Christophe Berra: Defender to captain Hearts after returning to club

Ian Cathro and Christophe Berra
Ian Cathro has selected Christophe Berra as his new captain

Hearts head coach Ian Cathro has immediately installed new signing Christophe Berra as club captain.

The defender, 32, returns to the role he held in his previous stint at the club, and replaces midfielder Perry Kitchen as skipper.

Cathro also described the signing of the Scotland international as an indication of the "serious" intent of the club's summer recruitment plans.

"It reflects the type of moves we know we have to make," he said.

"It was important to bring the level of player that Christophe is, but he also has a connection with the club.

"One of the roles he will play is returning to the position of club captain.

"It's an indication of this being the start of the building of the new team. We're serious. We're very serious about what we intend on doing.

"It's important for us to add to the leadership."

Berra, who has agreed a three-year contract at Hearts, started his career at Tynecastle and left for Wolves in 2009, moving on to Ipswich for a four-year spell in 2013.

He set his sights on a return to Edinburgh to be closer to his family and believes Hearts can challenge at the top end of the Premiership table this season, if their recruitment goes to plan.

Perry Kitchen and Don Cowie
Kitchen and Cowie shared captaincy duties this season

"Hopefully we're going to get some good players in, some good characters and we want to get back to cup finals, challenging at the top end of the table," Berra said.

"We know it's difficult, Celtic have far [more] money than everybody else, but we want to be challenging Aberdeen, Rangers and getting back up where we belong, qualifying for Europe.

"I've had conversations with the manager and what we want to do is very exciting, we've got a vision and it's about getting the right players on the pitch to carry that out.

"I've heard good things about the manager, I've spoken to boys who were at Newcastle, and they had good things to say about him. They were really positive. It's been an up and down season [but] there's a lot to work with. It won't be easy, but we've got a right good chance."

Cathro, who took over from Robbie Neilson as head coach in December, led Hearts to a fifth-placed finish in this season's Scottish Premiership.

Their domestic campaign in 2017-18 will start with League Cup fixtures in July.

Hearts have released six players from last season's squad - Alexandros Tziolis, Andraz Struna, Tasos Avlonitis, Lennard Sowah and Dylan Bikey were all released while on-loan Stoke City winger Moha Choulay will return to his parent club.

They were all signed during the January transfer window, but Cathro insists the club is in a better place for their summer signing plans, with Berra just the first of several to be moving to Tynecastle.

"We expect to do business, we expect to bring players," Cathro said.

Greek midfielder Alexandros Tziolis
Greek midfielder Alexandros Tziolis was one of six players to leave Hearts this week

"The difference now is that we've had time to prepare. The summer window is different and gives us a better way of being able to do our business.

"We are more prepared, we have a better understanding of exactly what we need to bring, a better understanding of how we need to redress the balance of the team and the blend of the squad. We're in a more informed position. It's the first step, a very important step."

While Berra has been appointed club captain, Cathro added that expects leadership from other senior members of the squad, including midfielder Don Cowie and defender Aaron Hughes.

American Kitchen replaced defender Alim Ozturk as Hearts captain in September and Ozturk has since left the club.

"We've had Perry and [midfielder] Don Cowie taking that position and Don will continue to be one of the important leaders inside the group," added Cathro.

Top Stories