Arnaud Djoum has come a long way in the past 18 months. Before Hearts, he was struggling to find a club and said there was little to write home about. Now he could pen several chapters.
As well as helping Hearts qualify for Europe in their first season back in the top flight, he also received a call-up to the Cameroon international set-up. That led to him parading an Africa Cup Of Nations winner’s medal around the training ground this week, a souvenir of the past month’s exertions.
“I was always sure I would find something,” said the midfielder, of his time in limbo. “And I would get back, work hard and maybe things would be better. But I never thought about stopping football because it is my passion. I was sure if I worked hard then things would become better. That’s what I did and everything has worked out.
“In football things can change so quickly. What I have done in a year and a half is something crazy, I could write a book! It’s just crazy, I still don’t believe it. I think later I will realise what I have done and what I will continue to do as well. It has been a big achievement.”
He attributes the success to graft and self belief but his time competing with the best in Africa also taught him that behind every victorious player is an effective team ethic.
“Before my first cap I was worried because when you go there you know there are a lot of big players there. But I was surprised because this team, even the players who play for big teams, come to you and speak, they are not arrogant. Everybody treats everyone the same way. And I think that’s what helped the team achieve because we really are a group, there is no individuality. That’s why we won this trophy and I think this is really important in football. It is about the collective.”
Adopting a similar mindset at Hearts, who will today welcome an Inverness Caledonian Thistle side bruised by the battering dealt out by league leaders Celtic last weekend, he is hoping he can add to his medal haul for the season and push for improvements in the league standings.
“That is what I learned over there,” he said. “Nobody expected that [Cameroon] would win this trophy but we played as a group and that is why we won, and I think Hearts have to try to do it like that. We must see that the team is the most important thing, not the individual. If we can play like this, as a team, then I think we can achieve good things because I think we have the quality and the talent in the team and if we play like a group, together, then we can achieve good things and win a lot of games.”
There has been some adjustment for Djoum since his return, with nine new faces to acquaint himself with. That process has been helped by the fact he kept abreast of what was happening at the club via social media. “I was a little bit surprised because it was a lot of changes. I didn’t expect that but it’s football. I’m happy about it. Competition is always good.
“I watched the second half of the Rangers game on Facebook live. The team played well and it was a great win so I was very happy.”
Djoum is aware that his own performances in the latter stages of the African Nations, that will have been watched by millions, may have opened up possibilities, but he is happy with the story so far and is in no rush to turn the page.
“With these things you always believe in the future you can play better football, at a better club,” he said. “That’s football but we will see. Now I am with Hearts, I am enjoying it here, and we will see in the future.”