Perry Kitchen has embraced the culture, lifestyle and football in Scotland as he approaches his first anniversary here. One of his first Hearts appearances came at Celtic Park, where he will lead the team out as captain tomorrow.
The American midfielder knows what is expected after 12 months in Edinburgh. He likes Scottish football but isn’t too fond of the diet. Vegetarian haggis he can tolerate but he draws the line at Mars Bar suppers.
Tomorrow’s assignment gives plenty food for thought as Hearts travel to the league champions aiming to avoid a record result. Celtic are looking to beat Jock Stein’s 50-year landmark of 26 domestic matches without defeat.
“I don’t think our approach changes,” says Kitchen. “The way we’re set up, we don’t want to have to change our game, no matter who we’re playing. We play the way we want to play.
“You have to read the game and, if you are taking a lot of pressure, you have to drop into a lower formation. We’re ready for that. But, in saying that, Ian Cathro [head coach] has made it pretty clear that we have an identity – and that’s who we want to be.
“We don’t want to play against these teams in this way, then change it for Celtic away or the like. It’s about keeping the same mindset. We understand that it can be a different challenge, we might have to defend more. We can do that. No problem.”
For someone who can count one of Barack Obama’s security staff amongst his friends, Kitchen may know a bit about defending. “He was under the Obama administration, a friend I went to school with back in Indiana,” he recalls. “He got into security detail. I wouldn’t say he worked directly in the White House but he did work in DC. He wasn’t directly involved in guarding the President or anything. It was more of an internship.
“He’s not involved any more. Once an administration turns over, everyone leaves.”
President Trump’s inauguration will mean significant change in the United States. Kitchen appreciates the traditions of his homeland, though. “My folks actually just came over yesterday, so they brought a couple of things for me and my wife. We got some brownie mix, which is nice, because you don’t get that too often here.
“Your salad dressing is pretty bad over here, so they brought us some Italian seasoning packets so we can make our own. It’s just little things here and there, stuff to season our food.
“Look, it’s been a great experience. No matter what happens here, it’s been a life-changing experience to live in a different culture, a different environment.
“It’s been positive. I don’t want to rip the food too much over here but it’s just about getting used to different things.
“As an American, you kind of get labelled with that persona where we’re foreigners, but we come over here saying: ‘The American way is the right way – it’s our way.’
“So, being a foreigner in a different country, you sit back and say: ‘OK, they do things differently here. Let’s learn from that – but still be my own person.’
“I’m trying to embrace the culture. It’s great. I haven’t tried the Mars Bar supper, no. What is that? Deep-fried? Man, that’s a heart attack waiting to happen. I’ve tried vegetarian haggis. Just because I was wanting the flavour but not the intestines and the guts.
Kitchen believes moving to Scotland has actually helped him learn more about his home country. “I think it’s pretty cool that you guys know so much about it. I think a lot of you guys know more about the American political system than most Americans, which is kind of cool – or sad, whichever way you look at it.
“To see how American operates from a foreign point of view, it’s pretty cool, from a life perspective. I have learned a bit more from being here. In America, we’re proud of the American way – and sometimes that means we’re hard-headed, that we always think the American way is the best way.
“And that’s not always the case, you know? We’ve experienced that over here, learned that other ways to do things can be positive and be just as effective.”