JULIEN BRELLIER’S name always stirs emotion within Hearts fans.
Gomis plays the same defensive midfield role as Brellier and modelled some of his game on the man former Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov loved to hate.
As an aspiring youngster in Montpellier’s academy, Gomis watched in awe as Brellier’s performances at under-17 level earned him a money-spinning move to the Italian giants Inter Milan.
He went from there to Hearts in 2005 and stayed until 2007. The holding role became his own, as did half of Edinburgh as Tynecastle regulars worshipped Brellier’s uncompromising style.
Gomis freely admits he is not quite so combative, but nonetheless is keen to make that defensive midfield berth his next season and become as popular as Brellier, pictured.
“Julien got a big move to Inter Milan because he was playing so well for Montpellier’s under-17 team. He was a great player,” said Gomis, 28, who joined Hearts on a three-year contract after leaving Dundee United. “He was three years older than me. I used to watch the under-17s training when I was with the under-15s. I didn’t speak to him much, other than to say ‘hi’. I used to watch how he used to train.
“I’ve heard a few people talk about him at Hearts. If I can be as good as him, it would be great.
“I like to play football. I like to get the ball as much as I can and make the team play. I can do the dirty stuff as well, like tackling. I’m an all-in-one player who likes to play. I can defend and attack at the same time.”
Gomis’ career in Scotland began when former Cowdenbeath manager Mixu Paatelainen plucked him from the little-known English club Lewes FC, who play in the Isthmian League. He had previously been with Windsor & Eton, Dagenham & Redbridge and Barnet. The player shrugged aside an uninspiring CV to become a standout in the Cowdenbeath midfield before Craig Levein took him to Dundee United.
Gomis later moved on to Birmingham City, reportedly earning a salary of £10,000 per week, before returning to United last summer. However, he failed to command a regular starting place in his second spell at Tannadice and was released in time to rejoin Levein, who is now Hearts’ director of football.
“That’s a big part of why I’m here today,” continued Gomis. “Hopefully, I can repay the favour on the pitch.
“Craig gave me my chance by signing me for Dundee United when I was at Cowdenbeath. That’s the reason I’m here now so I want to say ‘thank you’ to him.
“Craig Levein always believed in me. He gave me my chance. He’s an honest guy, who wants you to try your best on the pitch. That’s what I am, an honest guy who will work hard for the team.
“I had no hesitation coming here at all. When I was talking to Hearts, I spoke to my family and people I’m close to. It wasn’t a hard decision to make.
“I had nothing concrete in terms of offers. I spoke to a few people but there was nothing on the table. Once I knew Hearts wanted me to come here, I knew I was going to come.
“This is one of the best clubs in Scotland and the fans play a big part in it. They are very passionate and the stadium is full most of the time. Tynecastle is one of my favourite stadiums. All the games I’ve played here have been tough. It’s been hard to play against Hearts.”
The Gorgie club’s relegation to the Championship might have put some players off, but Gomis is excited by the challenge ahead in Scotland’s second tier. “I don’t think I’m stepping down. I think I’m coming to a great place and a great division to play in. It’s something I’m looking forward to.” Ironically, he is now heading back to Cowdenbeath next season as a Hearts player, but first there is an opening day league encounter at Ibrox on August 9. That is followed by an Edinburgh derby with Hibs.
“It’s strange going back to Cowdenbeath but it’s something I’m looking forward to. It’s a great challenge for me. I’ve signed a long-term deal and I want to have a good season.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better than to play against Rangers at Ibrox, with all the fans they’ve got. It should be a good game for Scottish football.
“It’s going to be a great league with Hearts, Hibs and Rangers but there are other teams as well. All the teams involved will be pushing for that first place and then the play-off places. We want to start the season well and take it from there.
“You shouldn’t have any fear playing against any team. You should look forward to every football game and just enjoy it.”