Ha­vana ex­pe­ri­ence a thrill for Kitchen, but fo­cus now all on reignit­ing Hearts’ flame

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FOOTBALL - ALAN TEM­PLE

PERRY KITCHEN, the Hearts cap­tain, has de­scribed his his­toric trip to Cuba as like step­ping back in time af­ter be­ing part of the first USA squad to play a fix­ture in the com­mu­nist na­tion.

How­ever, the 24-year-old is very much look­ing to the fu­ture as Hearts seek to prove their meek sur­ren­der against Kil­marnock was noth­ing but a tem­po­rary blip.

Kitchen en­joyed an un­for­get­table in­ter­na­tional break ear­lier this month af­ter be­ing named in Jur­gen Klins­mann’s squad for the jour­ney to Ha­vana, an en­counter which rep­re­sented yet an­other step in the grow­ing re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries.

From build­ings that time for­got to the vin­tage cars which line the sun-kissed streets, it was an eye-open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for the In­di­ana na­tive.

He was also af­forded a sense of per­spec­tive af­ter wit­ness­ing the poverty which still af­flicts a sub­stan­tial por­tion of the is­land, prior to the USA claim­ing a 2-0 victory at the Es­ta­dio Pe­dro Mar­rero. Kitchen, who won his fifth cap against New Zealand four days af­ter the clash in Ha­vana, said “We were made very wel­come.

“The Cuban peo­ple are great. It’s in­ter­est­ing to see how a po­lit­i­cal regime can have that ef­fect on a peo­ple. It was very in­ter­est­ing, some things I’d never seen be­fore.

“It was like be­ing in a time ma­chine, with all the old cars, the older build­ings, things like that. It is one off the bucket list. And yeah, I think I’d go back. The beaches are in­cred­i­ble.

“It’s some­thing to see – but it’s sad at times; the sit­u­a­tion that the peo­ple have been put in, with­out their will. It does make you ap­pre­ci­ate what you have, for sure.”

Af­ter break­ing new ground in Cen­tral Amer­ica, Kitchen’s fo­cus is now on im­prov­ing Hearts’ re­cent his­tory in In­ver­ness. Re­mark­ably, the Jam­bos have not reg­is­tered a win in the High­land cap­i­tal since Septem­ber 2010, when strikes from Calum El­liot, Ryan Steven­son and a Chris Innes own goal se­cured a 3-1 tri­umph.

Kitchen knows it is im­per­a­tive that they im­prove their lam­en­ta­ble record at the Cale­do­nian Sta­dium af­ter a poor show­ing in Wed­nes­day’s 2-0 de­feat away to Kil­marnock. “It’s never easy af­ter a loss but I think we learned from the game and it’s a pos­i­tive that we have a quick turn­around to put that re­sult be­hind us,” con­tin­ued the Tynecas­tle skipper.

“I think we learned that it doesn’t mat­ter who you are play­ing in this league – if you don’t show up and you’re not on your game, you’re go­ing to lose. We have to be bet­ter in all as­pects of the game.

“For sure, as cap­tain, af­ter tough re­sults, you have some re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure the guys are ready for the next game – ev­ery­one un­der­stands what’s at stake in In­ver­ness.”

Pic­ture: SNS

LEADER: Hearts cap­tain Perry Kitchen wants a pos­i­tive re­sponse at In­ver­ness.

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