Ben Garuccio can’t wait to hear Christophe Berra bawling in his ear once again. The Australian is looking forward to it, because he knows it will signal Berra back at his influential best in the centre of Hearts’ defence.
The shouting may well resume tomorrow against Rangers if the club captain is recalled by manager Craig Levein. Fellow centre-back Jimmy Dunne is doubtful with an ankle knock, so Berra is poised to step in to play for the first time since tearing his hamstring against Celtic in August.
A summer signing from the Australian club Adelaide United, Garuccio recalls Berra’s cajoling voice as a standout theme of his early games for Hearts. He is happy at the prospect of having the 33-year-old on his case once again.
“My first games were against Cowdenbeath and Inverness in the [Betfred] Cup,” smiled Garuccio. “In both of those games, he [Berra] was just on my back all the time. I felt I was playing some pretty good games and I was like: ‘Oh my God. What’s it going to be like when I’m having a stinker?’
“Christophe is next to me in defence. You just have to get over the fact it’s not personal. He just wants you to be the best out there. It’s just football and if you’re not a man about it then you won’t last too long.
“You have that intensity at every club, but definitely more so here than any other club I’ve been at. You take it on the chin and get on with it.
“It’s been good having Christophe back in training because we’ve missed that leadership over the last month or so. It will be great to have someone like that back. His presence on the field, the way he speaks, communicates with players and really gets on your back, I think that’s helpful for a lot of players and keeps everyone on their toes.”
Asked if Berra is a moaner on the pitch, Garuccio, replied: “A little bit, yeah. I think a lot of the boys would agree with me but it’s a good sort of moan. You know it’s not personal, he just wants the best out of everyone. He wants everyone doing their jobs and, when you’re not, you know about it. I think that’s helpful.
“It’s definitely not personal. Naisy is the same. These players have been there, they’ve done it and they know what’s right and what’s wrong. When you do something wrong on the pitch, it’s better if someone tells you than you keep making the same mistakes.
“It’s old-fashioned, no-nonsense. They just let you know and you get on with it.”
Garuccio is straight-talking on the subject of his time at Hearts. He is focused on cementing a place in Levein’s starting line-up, with Manchester United loanee Demetri Mitchell competing for the left-back position.
The Australian has started the last two matches against Kilmarnock and St Mirren but finished on the losing side on both occasions. It remains to be seen who Levein favours when Rangers visit Tynecastle Park tomorrow for a lunchtime kick-off.
“I want to play more games and get a starting spot in this team. That’s the biggest thing for me,” said Garuccio. “The football hasn’t surprised me too much here. I feel like I’m doing well in some games and could do better in others. It’s about finding that consistency.
“I feel like I’m growing into the league, learning more about the players and the teams in Scotland. That’s something that can take a little bit of time.”
Family back home have a bit of a task to monitor his progress in Edinburgh. Time difference and lack of Scottish football coverage mean they are often scrambling to find live footage of Hearts games.
“Scottish football isn’t really on. A lot of my family have asked me ‘where can I watch the game?’ and even my parents struggle to find it. So it can be pretty hard to watch Scottish football, especially with the time difference.”
The 23-year-old is in no doubt he made the correct decision to leave his native league and try the Ladbrokes Premiership.
“The boys that have played for Hearts had so many good things to say about the gaffer and the club,” he explained.
“That was one thing that helped me a lot in the move. Seeing the current Australians that are in the league, at so many different clubs, is exciting. It’s a strong league and if you are doing well you can be looked at for the national team.”