AN end-of-season friendly between Scotland and the Czech Republic in May 2008 will have been forgotten by even those involved bar one or two people.

On a roasting hot night in Prague, the home side won 3-1. Ringing any bells? I thought not.

David Clarkson will have a good memory of the evening. He was supposed to be best man at his cousin’s wedding but pulled out of that, made his international debut and scored a goal.

James Morrison won his first cap that night, as did Christophe Berra who came on as a substitute.

I covered the game and remember next to nothing of the two-day trip – although it was my first visit to Prague which is lovely – but what happened after the match has always stuck.

For reasons long forgotten, the plane which was to carry the players, coaches, blazers and press was delayed, meaning we all had to hang about a hotel attached to the airport. Thankfully there was a bar and a pool table.

George Burley was manager, but hostilities were put aside in the hostelry. Drinks were bought and received, a pool competition began between players and media, and for a couple of hours there was a pretence of friendship and respect.

What I remember, as if it was yesterday, was the rather sad sight of Berra sitting alone, playing with his phone, too shy to take part.

He was the only Hearts players there but would have known just about all the squad. He had also just spent five days with them, and yet, even at 23, hardly a kid, Berra looked as if he was too quiet to play with the other boys.

This reserved nature didn’t stop the defender going on to have a fine career. He has over 600 professional appearances to his name, including 41 caps, and up until recently was the captain of Hearts, the club he’s always supported.

A seven-year stay in England, with Wolves and Ipswich Town, would have made him pretty well off. Not David Beckham rich, but with less to worry about than most.

Three of his seasons at Wolves were in the Premier League when he was a first-team regular.

Berra got married last week. He turns 35 at the end of this month, old for a football player, but he’s got a lot of living to do and because of his ability to kick and head a ball, this Edinburgh lad has done well for himself.

And yet I feel so sorry for him, like I did when he didn’t want to play pool or have a beer.

Yesterday, he revealed that new Hearts manager Daniel Stendel had told him that he would never play for him, despite having 18 months left on his deal. And after 250 matches as a Hearts player of great distinction, he will now need to train with the youth team.

Berra claims this came out of the blue. He spoke about being “angry” and “disappointed” which is as emotional as he’s ever been in public.

He’s past his best. There’s no doubt about that. Even Berra himself would admit it. Craig Levein should never have offered him such a long contract and that he was dropped by Stendel after the Edinburgh derby was hardly an act of betrayal.

However, is this really the way to behave towards such a decent and honourable Tynecastle servant? Of course it isn’t. It’s shabby at best, sinister at worst.

Look, we are talking about someone who has had a better life than most. He’ll recover. This isn’t a tragedy. But Berra has been treated appallingly and his age and wages are the reason.

Stendel, I am reliably informed, cannot believe how poor, and big, his inherited squad is. To get players in he needs to ship out a few – and an ageing centre-half who is probably the best paid at the club is an understandable target.

All Ann Budge and the manager had to do was take Berra to one side, explain the situation and they could work it out from there. Instead, according to the player, there was no hint of what was to come and no proper explanation.

I’m sure Berra has changed since that summer day in 2008 but I doubt this polite, articulate man was a problem behind the scenes. Indeed, even the Hearts fans who felt his time was over have said that it has been handled badly.

Whether this is Stendel’s decision or it has come from above – perhaps a mix of both – Hearts should be ashamed. The dressing room was an unhappy place already and by forcing out such a popular guy will do nothing for morale.

The legs might not have been what they were but as Hearts are in a relegation fight, with the emphasis on fight, they could have done with their old warrior around, someone you know would give everything for the team.

As it is, a good man has been humiliated and made to feel as if he is to blame for the many, many things which have gone and are going wrong at Tynecastle Park.

It’s worth remembering that at Christmas last year, Berra made the decision to cancel the team’s trip to Prague, coincidentally, after a 5-0 defeat to Livingston. Stendel, after losing his first three games, returned to Germany for two days before Christmas Day which he also had off because he didn’t call in the players.

That’s three days the new manager wasn’t with his squad before the Boxing Day defeat to Hibs, which looks likely to be Berra’s last game.

History will judge them both.

And Another Thing

I HAVE never understood why some feel only jealously about English football.

I wish our clubs had more money but not so much that £200,000 a week for an OK player is normal.

And the way the clubs down there treat the FA Cup is disgraceful. Football is supposed to be about glory, not resting your best players so they can be at their best to finish mid-table, rather than giving winning a trophy a right go.

England is obsessed with the Premier League because that’s where the money is and, yet, in January we already know that Liverpool will win it this year. Give me the Scottish Cup any day when every team tries their best.