London Hearts Supporters Club

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Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Thomas Prammer
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Barasa is all ready to move out of the shadows for Hearts


IN his first interview since joining Hearts, Nerijus Barasa reveals himself as a thoroughly genuine and amiable guy. The sort, in fact, upon whom you could depend relentlessly.

As those broad shoulders shrug and counter-shrug to give the impression of someone completely reposed during his pre-season preparations, the notion persists that Barasa is willing to support a heavy burden of responsibility whenever head coach Valdas Ivanauskas gives him the nod.

The chances of that happening have been distinctly infrequent thus far. Barasa arrived in Edinburgh in January, officially on loan from Vladimir Romanov's Lithuanian side FBK Kaunas, having left the Russian club Krylya Sovetov Samara to join his compatriots in Scotland. His intention to make a decent impression upon the SPL, though, have been seriously curtailed by a persistent hamstring injury, restricting him to just five competitive appearances. Yet the 28-year-old is nothing if not upbeat about his prospects for the season ahead.

"Pictures? No problem," he says, after a lengthy discussion about life in Edinburgh, injuries, the forthcoming season and supporters' enthusiasm both in Scotland and in Russia.

"I am now clear of my injuries. I feel okay but I need more fitness because I am not ready yet to start the season. I feel a little tired just now because of all the training we have done here in Austria but this is what the team needs because we have big games ahead.

"The training camp here is excellent. There is lots of sun and it is very relaxing after training."

Just the way Ivanauskas intended it. The Lithuanian recognises the need for no compromise on the team's focus as they gear towards a Champions League initiation at the end of this month, and Barasa can expect to be granted a central role in the proceedings as an old and trustworthy acquaintance of his manager.

"I know Valdas very well because we played together for Lithuania when I was very young," he recalled. "I respect him. We were in the national team for around a year before Valdas retired from playing, then he was my coach with Lithuania.

"It helps me a lot to have the other Lithuanian players here because I am still learning English. But Valdas will look at the side and decide if I play and where I will play. I am willing to play anywhere, it is not a problem."

Not only is he willing, he is capable, for Barasa can count several strings on his bow. His versatility stretches from right-back or right midfield to central midfield or holding midfield, and it was the last-named role that he performed for Hearts against LASK Linz on Wednesday.

This evening he will be involved again against Spartak Trnava of Slovakia. "I am more interested to see what happens this season in Scotland. I know Celtic and Rangers have been signing new players, but Hearts have only had people leaving until now, like Webster and Skacel. We haven't bought anyone but we have a good team here already so we have a chance."

Barasa's wife and three-year-old daughter are presently basking in 35-degree heat at the family home in Samara, but they are preparing to fly to Edinburgh after Hearts return from Austria.

"I think it is better for them to be in Edinburgh during the winter," says the player. "In Samara it drops to minus 35 degrees.

"I can't wait for them to come over and I want to make an impression for the Hearts support and help win trophies for them. The supporters haven't recognised me too much so far, but the ones who do come and shake my hand. I haven't played too much but they are getting to know me now. Our supporters are very noisy and passionate and this can help us in the Champions League.

"When you play away from home in Europe you expect the home team to have the advantage with their own crowd behind them. But at home the Hearts supporters will be fantastic for us.

"At Tynecastle the supporters are all together and they sing as a group. This is not the case in Russia, with perhaps the exception of Zenit St Petersburg, who are very well supported and are used to playing in front of full stadiums.

"The Krylya Sovetov fans were good when I was there, and there was often around 25,000 or 30,000 of them at the games, but because a lot of the stadiums are very open the fans are spread out more and are not all together."

Having been located at various holiday resorts across the globe during June, the Hearts squad are coming together at a crucial time. When you have the force of Nerijus Barasa to depend on, it makes things a little easier.

Taken from the Scotsman

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