First interview: Peter Haring opens up on his Hearts move

Peter Haring, right, has struck up a rapport with John Souttar, left, and Christophe Berra at Hearts. Pic: SNS
Peter Haring, right, has struck up a rapport with John Souttar, left, and Christophe Berra at Hearts. Pic: SNS
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He is the newest member of a reshaped Hearts defence, but is already regarded as a first-choice by manager Craig Levein. Peter Haring’s impact in Scotland has been notable after he was plucked from the Austrian second division.

Levein publicly confirmed that Haring, John Souttar and Christophe Berra are his preferred defensive combination for season 2018/19. Hearts are being drilled to play a back three rather than a four in pre-season friendlies, and Haring already looks comfortable in his new environment.

He activated a release clause to leave SV Ried after hearing of Hearts’ interest. Ried’s failure to secure promotion to Austria’s top flight meant the 25-year-old was entitled to leave for free as per the terms of his agreement. He didn’t hesitate to decamp for Edinburgh.

“I was on holiday with a couple of friends and my agent called me and told me there was interest from Hearts,” the Austrian told the Evening News in his first newspaper interview since signing a two-year contract.

“He asked if I wanted to meet the coach and chat with him. One day later, he told me I should fly to Edinburgh for a meeting and to look around the club.

“First of all I was happy but I had to think. I knew about Scottish football. I really wanted to meet the coach and have a chat with him. After that, it was clear for me that I wanted to join this club. I am really happy to be here.”

Levein sold his Hearts vision to a player already intrigued by what the Ladbrokes Premiership could do for his career prospects. Haring admitted the chance to leave his homeland and play top-flight football was a major factor in his decision.

“Of course, but not only that. I wanted to go to another country to play football, learn a different culture and a different style of play. That was really interesting for me,” he remarked.

His early assessment of the Scottish game is not what you might expect. “I have only played three times for Hearts but I think there is more possession in Scottish football. The teams try to keep the ball and they do it a little bit better than in Austria.”

Foreign centre-backs who exude class with the ball at their feet are generally warmly received by Hearts supporters. From Pasquale Bruno to Alim Ozturk, there is plenty affection in Gorgie for such a species. Early evidence suggests Haring is similarly comfortable on the ball whilst also having an authoritative presence.

“It’s hard to describe yourself but I think I am confident with the ball at my feet,” he said. “I can pass the ball quite well and I try to read the game so I can react a bit earlier than my opponents. I think I’m not too bad with my head as well - but the fans will see for themselves very soon.”

His relationship with Souttar and Berra is still at the embryonic stage but those three will start the season in the Hearts defence. Provided he overcomes an ankle complaint, the new Czech goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal will be behind them between the posts.

The veteran defender Aaron Hughes has been given a slightly longer summer break having been on international duty with Northern Ireland into June. So Haring, Souttar and Berra must learn as much as possible about each other in a relatively short space of time.

Competitive action begins next Wednesday when Hearts travel to Cove Rangers in the Betfred League Cup. Pre-season was going well with victories in every friendly until Wednesday night’s 1-0 defeat at Queen of the South.

“The result on Wednesday was bad. We lost the game but pre-season so far is pretty good,” said Haring. “The lads are all really good guys so it wasn’t hard to feel comfortable with them. I have played 90 minutes twice in the last week so I feel confident.

“We changed our system sometimes at Ried and we played with three at the back. I have played that way before and it is no problem. I am trying to learn a lot from Christophe and Soapy [Souttar] and they are helping me. I think our defence looks good for the new season starting.”