eye on Hearts since I came close to signing two years ago so when the gaffer called me back, I was very happy. He wasn’t upset with me, so that’s OK!”
The chance to be reunited with Hearts defender Clevid Dikamona, a close friend and former team-mate of Damour’s, added further attraction to the prospect of moving to Tynecastle. “I’m a great friend of Clevid, he gave me some good advice about the club and the city,” said Damour. “I used to play with him at Bourg-en-Bresse but even before that I used to play against him when we were growing up in France because he’s just a year older than me. We’re not from the same area – but not too far.
“Our wives and kids are friends as well. Two years ago, Clevid was my neighbour and our daughters went to school together. It’s always good when you have some friends at a new club.”
Damour also sought the advice of his Cardiff colleagues Callum Paterson and Sol Bamba, former Hearts and Hibs players respectively. “I talked with my guys down in Cardif, Paterson and Bamba,” he said. “They both said good things about this team and this city. Callum told me I would enjoy the stadium, that the fans were good, that I would love it here.”