Christian Nade is used to carrying weight. Except now it is the weight of expectation on the Frenchman’s shoulders as Dundee sit within touching distance of promotion.
A point against Dumbarton at Dens Park on Saturday would be enough to confirm the Tayside club’s promotion to the Scottish Premiership given their superior goal difference. For Nade, it will also complete a personal renaissance from overweight misfit to key player in a title tilt.
Since being mistaken for a fat student by former manager Csaba Laszlo during his time at Hearts, the striker has been mercilessly taunted at grounds around Scotland for his size. He freely admits lifestyle choices and diet did not help.
A change of attitude has seen him transform his entire life and disconnect from friends who led him astray. He claims to be down to the same weight as when he eclipsed Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas to rattle Sheffield United’s winning goal against Arsenal late in 2006.
The taunts still pour down from the stands, but now they hurt more than ever. He is, to be blunt, fed up being called “a fat Eddie Murphy”.
“It was really funny at first when people were watching me and all the time they were singing, ‘fat Eddie Murphy, you’re just a fat Eddie Murphy’. Now, it really starts to annoy me,” he said in an exclusive Evening News interview.
“When I was at Hearts, people thought I was fat and I wasn’t. I had 13 per cent body fat at that time and now I’m down to only nine per cent. When I hear people singing things it is sometimes really annoying, but what can I do? I just let them talk.
“If there was a real problem with my weight, I wouldn’t be where I am right now with Dundee.”
Nade is 29 and sounds so proud to be sensible he is verging on boring. He won’t talk about Saturday’s game or Dundee’s promotion prospects out of respect for the wishes of manager Paul Hartley. Previously, that might have been an order he would have disobeyed all too willingly.
You sense he doesn’t want to blow this opportunity, mindful that he is out of contract in a matter of weeks.
“It has gone very well for me at Dundee,” he explained. “I knew I needed to work hard to get back to my best and the players and the coach have made it easier for me.
“I had some injuries and I hadn’t played for a while. I put on weight and I had to lose that weight. I did a lot of extra work and it was really difficult to get back to the weight I am now.
“I managed to lose 12 kilograms and I feel I’m in really good shape at the moment. I’m the same weight I was when I was with Sheffield United. I won’t say what weight that is but I’m really happy with it. I have only nine per cent body fat so I’m pleased with that and everybody at Dundee is really happy for me.”
Is he slowly proving people wrong? Two goal in 12 games since arriving at Dens Park in January suggests there is still some way to go, however, the change of attitude is unquestionable.
“I had to prove to myself that I could play first,” said Nade. “People in Scotland maybe thought I was past my best; people who say in front of you that you’re good and then they try to stab you in the back. I just decided to play for me, for my team and for my club.
“I was made very welcome at Dundee by the old coach [John Brown] and the new coach has helped me too. He was a player not so long ago. He understands what it is like to be a player and he tries to reassure you and talk to you.”
Nade still lives in Edinburgh and drives to Dundee every day. “It’s fine. I don’t sleep a lot anyway,” he continued.
“I’ve completely changed. I’m on my own now and that’s why it’s better. When you are around the wrong people, you do bad stuff. When I was at Hearts, I tried to give 100 per cent in every game, but when you go home there is always temptation.
“Players ask you to go out and sometimes you think training finishes at half past 12 and it is time to go out. I’m trying to stay focused and think about my career now.”
He is eager to stay with Dundee and secure another stint in at top-flight football in Scotland four years since leaving Tynecastle. The intervening period brought spells in Cyprus and Thailand for a player who seemed destined for the wilderness until he returned to Scotland last year. An initial move to East Fife did not materialise but there is no doubt he has adjusted well to life with Dundee.
“I signed for six months and I’m trying to make it count. I’m working hard and, if I manage to stay for another one or two years, I will do exactly the same. If Dundee offer me a new contract, I’m not going to say no.
“I’m more conscious about what I’m doing now. I’m only thinking about football and nothing else. I changed everything. I changed the way I’m eating and the way I’m living. I don’t go out any more.
“I go training, then after training I go to the gym. After the gym I go home and watch TV. Then I get up in the morning and go training again. Every day is the same. I’m so boring but I’m just trying to make the most of my career. I want to go home after training and wait for the next day.”
Previous opportunities with Hearts and Sheffield United were slightly wasted at a time when Nade had yet to mature emotionally. He is philosophical about what has gone before in his life, claiming he was too young to fully appreciate what he had after leaving his native France.
“I used to get bored very easily but I was young,” he said. “You leave your family, you leave everything and you come to another country to play football. There is money and you just want to have as much fun as you can. Now I realise that was not good so I came back and I tried to change my life completely. I stay home, I work hard for my family and for my friends and that’s it.”
The Eddie Murphy chants may well continue, but Nade will have the last laugh if Dundee become a Premiership club once again this weekend.