Daniel Stendel: Hearts are deep in relegation trouble
German: We must pick up points now
Daniel Stendel has warned his Hearts players that they can’t afford to take it for granted that they will get themselves out of relegation trouble in the new year.
The Tynecastle side are joint-bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership with Hamilton Accies ahead of today’s showdown between the teams at the Fountain of Youth Stadium. Defeat for either would leave them three points adrift at the foot of the table on Christmas Day.
While tomorrow’s match signals only the halfway stage of the 38-game league campaign, Stendel insists his players need to be alert to the fact they are already in a relegation battle and are not too good to go down. The German is hoping for focused minds and a purposeful approach to this afternoon’s bottom-of-the-table showdown.
“I think we need to change some things,” he said. “I cannot say they don’t understand the situation or realise it but I think it’s a difficult situation to think we can do it next year and we can win the games that we need in the second half of the season.
“We need to start immediately to change the things. We can play better I think, but the first thing in every situation is that you bring more attitude, more mentality on the pitch, especially in a game like this.
“You need to demand more from everybody.
“I can do it, but the easiest way for the players to improve is to demand more from themselves, to start to work harder in training. For me it’s also the mentality when we’re not winning, what we do then.
“Edinburgh I haven’t seen so much of but it’s a nice town, nice city. But that’s not the reason you come to Hearts. The reason is that you want to play successful football. Every player has to understand that and that I expect more from everybody. Everybody has to start that themselves.”
Today’s trip to Lanarkshire represents Stendel’s first experience of managing a top-level match on a plastic pitch. He insists the perceived issues associated with playing on an artificial surface won’t come into his thoughts when picking his team.
“You can say one player likes the artificial pitch more than another, but we’re not in a situation where we can say: ‘Hey, it’s OK, you have a rest.’ They’re all professional players. This is their job. They can’t say: ‘I’m only playing when the sun is shining and the
pitch is dry.’ You are wrong here.”
Stendel is not anticipating a pretty game against Hamilton today. He insists all that matters is that his team come away with a positive result after two defeats in his first two games in charge.
“In this game, it’s not important how good we are in possession,” he said. “It’s going to be close and my experience from the St Johnstone game last weekend is that it’s not easy to say we can win this game. We’ll do all we can and we will improve in every game.
‘Wednesday (against Celtic) we saw some good signs we were heading in the right direction. I hope this weekend is another step, but the result matters more.”
Goalkeeper Joel Pereira has been impressed by Stendel’s approach so far and is confident the recently-appointed manager will soon have Hearts moving in the right direction.
“He is a great manager who wants us to play our own style of football no matter which team we’re playing,” said the on-loan Manchester United player.
“He’s got plans but he needs time to put things right. When he gets his ideas across, I have no doubt that the fans will enjoy the football he wants to play.
“You saw on Wednesday, although we lost, people stayed behind clapping hands because they saw that our attitude was great and we tried to play
football. I think there was a lot of positive things from that game that we can take into the next games. The manager liked the attitude we showed – the aggression, the pressing, the positivity. I’m sure that with time it will get even better.
“When a new manager comes in and we are bottom of the league, it is right that he demands more from the players. I think the boys are having a positive reaction to it because the attitude of everyone has been fantastic.
“Now it’s about winning games and giving the fans what they deserve.”
Pereira, who reclaimed his starting place from Zdenek Zlámal after being dropped following some unconvincing form, feels he is well suited to the way Stendel wants to
“He likes the goalkeeper to play, in terms of starting with short passes with my feet and being involved with the team,” said the 23-year-old. “That’s great for me because it’s one of my qualities. I have done it well in the past with some of my other teams but obviously you get different managers with different ideas.
“Not every manager plays the same style of football but I can relate to the new manager’s style of play.”
Pereira feels his four months at Hearts have been beneficial to his career even though he has part of a struggling team.
“I’ve been playing the majority of games which is what I needed when I came here,” he said.
“I needed first-team football. Unfortunately the results have not been great and obviously goalkeeper is a hard position when that is the case because that is usually the first player people look at.
“But even when I was dropped from the team, I kept working hard and tried to impress the new manager as much as I could. Getting dropped is part of football. If you’re a professional footballer at first-team level, these things happen. You just need to be prepared for it and it’s up to you to have the right mentality to react to it. I will never react in a bad way. It will just make me work harder because if you get dropped it means something is not right.
“You have to see what is wrong and try and correct the things that are not right. I was back in against Celtic and although it was not the best score, I felt it was a good performance from myself and also from the team.
“If we play each game like we did on Wednesday, results will get better for us.”