Hearts captain Christophe Berra has urged team-mates to banish recent disappointments by defeating Celtic on Wednesday and then beating Partick Thistle to a Scottish Cup semi-final place.
The Edinburgh club face a potentially pivotal week in their season hosting Celtic in the Premiership before Monday’s cup tie at Firhill. Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with St Mirren prompted Berra to call for more consistency after dropped points against Motherwell, Livingston and Dundee in the last month. However, he acknowledged that a win against the league champions and a place in the Scottish Cup last four would quickly transform the Gorgie landscape once again.
“Football changes so quickly. We were on a poor run but when we won at Easter Road [before the winter break] everything was forgotten about,” Berra pointed out.
“Football is a week-by-week job and if we get a win on Wednesday against Celtic and get into the Scottish Cup semi-final, then it’s totally different. There are very few teams in the world who are always on a high. There are ups and downs in sports and that will never change.
“I will tell you at 9.45pm on Wednesday if Celtic was a good game for us to have next. They are full of confidence right now. They always find it difficult here but they will be ready for that.
“Maybe they’ve come here in the past thinking they will cruise it but Brendan Rodgers will have them ready for a tough game. Hopefully we can go out and perform but we are going to have to play at 100 per cent and we are going to need a bit of luck as well.”
St Mirren frustrated Hearts with a well-drilled plan. Despite falling behind to Clevid Dikamona’s first goal in maroon, they levelled through a Sean Clare own goal. The draw underlined Hearts’ recent inconsistency.
“We started the season fine but there’s been many a team who has done that and then other teams figure them out,” explained Berra. “We’ve got to do what we’ve done in the past and be consistent and if we do that we’ve got a chance.
“You can’t be using injuries or things like that as an excuse. Boys are coming back and it’s maybe taking them a bit of time to get up to speed but maybe teams are also coming here and showing us respect – the respect we deserve – and we are finding it hard to break them down. Last year we were a very dogged team, very hard to beat. We didn’t give goals or chances away but now we have different players and we are a bit more expansive. That means you can be a bit more open. There are not a lot of teams in the world who are solid at the back and score a lot of goals.”
The captain admitted he analyses games more now than ever before in the hope of finding improvement. After seeing his team held by St Mirren, the examination kicked into overdrive.
“I’ve always done it but when you are younger maybe you think about yourself a bit more, and you want to do individually well. The older you get, it is all about the team. You want to be part of a winning team,” he stated.
“I’m always analysing things now. I’ll be at home thinking about it and my missus will say to me: ‘Are you day-dreaming?’ I’ll just say: ‘Aye’. I am very critical of myself. It can be a good thing or a bad thing but maybe I can be a bit harsh on myself. I just want the best for us. I want us to play consistently week in, week out.”