He was deliberately given a red captain’s armband after several colleagues suffered injuries wearing the yellow one.
However, Peter Haring’s pride at skippering Hearts is undiminished. The Austrian midfielder only arrived in Scotland five months ago and is already a leading figure at Tynecastle Park.
Today he spoke of his honour at being named interim captain by manager Craig Levein. It comes after a bizarre set of circumstances in which club skipper Christophe Berra, deputy John Souttar and stand-in Steven Naismith were all sidelined by injury this season whilst wearing the armband.
Notions of a Hearts captain’s curse rose when Steven MacLean took the band from Naismith in the Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic – only to earn himself a suspension for the now-infamous incident with Eboue Kouassi. Perhaps it was therefore a wise decision by the Hearts kit manager, Gordon Paterson, to issue Haring a red armband and not the yellow one used by his unfortunate predecessors.
“It’s an honour for me to wear the armband. When the gaffer gave it to me I was a little bit surprised but I’m proud to wear it. Our kitman, Gogsy, gave me a red one because he told me he didn’t want to give me the yellow one. I don’t know where the yellow one is now,” laughed Haring.
The only time the 25-year-old previously captained a team was in his youth with Rapid Vienna’s reserves. He was informed by Levein on the morning of last week’s Edinburgh derby against Hibs that he was next in line to captain Hearts. “I went to his office and first he gave me the armband and said I would be captain. I was surprised but I told him it means a lot to me. I’m thankful for that,” explained Haring.
“Then he told me he wanted me to play as a striker against Hibs. That was the main theme of the chat. He asked me what I thought about it and I just said: ‘Yes, why not?’ I understood what he was thinking. I just said I was going to give everything wherever I play and try to help the team. It’s not my best position and on the pitch it felt weird because I’m not a striker. I don’t think I will play as a striker too often but it was a nice experience.”
A quiet and unassuming man off the pitch and in the dressing room, Haring’s authoritative displays on the field are partly the reason he will continue leading Hearts out.
“I don’t have to change now. I’m the same as I was before. The gaffer must have a reason to give me the armband so I don’t see the point in changing. We have a lot of people in the dressing room who are loud and try to lead the team. I don’t think I’m a player who shouts too much. On the pitch, I try to help the team. We have a really good squad and I think it’s simple to handle.”
Berra is edging nearer a comeback and his influence has still been evident during his absence. “It would be easier if he was on the pitch,” said Haring. “He is around all the time. Soapy is back and I hope Naisy will be back soon.” The biggest difficulty falls at Levein’s door as he tries to compensate without so many key players. “The manager has to think more about it than the players. That’s his job. He has to make up the squad and decide who is playing. We just try to give our best on the pitch. I have not thought about trying to complain that we have important players missing. That’s not my job.”
Kilmarnock visit Tynecastle today with Hearts eager to recover quickly from last week’s 5-0 reverse at Celtic.
“I didn’t think too much about last week’s game. It was a really bad day for us,” said Haring. “Tactics are not the most important thing. What matters most for me is how the players behave and what they do on the pitch. Tactics don’t matter if you don’t give everything. I think we gave everything but if you don’t win the tackles, don’t win the balls and just have a bad day, you can play with any tactic – you won’t win.
“The first half was a really bad performance from us. In the second half we changed our tactics and it was better. I wouldn’t say it was all about the tactics. Against a team like Celtic, if you make mistakes like we did then that’s what happens.
“Today’s game is very important. With a win, we will be top of the league through the international break. It’s just vital for us to get back on the winning track.”
He will continue delaying a hernia operation to help his team. “I felt it in the Celtic game at Murrayfield but it got better since then. Now I don’t really feel it any more. I can handle it much better and I know what I have to do to recover. I’m fit enough to play so we will see how it feels. At the moment, I feel good and ready to play. As long as I can play, I will do that. I know what to do to be pain-free and to handle it. I don’t think too much about it.
“I look at my recovery and work together with the physios. They know what to do more than me. Every player has their own rituals and warm-up exercises. That’s normal stuff for every footballer.”