Christophe Berra admits he is “ashamed” of the circumstances that have led to Hearts head coach Ian Cathro’s position being under threat just five days before the start of the league season.
The club captain was speaking yesterday at an event at Hampden Park to preview the new Ladbrokes league season, which begins on Saturday.
But speculation over Cathro’s future intensified at the weekend after Hearts were the only top-tier team to be eliminated from the Betfred Cup group stage after drawing with Championship side Dunfermline Athletic.
Berra’s dream move home has already started to sour just weeks after re-joining Hearts from Ipswich Town. “I come from Edinburgh, I live in the city centre,” he said. “I don’t want to get beaten and not do well. I don’t like walking about the town – you feel ashamed sometimes. That’s how personally I take it.
“I am my biggest critic,” he added. “I am too hard on myself sometimes. But I have pride in my performance. There is a lot of weight on my shoulders. That is why I came here. It would not matter who is in charge, who owns the club. I would still want to come back.”
Berra acknowledged Hearts being knocked out of a competition in which their group rivals were Elgin City, Peterhead, East Fife and Dunfermline was the “story of the week”. He can understand the criticism being levelled at the players and, more noticeably, Cathro, who was the subject of most fans’ anger after Saturday’s draw and subsequent failure to win the penalty shootout.
Gary Mackay, the former midfielder and Hearts’ record appearance holder, has also come out publicly to stress appointing Cathro was, in his opinion, a mistake.
“That’s sport in general,” said Berra, in reference to the reaction. “If you’re not playing well the press will give you stick and you need to be thick-skinned. I’m sure the manager is – he says he is. But that’s the nature of the beast.
“It’s not always nice things that are written about you. Unless you’re Celtic and go the whole season unbeaten it’s very rare because there will always be times when things aren’t going well. Rangers, Aberdeen and ourselves have all had to deal with it. You’ve got to take that flak and get on with it.”
Berra confirmed there had been a frank exchange of views among the players after Saturday’s draw with Dunfermline. The manager had already said his piece when the senior players took charge.
“We had words after the game,” he said. “It was not just me. Kyle (Lafferty) said things, Don (Cowie) said things. Some of the other boys as well, the foreigners and that. We are a tight group. There are no bad eggs. Everyone has an opinion.
“It’s good to hear from everyone,” he added.
“My way is not always the right way. Everyone has different cultures. You have to listen to their point of view too. I live in the town, my mum and dad read papers. I played for Hearts many years before. It was never plain sailing. It’s like that when you play for Hearts, Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen.”
The Hearts players were off yesterday but will be back at Riccarton today to prepare for Saturday’s opener at Celtic Park.
“[Winning there] would be a massive statement,” agreed Berra. “Even if we go to Parkhead and win that is not enough – we need to keep on winning and get as many points as we can, not just in the first four (games) but the whole 38-game league season. We need to finish in Europe.”
Berra hopes midfielder Jamie Walker can prove he deserves to be re-assimilated to the first-team group after being dropped by Cathro on Saturday due to his poor attitude.
“Jamie’s a talented player, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “But the gaffer has his reasons and he makes the final decisions. It’s down to him.
“There’s nothing I can do about that and all Jamie can do is train well, show a good attitude and then it’s in the manager’s hands. I’m the captain, but I don’t make those decisions.”