Christophe Berra has urged Hearts team-mate Jamie Walker to park the disappointment of not securing a move to Rangers.
Berra says Walker should use the remainder of this season as an opportunity to ensure he has more illustrious options down south to choose from when his contract expires next year.
The 24-year-old attacker was keen to join the Ibrox club before the transfer window closed a week ago but they failed to meet Hearts’ £1 million valuation. Walker now remains a Hearts player until January at least, but there has been concern within the club about his mindset and application recently after his form dipped significantly over the past seven months.
The homegrown attacker was left out of matches against Dunfermline, Celtic and Kilmarnock earlier this season as speculation about his future intensified.
Now that it is clear he will be staying at Hearts for the next four months at least, captain Berra has challenged his want-away colleague to rediscover his best form and seize the chance he has to win a lucrative move to England. “Obviously Jamie’s got great ability, but it’s up to him now to go out and show it by making sure he works hard in training and in matches,” Berra said. “The ball’s in his court now. Everybody’s saying he’ll be going to Rangers but if he has a really good season, clubs down south will look at him as well. Let’s be honest, most people want to play in England if they can. He’s got an opportunity that not a lot of people get.
“If he performs well this year, he knows he could have four o`r five clubs wanting to sign him. Hopefully he grasps that chance, gets fit and gets firing on all cylinders, working hard for the team, scoring goals and creating chances. If he has a great season and gets back to the form he showed at the start of last season in a Hearts team that’s doing well, it’s only going to benefit himself.”
Berra, who earned a move from Hearts to Wolves in 2009 and has subsequently gone on to win 38 Scotland caps, hopes Walker is able to emerge stronger from this test of his character. “Now and again I speak to him about it but he’s his own man and he’ll make his own mind up,” said the captain. “It can be difficult when the spotlight’s on you – it’s a harsh learning curve. In sport, there’s not much leeway and it can be tough at times, but it’s all character-building for him. If he stands up to it and does well, the spotlight will be on him for the right reasons. It’s all there for him to have a good career. If he plays well, it’s good for Hearts and it’s good for Jamie.”
Meanwhile, Berra, buoyed by scoring in Scotland’s win over Malta on Monday as the national team boosted their World Cup qualification hopes, is confident Craig Levein will get Hearts back on an upward curve after the director of football was appointed manager last week. Levein takes charge of Hearts for the first time against Aberdeen at BTMurrayfield on Saturday. “I’ve worked with Craig at Hearts before and with Scotland, and his record speaks for itself, especially in Scottish football,” said Berra. “It all bodes well for a bright and successful future. He’s got a presence about him and if you’re not doing well, he’s not slow to let you know. I’ve experienced that before, and I’m sure myself and the rest of the boys will experience it in the future. I’m pretty sure he’ll still have that side to him. He’s got broad shoulders. He’ll be able to take the expectations of the fans and he’ll make sure we all know what our jobs are. We always do anyway but even more so with Craig. He’ll have everyone working their socks off. The plan is to start winning games again on a regular basis and get second or third in the table and win a European place. We all know on paper we’ve got good players. It’s just about playing the right system and getting the best out of everyone.
“I’ve seen what we’re capable of in small glimpses this season but we need to do it on a consistent basis and get everyone playing at their maximum. We’re not going to play brilliant every week but as long as everyone’s giving 100 per cent, we should do well.”