Tynecastle needs '˜special characters' - Hearts' Christophe Berra
As Hearts anxiously await confirmation of their return to Tynecastle, Christophe Berra knows it is not only a safety certificate from the city council which is required to validate their presence at the revamped stadium.
Berra is as keen as anyone connected with the club to get back home to Gorgie after an unsettled start to the season in which they appeared less than comfortable with the temporary surroundings of Murrayfield.
Craig Levein’s side managed just one victory in their four outings at the home of Scottish rugby, while they have lost four of their last six Premiership fixtures in total. It leaves them still in the top six of the table on goal difference but just five points above the relegation play-off spot currently occupied by Partick Thistle, their opponents for Sunday’s still to be confirmed re-opening of Tynecastle.
Hearts captain Berra believes the ground can deliver the setting and atmosphere necessary to inspire an improvement in form and results.
But the 32-year-old, right, also warns that his team-mates must find the mentality required to cope with the expectations of a home support who will be less than forgiving if there are no immediate signs of a turnaround in fortunes.
“Some people don’t realise the Hearts fans can be very demanding at Tynecastle and if you are not going well, they’re not happy,” said Berra.
“So you have to be a special character to deal with that, you need to blank it out and keep on playing. As long as we are getting crosses in and shots off and we’re creating chances it will keep them on the edge of their seats and they’ll be happy.
“It’s been a harsh learning curve this season and getting back to Tynecastle, there will be a lot of pressure on us as well to do well. But I think everyone will be happy, it’s home comforts. It will be a bit more intimidating for other sides as well and when we’re on top and scoring goals it will be more atmospheric. We’re a work in progress but we need to learn quickly and start doing better as a team.
“The criticism is just part of football. Hearts are regarded as one of Scottish football’s biggest clubs and there’s an expectation there.
“At the moment we have not got the squad. I think the gaffer will in time mould the squad he wants and we’ll get better, hopefully in January. But that also means we all have to step up as well. There are no easy games, every team has made changes.
“It was disappointing to lose against Kilmarnock at Murrayfield in our last game because we feel those are the teams we should be beating. If that had been at Tynecastle with a different atmosphere it might have been different.
“Murrayfield is a great stadium, don’t get me wrong, it’s brilliant. But the atmosphere is not as good. That’s what Tynecastle gives you and the players thrive on that.
“We also need to step up and cut out the silly mistakes and create more chances as well, and when we do that we need to take them.”
Hearts have not been helped by a series of injuries to key players this season, notably in midfield, and Berra is happy to see that situation improving week by week.
“It will be massive for us to get the experienced guys back,” he added. “Don Cowie came back against Kilmarnock and made an impact, while Arnaud Djoum should be back after this international break. Arnaud is a big player for us.
“So to get these players back, it’s a bit of experience as well, a bit of muscle, a bit of know-how and physical presence.
“We have had a few injuries in midfield and that has probably cost us. We’ve been relying on young boys, who, at the age of 16 like Harry Cochrane, pictured, it’s a big ask, especially at a club like Hearts if you are not winning.
“Young Harry came in and did brilliantly, but he’s only 16, he’s a small guy and there are bigger and stronger players who might just bully him. That will be a great experience for him and he’ll only get better.
“Against Kilmarnock it was a disappointing result even though we played better in the second half. We need to kick on and move forward now.”
Berra won his 41st cap for Scotland during the international break. The big defender was encouraged by the performance against Netherlands, in which four players made their debuts for the Scots, although he was frustrated by the way the only goal of the game was conceded in the 1-0 defeat.
“I thought the new lads all did well. It was a big game to come into against a top nation,” said Berra.
“The Dutch still have good individual players at the minute (but) maybe they’re not the best team. You could maybe see why they haven’t qualified for the World Cup as well. There was a bit of a slow tempo.
“I never felt exhausted, I was just moving from side to side, I didn’t have much to do technically. It was more being switched on for a ball over your shoulder and stuff like that.
“But to make their debuts against them, I thought the midfielders – Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie – were very composed and could be pleased with their performances.
“I thought we created a lot more chances than the Dutch and maybe we should have taken a couple. They punished us on a counter attack basically when we had the ball in a good position.
“They intercepted it and broke and took out a couple of our players and in the end there was nothing really Craig Gordon or I could do about it.
“They worked it well. We showed them wide, Ryan Babel’s put in a good cross and Memphis Depay couldn’t miss. Apart from that Craig didn’t have much to do.”