When Hearts first contacted Peter Haring about moving to Scotland, he didn’t hesitate to activate the release clause in his SV Ried contract.
The defender sensed a priceless chance to establish himself at the top level and, at the age of 25, was determined to force his way out of Austria’s second division.
Haring informed Ried of his intention to leave for Edinburgh, quickly agreed terms with Hearts and passed his medical. Confirmation of his signing is expected this week. The move from the Austrian 2. Liga to the Ladbrokes Premiership is a considerable jump into the proverbial last chance saloon.
Sporting a stylish hairband, Haring built a reputation as one of Austria’s most uncompromising defenders. His aggressive and robust style will stand him in good stead in Scotland, although his penchant for yellow cards must be addressed. He collected 15 of them last season alone.
Perhaps he was merely frustrated. Haring has been eager to leave second-tier football behind for some time but opportunities have been limited. Before Ried he played for Austria Lustenau, also in the second division, and prior to that was in the regional leagues with Rapid Vienna’s youth team.
What Hearts are getting is a player transfixed on seizing a long-awaited opportunity to play top-flight football.
“I think this is his last chance to step up to the next level. It’s a big chance for him and we can only hope for him and for Hearts that everything goes well,” says the former Tynecastle midfielder Thomas Flogel, now a youth coach at St Polten.
“The second division in Austria is hard because there is absolutely no money there. If a player gets an offer from a foreign club, I think every player here in Austria would go. They want to move up and play in a top league.
“I think it’s the same in Scotland. If players get an offer from England or France or somewhere else, they would leave. We know that is the case here. If you don’t play in the Bundesliga, if you are in the second division like Haring, you have to take what offer you get.
“For him, as a 25-year-old player, I think it’s the last chance. All the clubs are searching for young talents, players they can improve, so at 25 it’s a big chance. I moved to Hearts when I was 26 and I know how hard it is at that age to improve yourself. That’s why I’m hoping he can adapt to the Scottish game.”
Haring won’t simply stroll into the Hearts team, of course. He will compete with club captain Christophe Berra, the re-signed veteran Aaron Hughes and the promising John Souttar for places in central defence. It is fair to assume he was targeted by manager Craig Levein because his attributes fit well with Scottish football’s stereotype.
“He plays aggressively,” explains Flogel. “He moves forward from centre-back very early and he pushes forward. He does all of those things very well, although he was playing in the second division. He is not the typical second division player. He wants to go further in his career. I think Hearts is a good option for him. He is physically very strong and his style of play could be right for Hearts.
“He is a brave player. It surprises me a little that an Austrian second division player is signing for Hearts but I hope he is good enough for them. He is suited to Scottish football and I hope he adapts very quickly – more quickly than myself.
“As a centre-back, you have to adapt to the game very quickly. I was a midfield player so it was easier for me. A centre-back needs to work hard and be ready for the games very quickly. Hopefully, Haring is the right man for that.”
Haring joined SV Ried last summer hoping to strengthen their push for promotion to the Austrian Bundesliga. His agreement included a clause allowing him to leave for another club in the event of that aim not being achieved. Hearts are the beneficiaries.
“Ried were always a Bundesliga club and then they went down. They lost some good players to the bigger teams and there were some changes in the structure of the club. That was probably the reason,” says Flogel.
“It was not the case that Haring wasn’t good enough for the top league. Ried wanted to come up again but they did not reach that target and Haring wants to take this option now. I think that’s good for him and I hope he gets success from the move to Edinburgh.
“He did well in the second division but it’s just the second level in Austria. It’s a different game compared to the Premiership in Scotland, which is much the same as the Bundesliga here in Austria. He isn’t old for a footballer so he has time to get used to it.”
The footballing environment in Austria isn’t too dissimilar to that in Scotland, so Haring is expected to settle fairly quickly at Tynecastle.
“I would compare the Austrian league with the Scottish league,” agrees Flogel. “The Scottish league is a little bit faster but not too much more. In the last few games I saw from the Scottish league, most of the teams are passing the ball and playing the possession game. They don’t push the ball forward all the time, so they are playing some good football.
“You see more tactics being used, and that is comparable with Austrian football. Haring will enjoy that and he will learn from playing at a higher level.”