London Hearts Supporters Club

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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Stephen Halliday auth-> Douglas McDonald
Wallace Lee [Kingston Laryea og 26]
57 of 064 Marius Zaliukas 20 ;Laryea Kingston 23 L SPL H

Scotland manager excited by Fletcher and Berra after pairing old club Hearts with Hibs

IF THE transfer speculation has substance when the transfer window opens next month, then neither Steven Fletcher or Christophe Berra may be involved when Hibs welcome Hearts to Easter Road for the pick of the Homecoming Scottish Cup fourth round ties.
Hibs striker Fletcher continues to be linked strongly with a January move, Manchester City the latest club reported to be taking an interest in him, while Hearts captain Berra is understood to be on the radar of, among others, Fulham.

Scotland manager George Burley, who pulled his former club Hearts out of the pot at yesterday's Hampden draw to set up the Edinburgh derby showdown, has given both players their full international debuts since taking charge of the national team earlier this year and believes they possess everything necessary to eventually flourish in the English Premier League.

For the moment, however, Burley feels the SPL is providing the ideal environment for Fletcher and Berra, 21 and 23 years old respectively, to progress their careers. "There will always be speculation about good players, linking them with the top clubs," said Burley. "Who knows what will happen with Steven? I think he is in the best place at the moment, playing regularly and developing. The SPL is competitive, a tough league, and if he can do well in it, then he can do well anywhere.

"Steven has all the attributes. He can go all the way to the top, but he still has things to improve on. I've always liked him. I brought him into the full squad. He is a cultured player, he has real quality. He can accept the ball to feet, he is decent in the air and has a lovely left foot. He is a very intelligent player. I'm pleased to have him in my squad because he can definitely play at the highest level.

"So can Christophe. At our last get-together, I could see an improvement in him. I spoke to him beforehand and told him he would get 20 minutes or so against Argentina. He did well.

"I think he is going to develop into a top-class centre half. I can remember Christophe as a young boy when I was at Hearts. I had Andy Webster and Steven Pressley at that time, but Christophe got the odd game and he showed he had all the potential.

"In the last year or so, he has really started to develop his game. He knows he is still learning. Being captain seems to have accelerated his progress. He has taken things upon his shoulders and got stronger because of it."

Hearts' 2-1 defeat of Rangers on Saturday saw them win five successive SPL fixtures for the first time since Burley's brief but heady period in charge at the start of the 2005-06 campaign, a run which included a 4-0 defeat of Hibs at Tynecastle. The scoreline was repeated when the clubs met in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden at the other end of that season, a factor Burley believes will provide additional motivation for the Easter Road men. "Hibs will maybe be feeling they are due to put one over on Hearts in this tie," he said. "Everyone is talking about Hearts at the moment, but Hibs are at home and are a very capable side, so I wouldn't like to predict the outcome.

I think the prospects are there for a very even derby match. It will be competitive and exciting.

"Hearts have made a run to push for that third position and get closer to the Old Firm. What Hearts have shown of late is that they are very difficult to beat. They are very solid with a well organised defence. They don't give much away and if you have that in your locker, you are going to win more than you lose."

Burley, who made the draw with Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, was also enthusiastic about the prospect of Ayr United, another of his former clubs, facing a derby against Kilmarnock if they can overcome junior side Lochee United in their postponed third-round tie.

Holders Rangers face a potentially difficult trip to Perth to face St Johnstone. The McDiarmid Park side, managed by former Rangers midfielder Derek McInnes, lost out to the Ibrox men on penalties in last season's semi-finals.

Jim McInally, the East Stirlingshire manager, will relish a home tie with his former club Dundee United. Celtic will begin their quest to win the trophy for the second time under Gordon Strachan against their manager's first senior club, Dundee, at Parkhead.


• Peterhead v Queen's Park

• St Johnstone v Rangers

• Raith Rovers or Alloa Athletic v Aberdeen

• Falkirk v Queen of the South

• Airdrie United v Elgin City or Spartans

• Inverurie Loco Works or Vale of Leithen v Motherwell

• Ross County or Dumbarton v Hamilton Academical

• Forfar Athletic or Stranraer v Forres Mechanics or Dalbeattie

• Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Partick Thistle

• Celtic v Dundee

• East Stirlingshire v Dundee United

• Stenhousemuir v East Fife

• Hibernian v Hearts

• Lochee United or Ayr United v Kilmarnock

• Dunfermline Athletic v Clyde

• Edinburgh City or Brechin City v St Mirren

Ties to be played 10-11 January

Taken from the Scotsman

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