Ball-playing centre-backs in vogue, but Christophe Berra loves the art of defending

Christophe Berra climbs over Jordan Hugill in the 1-0 win over Preston. Photo: Steve Waller

Christophe Berra climbs over Jordan Hugill in the 1-0 win over Preston. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Christophe Berra knows so-called ball-playing centre-backs are in vogue, but says no-one should underestimate the art of defending.

The battle-hardened Scotsman, 31, is loved by Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy for his no-nonsense approach and has been a virtual ever-present over the last three years.

But Blues boss McCarthy has looked to add a different dimension to his backline by signing Adam Webster, 21, from Portsmouth this summer – someone he has compared to England international John Stones for his technical ability and marauding runs.

“The press are sure building him up, so hopefully it’s not too much pressure on his back!” said Berra, when asked about his new team-mate. “It’s early days yet, but he’s done well.”

Town have kept three clean sheets in their last five games, with Tuesday night’s 1-0 win at Derby requiring a real rearguard action.

“Nowadays people forget that it is actually a skill to defend,” said Berra, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Aston Villa to Portman Road. “You have to put your body in the way, intercept, get your timing right and know where to be at the right time. It can’t be all about being fancy. There are not many teams in the world like Barcelona.”

Asked if he felt that no-nonsense defenders were becoming a dying breed, he said: “You still get a lot of them but, as the gaffer says, sometimes something is in vogue. Right now people want, I don’t know, a (Gerard) Pique at the back. In British football you need a mixture though, someone who can do that and someone who can’t.

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“If you don’t defend, first-and-foremost, then you will probably lose more games than you win.”

– See today’s EADT and Ipswich Star for more Town v Villa build-up.

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