Christophe Berra plays his 200th competitive game for Hearts tonight and is already eyeing number 300. The 33-year-old captain will reach the 200 mark away to Livingston and said he wants to finish his career in maroon.
Berra is in his second spell at Hearts having come through the club’s youth academy and made his debut in 2003. He was sold for £2.3million to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2009 and later joined Ipswich Town before returning to his formative club in summer 2017.
Having recently returned from four months out with a torn hamstring, the defender is proud to be making his 200th appearance in maroon. He hopes to reach 300 by playing well into his late 30s.
“If I stay fit and injury free, yes. I’ve always been fit and looked after myself so I don’t see why not,” he said. “I don’t want to tempt fate. Try to get to 250 first. It’s something that would be great but it’s a long way away.
“I didn’t know I was approaching 200 until the other day, so it was good to get through the run of three games last week. I’m proud to have represented the club for so many games, especially when I was away for eight-and-a-half years as well. Hopefully I have many more appearances ahead of me.
“Touch wood, I’ve been lucky with injuries up until the most recent one. I come from Edinburgh, it’s a wonderful city to live in and it’s special that there is a massive club in it where I have started my career and will hopefully finish it.
“When you are just starting out, you never really think about landmarks like this. You are just concentrating on playing every game and doing well. I got my move down south and was away for a long time so to come back up the road and still get to 200 is quite a good achievement.”
Berra’s first outing for Hearts was as a substitute for Neil MacFarlane in a 2-1 defeat at Dundee United on November 30, 2003. Current manager Craig Levein was also in charge back then during his first spell at Tynecastle.
“The gaffer here was the manager when I was coming through the youth team and had a huge part in me playing at Hearts and becoming the defender I am,” explained Berra. “I learned a lot back in those days, just from training and getting advice from the guys that were here at that time.
“I owe a lot to them and gave me a platform to go on in my career. I’ve picked up a lot from various managers in the past and as you go along, especially as a defender, you learn through experience and mistakes.
“I’ll sometimes give bits and pieces of advice now and it’s down to the individuals regarding whether they want to take it. All the young players here are very receptive to advice and appreciate it.”
Work to strengthen his hamstrings is ongoing following the recent injury. Berra was thrown back into action at the start of the month and coped admirably in three demanding fixtures against Rangers, St Johnstone and Motherwell.
“It was three games in six days. It wasn’t planned,” he admitted. “The Rangers game was to be maybe an hour. At first people were asking if I’d be alright with the Rangers game. Then it was 90 minutes against St Johnstone and Motherwell. I’ve come through with no ill effects.
“Motherwell and St Johnstone are tough, physical games. It’s good to be back. It’s not over yet. There’s still a lot of work to be done working on strength in my hamstrings.”
The centre-back is wary of Livingston’s set-piece threat this evening. Beating Motherwell ended a run of seven games without victory for Hearts and Berra wants to build momentum in front of the BT Sport cameras in West Lothian.
“A lot of Livingston’s goals have come from set-pieces,” remarked the captain. “But look throughout some of the top leagues in the world, the Champions League too, and a lot of goals will come from set-pieces.
“It’s an attribute Livingston are very good at. We’re going to have to defend for our lives. They drew with Celtic and beat Rangers and Hibs. It’s a very tough place to go, one of the toughest in the league.
“We will go there and respect them but not fear them. We’ll try to nullify their threats but also put our threats on them and make sure we’re a danger to them.”