Christophe Berra: Former Hearts defender sets out plan for next stage of his career
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The 37-year-old, who was speaking at Hampden Park after making the draw for the third round of the Scottish Cup, explained his decision to retire from football in the summer. The defender called time on his playing career as he opted to leave Raith Rovers at the beginning of the season and having gained coaching experience at the Fife club.
“There had been flashes in the previous season but it just came to the point, not so much physically but more mentally, I reached the decision,” he explained. “I’d been thinking about coaching or management in the two or three previous seasons before that so I need to prepare for that as well.
“Your day-to-day schedule changes, but I’ve had a really good time at home with my family. The time has come now though to look to get back to work and look forward to the next stage of my career. I’ve done my B and my A Licences and the next one would be the UEFA Pro Licence when that’s available but the A Licence is enough to coach at a high level so that’s the aim. I’m very open on how to reach where I want to go. I’ve done coaching in the past at the Hearts academy and in the first team with Raith Rovers as well so I’ve got a lot to give. It’s not going to be easy. I want to be a manager but I know there’s a process and I’m willing to put the hours in and hopefully progress.
“Down in England I was with Mick McCarthy, his morals were very honest. At Wolves I also had Stale Solbakken who is the Norway manager now and I learned things from him. Every manager you learn things from and up here working with Gordon Strachan, he was a big influence on me.”
The Scottish Cup holds both enjoyable and painful memories for the defender, as he was part of the Hearts squad who won the cup in 2006 against Gretna but he would go on to lose two further finals against Celtic during his second spell with the Gorgie club. “With regards to the Scottish Cup, I played in three finals – fortunately winning one but then losing two. Both losses were against Celtic.
“In 2006, I didn’t play that day. I was actually on the bench. Obviously disappointing that I wasn’t playing but looking back with the winner’s medal you can’t complain. There’s a part of me that wanted to have been in that starting 11 but I was in and out that year. I remember the bus parade down Princes Street and up Gorgie Road. Those are memories that will stay with you forever.
“The last one in 2020 was disappointing though. We were 2-0 down then brought it back to 2-2 and it went to extra-time. We were the team probably pushing for it and when it went to penalties I backed us to do it but unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
Hampden Park also holds fond memories from his time with the national side and Berra picks out the dramatic draw with England in 2017 as a stand-out match from the 41 caps he amassed: “From a Scotland point of view, the biggest one was when we played England at Hampden - the 2-2 game”, he said. “Obviously we were so close to winning that game but I think it will still go down in history. It was a great atmosphere. I was fortunate to score four times for Scotland so it's something I can look back on and be really proud of.”
Berra handed FC Edinburgh a Scotish Cup away trip to Drumchapel United, with Linlithgow Rose set to host Sauchie Juniors at the end of next month. Drumchapel United, currently third top of the sixth tier West of Scotland League First Division, are playing in the Scottish Cup for the first time. They have already knocked out Easthouses Lily, Gretna and Nairn County to reach the third round. Sauchie shocked League 2 Bonnyrigg Rose and will be familiar opponents for Linlithgow, with both teams playing in the East of Scotland Premier Division.
Raith enter the competition at this stage will entertain Auchinleck Talbot, who reached the fourth round last year and were eliminated by Hearts. Berra added: “Raith Rovers got a home tie so they’ll be happy although John McGlynn, who was my old manager at Raith Rovers and at Hearts under-18s – he’s now at Falkirk and unfortunately I didn’t get one for them, so when I turn my phone back on now I might have a few messages of abuse! It’s cup finals for the lower division sides playing against the league clubs. As you know there’s no easy games in football – it’s about the teams that turn up on the day, you’ve got to have the right application or there could be an upset.”
SCOTTISH CUP THIRD ROUND DRAW
Albion Rovers v University of StirlingAyr United v Pollok or Annan AthleticClyde v DumbartonCove Rangers v DunipaceDrumchapel United v FC EdinburghDundee v AirdrieoniansDunfermline Athletic v Forfar AthleticFormartine United v StenhousemuirFraserburgh v ArbroathGreenock Morton v Queen of the SouthHamilton Academical v East KilbrideHill of Beath Hawthorn v Elgin CityInverness Caledonian Thistle v Stirling AlbionLinlithgow Rose v Sauchie JuniorsMontrose v DarvelOpen Goal Broomhill v Alloa AthleticPartick Thistle v Kelty HeartsPeterhead v Queen’s ParkRaith Rovers v Auchinleck TalbotWick Academy v Falkirk
*Third round ties will be contested over the weekend of Saturday, 26 November.