Hearts aim to revive campaign with seven out of next ten games at Tynecastle
New manager Daniel Stendel has a run of home games over next two months
Seven of Hearts’ next ten fixtures take place at Tynecastle Park, starting with St Johnstone tomorrow. Not only should that help manager Daniel Stendel familiarise himself with new surroundings, it is also a glaring opportunity for the club to properly resuscitate their ailing campaign.
Saints, Celtic, Hibs, Aberdeen, Airdrie [in the Scottish Cup], Rangers and Kilmarnock all visit Gorgie between now and early February. There are also away matches at Hamilton, Ross County and, again, St Johnstone. Hearts sit joint-bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership at the moment and Stendel is tasked with reviving their fortunes.
Aside from how he may transform their gameplan in time with an injection of energy, the German has a chance to gain some early momentum thanks to so many home matches. His gegenpress philosophy is ideally suited to the tight confines of Hearts’ home ground, after all.
Tomorrow is the start of a new era at Tynecastle – traditionally an intimidating venue but one where opponents have too easily collected points for too long.
“For me, games coming thick and fast are good. You can get into a rhythm and pick up a lot of points in a short space of time,” said midfielder Sean Clare.
“With what the manager is trying to do, it’s maybe come a week too early, maybe two weeks, with us working on his style of play. We’ve worked really hard on it this week and I’m sure we’ll do more next week in between the games. There is no reason why we can’t at least show bits of what he wants from us and get a good result on Saturday.
“It’s a massive opportunity. Us clarifying who is in charge will be good for the fans as well as us. If we can really pack out the stadium and create an atmosphere, like Tynecastle has been in the past, and make it hostile for everyone coming there, that can really help us.
“The fans always help the team and it is somewhere we know. It’s a tighter pitcher where we can press even more than other pitches, so that could help.”
Stendel began work on Tuesday morning and wasted no time in calling a team meeting at Riccarton to explain his gameplan to the Hearts squad.
“He is really focused on one style of play and really believes in it,” said Clare. “We’ve been working hard on it in training. It’s high-intensity football and it’s something that should really help us in games and be something for the fans to watch.”
It will, of course, take time for the former Barnsley coach’s methods to be fully implemented. Early signs are encouraging, according to Clare.
“We’re professional footballers, we’re all fit but it’s a different kind of fitness. It will take longer to adapt to it mentally in the sense of learning exactly what he wants more than the actual fitness side of it. I don’t think it will take too long. We’ve got a good squad, people who understand football, experience and youth. I think we’ve got all the elements to follow through with his plan and do well.
“We had a long meeting where he went through everything he wants from us and everything he wants from his style of football. That helped a lot. It helped personally but I’m sure it helped a lot of people. He really made it clear with videos and pictures and it was really helpful.”
Stendel is more than just tactics boards and presentations, though. His personality is already beginning to shine through at Hearts’ training base.
“He comes across as a really nice guy,” said Clare. “He’s friendly, jokey and not too serious but he is serious when he needs to be – when we need to listen and work on things.
“Like I said, he is trying to bring a good feeling to the club and get everyone together and not just the players, but the fans and the staff. He wants everyone together and there is a real buzz back around the place.”
Supporters will feel uplifted at the prospect of a more dynamic and unified Hearts team. They had long cried out for one under previous managers Craig Levein and Ian Cathro, and it seems the hustling and bustling approach may be given a rebirth.
“Of course, any fan would like that,” said Clare. “Chances, goals, crosses, attacking – that is something we have done quite well at Tynecastle while I have been here, in the past, but it is attacking football and fast-paced and that should help us going forward.”
If Hearts do prosper over these next ten games and beyond, it will be because players have reacted and responded to the managerial change.
“It has to come from the players. Everything has to come from the players,” said Clare. “There can sometimes be a reaction when a new manager comes in because people are trying to fight for their place but, at the end of the day, it has to come from the players, whatever manager is in charge. Tactics can be this or that but we are on the pitch and we need to work hard to resurrect our season.”