Perry Kitchen hasn’t been in Edinburgh long but he already knows what is and is not acceptable.
Watching Celtic celebrate a league title at Tynecastle isn’t something local supporters would suffer easily, and in that sense the American midfielder has learned his new culture quickly.
The Glasgow club can effectively secure their fifth successive top-flight trophy with victory over Hearts at lunchtime today. A draw may even be sufficient, depending on Aberdeen’s result later this afternoon against Motherwell.
Kitchen only arrived in the Capital two months ago, however he understands the landscape fully. Although he struggles to grasp the Glasgow accent, he knows the intensity involved when Celtic and Hearts meet. He sampled one of Scotland’s most hostile fixtures earlier this month when his new club suffered a 3-1 defeat at Parkhead. He is fully aware a repeat scoreline today isn’t on.
“It’s a huge game for us. It means a lot for everyone at the club,” explained the 24-year-old. “We never want to see another team celebrating at our ground. I’ve been in that situation before, back in MLS, playing for DC United in the Eastern Conference final against Houston in 2012.
“It was the second leg, they beat us and were celebrating on our field. It’s not a good thing to happen so we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen. You never want a team having a party on your pitch. We’ll be doing our best to prevent it. Having been through it once, I certainly don’t want it to happen. Back at DC, that was our season over. It was pretty rough.”
Kitchen is asked how big the gap is between Hearts and Celtic at the moment. The Ladbrokes Premiership table details a difference of 17 points between the clubs before kick-off, with four games of the season left. “That’s a good question. Minus the score line, I thought we had a pretty good game at their place last time,” he said. “It’s just about being consistent and taking chances.
“We know how tough Celtic are to play, so we have to mimic that performance – and win the game. We definitely think we can compete with them. We are a good side and getting better. At half-time in the last game, we knew we’d had some great chances, scored a great goal and had a couple of other opportunities.
“That’s how football goes sometimes, you don’t score and the other team do very well to take their chances. You watched Atletico Madrid against Bayern during the week and it was a similar situation. You can have 25 per cent possession and score the only goal of the game.”
Kitchen may find out just how hostile these fixtures can be if he ventures towards the away section of the Roseburn Stand today. “I would probably say the biggest shock is the accent. The Glasgow accent in particular – I just stare at their lips and try to figure out what they’re saying,” he smiled. “But it’s been a pretty easy adjustment and, although I can laugh about the accent, speaking roughly the same language helps.
“I always get asked to compare the SPFL to MLS. I would say they’re pretty similar, to be honest. Here, the game can always stay at 100 miles an hour because the weather is always pretty cool. In MLS, once you get to the summer months, the game really slows down. I would say the speed of play is similar, the aggression and physicality is similar. It’s more alike than I thought it would be.
“The culture of the fans is different. It’s a bit more intense here, for sure. The fans are obviously great in America but here, the fans really don’t hold back when they shout at you or say anything. Which is good, because it shows the passion is there.
“You get some negative stuff away from home, when you go out at the sideline to take a throw-in, somebody is screaming at you with real intensity. It’s fun, really good to get you fired up. I certainly don’t worry about it. I can’t understand a lot of it the accents, anyway – but it’s good to see the passion.”