"Bouncebackability", an ungainly hybrid term that was coined within football, is heard less nowadays, despite its inclusion in dictionaries alongside other newcomers such as "chavtastic", "gaydar" and "screenager". Yet it encapsulates the response Christophe Berra believes Wolverhampton Wanderers must produce in today's Molineux derby with Birmingham City.
Wolves are without a win in seven Premier League matches and, in the last two, leaked four goals to both Arsenal and Chelsea, prompting Mick McCarthy to raise the spectre of another horrible word: relegation. Berra, a £2.3m capture from Heart of Midlothian last season, insists his manager's bluntness did not signal the onset of defeatism. "He was just letting us know what could happen, but the players aren't downbeat," says the 24-year-old Scotland centre-back. "We've already shown good resilience. We bounced back to win at Wigan after a home defeat to West Ham, and again to beat Fulham after losing at Blackburn."
After Birmingham Wolves' next home matches are against Bolton and Burnley, fixtures whose importance cannot be understated, particularly after visits by West Ham, Hull and Portsmouth brought the Championship-winners just a point. "They're massive games, and we need to try to get maximum points at Molineux," says Berra. "But we knew before a ball was kicked that we were likely to be in a group of six to eight teams who could be fighting to stay up. We're a young side, and not many of us have experience of this level, but we'll always give everything. We just need to learn from our mistakes."
Videos of Wolves' setbacks against Arsenal and Chelsea offer countless lessons. "We got heavily beaten, and a lot of people are making a big deal of that, but those two are world-class teams. Against Arsenal we started well but gave them a silly goal. And a lot of big clubs have been overrun at Chelsea.
"But that's why we wanted to be in the Premier League, to pit ourselves against the best. Every game brings a different challenge. The strikers you face have varying strengths, but they're all of a high quality. If you switch off for a second, you'll get punished. No disrespect to the SPL, but it wasn't like that. Here, you play Villa and you've the height of [John] Carew and the pace of [Gabriel] Agbonlahor. Then they bring on Emile Heskey, the England centre-forward. You've multi-million-pound strikers coming off the bench. In Scotland they might bring on someone from the reserves or youth team."
Edinburgh-born of a Scottish mother and French father, Berra was steeped in the Hearts-Hibs derby before heading south, although that didn't make his previous tussle with Alex McLeish's side any easier. "We lost and I made a bad mistake for a goal but we bounced back well that time, too. Footballers have to be thick-skinned, not just with defeats but with what the press or fans may say. Just get on with it. If you want to stay in this league, it's vital not to dwell on the past."Reuse content