THE Tynecastle regulars never used to be keen on Prince Buaben.
On five visits there as a Dundee United player he could hear the shouts aimed at him from those stands, tight to the touchlines.
"I'm not going to lie, I used to get a lot of stick from the fans here," said Buaben, who gave an example of the sort of expletives and abuse which came his way, just run-of-the-mill football stuff, grinning as he did so. "You can hear it but you just laugh. It's what makes it an amazing stadium, you hear everything!"
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Moments before kick-off in last week's friendly against Manchester City his new team-mate Alim Ozturk turned to Buaben and told him he had goosebumps because of the noise. "I was like, yeah, 'welcome to Tynecastle!'"
Welcome to Tynecastle and to a new season today. Hearts will play their first competitive game against Annan Athletic in the Petrofac Training Cup this afternoon. Buaben, the former Ghanaian internationalist, may start in midfield alongside his old mate, Frenchman Morgaro Gomis. They did not know each other before being team-mates at Dundee United, where they became the best of friends. Now reunited at Hearts, they seem to be in one of those odd couplings which sometimes happen in football.
"When you have a friend like that off the pitch you can be partners on it," said Buaben. "That's what I keep telling Jason Holt and Scott Robinson, stay close to each other. Once you become close you can understand each other both on and off the pitch. Playing alongside Morgaro at United was great, we had a good understanding.
"I didn't know Morgaro before I went to United but we quickly became close. He is a good person as well as a good footballer. But it's not just about myself and Morgaro, there is Scott and 'Holty' and they are all good players. I don't think it is going to be easy for me or Morgaro to just think we have got a place already. Every midfielder will have to give 100% every day to prove a point to the gaffer."
Buaben was at United for four years from the summers of 2007 to 2011. A move to Watford was hampered immediately by injury, and after recovering to break into the team another injury ended his prospects there. After joining Carlisle United last season he spent the second half of the campaign on loan at Partick Thistle. The return to Scotland satisfied an irresistible urge.
"I went to Partick because I wanted to be close to my son 'PJ' [Prince Junior, who is three] who is still in Dundee," said the 26-year-old. "I was always looking to come back up here to be closer to my son. It was hard, especially when I was lying in Watford. He came down a few times but there were times I would miss him and get depressed. Now I can go and see him after training.
"Before I came here people said I had a point to prove but I didn't come here to prove a point. I just came here to help the club back to where they belong, the Premiership."
He probably thought it went without saying that they belong in the second round of the Petrofac Training Cup too, once Annan are dealt with this afternoon.
The club announcing that Dale Carrick and Kevin McHattie had both signed contract extensions until 2016 had extra resonance: It was a day for duos at Tynecastle.