CHRISTOPHE BERRA, like the new Scotland manager himself, must prove he is not yesterday’s man. All he can do, though, is keep turning in performances of class and assurance.

Continued favour for 33-year-old Berra at international level may depend on whether Alex McLeish favours youth or wizened old heads in his vision for a second stint in charge of the national team. Should Gordon Strachan’s successor prefer a blend of the two, he could do worse than scrutinize the current Hearts central defensive pairing.

Berra’s influence alongside the promise of 21-year-old John Souttar has contributed to a run of just one defeat in the last 16 games, with just five goals shed.

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Saturday’s brilliantly-taken equaliser by Ross County full-back Jason Naismith, after Kyle Lafferty’s free-kick opener, provided a mild blemish on that record but, otherwise, the pair’s solidity was there for all to see.

Back in August 2007, McLeish gave Berra his first international call-up, albeit as an un-used substitute at Pittodrie in the 1-0 victory over South Africa. Some 41 caps on, the former Wolves and Ipswich Town centre half signalled his intent to remain part of the plan, while also extolling Souttar’s virtues.

“John has done well this season. He has been part of a team that has been defensively very solid and that can only bode well for him,” Berra said. “He is dealing with games differently now and doing the dirty jobs well – and we all know how good he is on the ball.

“He has that ability to step in and is learning there are times when you just have to do the simple thing. He has ups and down like everyone, but he has a great character and wants to learn. He definitely has a bright future.

“It is down to Alex McLeish and whether he wants to go with youth or experience, or whether he wants to mix and match. That’s down to him. If John or anyone else, like myself, wants to get into the Scotland squad, all you can do is play well for your club.”

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Berra admits Hearts felt short of recent form in the Highlands, but stressed: “We can’t keep a clean sheet every week. We’ll take a point, but it wasn’t a great performance, let’s be honest.

“You get used to not conceding, but we’ve drawn too many games. We’re a work-in-progress.”

The match hung finely in the balance for much of the first half, with bottom of the table County, if anything, the more threatening team. Hearts also suffered from losing midfielder Arnaud Djoum to a snapped Achilles tendon after only 25 minutes.

With John Souttar’s brother, Harry, shoring up the defence in his loan stint from Stoke City, there is a sturdier look to the Dingwall rearguard, although the 19-year-old still carries the ‘L’ plates.

A long ball forward after 55 minutes perhaps caught the younger Souttar blinded by the low winter sun because his decision to let the ball bounce, rather than thump it away, caused havoc in the County defence.

After defensive partner Liam Fontaine fouled Lafferty, the Northern Irishman arched a stunning free-kick 30 yards past County keeper Scott Fox for the opener.

Strangely, rather than build on the advantage, Hearts ceded ground to the hosts and came increasingly under the cosh, culminating in the 76th minute leveller.

When the tireless Alex Schalk met ex-County midfielder Don Cowie in a full-blooded challenge the ball spun into the right side of the Hearts box. Jason Naismith, such an impressive performer for the hosts of late, tore onto it before dispatching a powerful finish into the far corner of the net.