Clevid Dikamona reveals dressing-room advice from Hearts captain Christophe Berra
Skipper spoke to his replacement in dressing room before Aberdeen game
Hearts defender Clevid Dikamona received advice from Christophe Berra before deputising for the deposed captain against Aberdeen. Dikamona explained today that he felt no pressure taking Berra’s central defensive spot after the skipper’s selfless pre-match pep-talk.
Manager Daniel Stendel dropped Berra and three other players following Hearts’ 2-0 home defeat by Hibs on Boxing Day. The reshuffle earned Stendel the first point of his tenure in Edinburgh as his team delivered a spirited display in the 1-1 draw with Aberdeen.
Dikamona impressed alongside Craig Halkett at centre-back and revealed the level of Berra’s commitment to Hearts in the dressing room before kick-off. “Christophe came to me before the game and gave me some advice. He’s still the skipper of this team, that doesn’t change because he is on the bench. He’s still the skip and he does the job very well,” said the Congolese internationalist.
“He’s still the guy who represents this club more than every one of us. So maybe he understands why the manager changed things and gave me the opportunity to play. He just told us all to go out and try and win this game so we can start to climb the table.
“I don’t have any pressure on me because of that [replacing Berra]. It shows everyone that the manager is not interested in reputations; that just because Christophe is the captain that he has to be on the pitch. It’s the same for everyone.
“If you are not good enough one week, maybe because you feel tired or something, then you are not sure to be in the team. You need to give 100 per cent of yourself every day, every week. That’s good. So I don’t feel any pressure on me because I know I just have to try and give my best to be in this team.”
Dikamona was making his first appearance in more than a month and was frustrated seeing Niall McGinn cancel out Ryotaro Meshino’s opening goal for Hearts. “It feels good because if I remember it’s the first time the manager has had confidence in me and put another centre-back on the bench,” he said. “So, for me, it was a special game. That’s why I tried my best to push everyone as hard as I could to try and get something from it.
“I think we deserved more than a draw but the free-kick McGinn scored was amazing. So there are some small details we need to take care of in the future because I think we only switched off one time, and they put the ball behind us. We conceded the red card [for Sean Clare] and the free-kick, but I think we are making good steps.”
Players are fighting for the new manager as he tries to steer the club clear of relegation trouble. “I think I am the best example of that,” said Dikamona. “It’s the first time he has put me in the first eleven and someone else on the bench. That’s maybe what we needed before, to have competition.
“Christophe, John [Souttar] and Craig are the same, we need to give everything. I think that’s what the manager has brought to this team. He wants us to bring an intensity to training, and since he has been here the intensity is good. The competition in the group is good for the future.”
Dikamona feels he is already in tune with Stendel’s wishes as signs of improvement show at Hearts. “He told me to show him I can play the football that he wants. That’s why I tried to be available for the keeper, to play from the back, to defend as high as possible, like he likes. I also tried to be myself and just give everything.
“I think we started to see the signs two or three days before. It’s hard to say we did well before that because we lost the games, but I think on Sunday we did the things he wants us to do. So maybe this game was special.”