Hearts manager Daniel Stendel reveals what attracted him to Liam Boyce and Toby Sibbick
Tynecastle manager sees quality in striker and midfielder
Hearts manager Daniel Stendel today spoke for the first time about the qualities he sees in Liam Boyce and Toby Sibbick.
Boyce, the Northern Ireland forward, has agreed terms to head north from Burton Albion and sign a three-and-a-half-year contract, whilst the versatile Sibbick last night completed a six-month loan move from Barnsley.
A fee in the region of £150,000 has been agreed between Hearts and Burton for 28-year-old Boyce, whose contract in Staffordshire was due to expire at the end of this season. He has scored 14 times in 33 appearances for the League One club in the current campaign.
Stendel knows the player from his time in England and believes he can be key to helping Hearts avoid relegation from the Ladbrokes Premiership. The former Ross County striker scored in Albion’s 3-1 victory against the German’s Barnsley side last April. If paperwork is completed on time, he could make his Hearts debut against Rangers tomorrow.
“He can create chances alone and he can be ruthless in the box to win his duels with his body and score easy goals, and not so easy goals,” said Stendel.
“In some situations you need someone who can decide a game and at the moment we work so hard in every game but we’ve not had luck in some situations to score a goal. In the cup game it was our first goal and it was luck we scored.
“You can see how much that can change the atmosphere in the stadium and lift the players. We need more experiences like this, when we are 1-0 in front and we can play our game. This is what we missed in the past and I hope we can change it with one or two new players.”
Hearts remain four points adrfit at the bottom of the league table and Stendel admitted that has impacted his ability to attract new recruits. He signed the Kosovo international winger Donis Avdijaj on Monday – his first signing in Scotland – with Sibbick nect and Boyce to follow.
“It’s difficult because of the league table and every time the big point is money, especially when everyone knows you need players. It’s the same in every league,” he explained. “We convince players it can be a good step and Hearts have a good name in European football. I think we can find the right players for us.”
The Hearts defender John Souttar was in direct opposition to Boyce during the forward’s time at Ross County, which ended in 2017 when he completed a £500,000 transfer to Burton.
“It was a couple of years ago I last played against him. He is a very clever footballer,” recalled Souttar. “I think everyone in the league knows he scores goals. That’s the sort of player people would love to join us at this moment. He scored a lot of goals at Ross County when they weren’t doing too well. That shows how good a player he is.”
Sibbick is a 20-year-old Englishman who can operate at right-back, centre-back or in midfield. Hearts intend to use him as a defensive midfielder.
Stendel signed him for Barnsley from MK Dons last summer and is eager to see the youngster add his tenacity to the first-team squad at Riccarton.
“He is a young player. We signed him for Barnsley in the summer. In my opinion, he has real potential. In the Championship, he played all our games and was our best player.
“He brings a lot of options at centre-back and full-back. He has really good potential, a really good mentality. He is a fast player, an intellectual player. He brings a lot of things to be a good professional player.”
The potential for both Boyce and Sibbick to feature against Rangers is there, but it remains to be seen whether Michael Smith and Aaron Hickey declare themselves sufficiently fit in time.
Both players sustained knocks in Hearts’ Scottish Cup win over Airdrie last week and missed Wednesday’s league draw with Ross County.
Stendel is uncertain if they will recover in time for tomorrow’s match at Tynecastle. “The chances are not so high for both,” conceded the manager.