Barnsley hired Daniel Stendel from a list including Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, but will he drink to success at Hearts?
German starts work at Riccarton today tasked with reviving the Edinburgh club
Necking tequila shots with fans is PR genius from a football manager, but what will Daniel Stendel bring Hearts on the pitch as opposed to in the pub?
The club have invested serious cash in the former Barnsley coach who preaches powerful football and working-class values. Rousing the underachieving Tynecastle squad would be the ideal way to repay them. The recent past indicates he is more than capable.
“Almost every player looks significantly better,” said the Barnsley co-chairman Paul Conway in spring this year. His club were nearing promotion to the English Championship less than a year after appointing the German on the back of relegation to League One.
Hearts need precisely that level of rejuvenation from the moment Stendel steps into Riccarton to begin his new job this morning.
“For every manager, it’s important that the start is good,” said Stendel in a Skybet interview. “You have new ideas, different ideas maybe to the manager before, and you need to convince the players and supporters, and also the club. In professional football, results are the important thing, but I say to the players we want to play our style and I’m 200 per cent convinced that we then have success.”
Whether that mentality leads to shots pouring down his throat in the Tynecastle Arms come the season’s end remains to be seen. An area of The Garrison Bar in Barnsley was named ‘Stendel’s Corner’ during his time at Oakwell – which ended with the sack two months ago and that famous drinking video with supporters inside said establishment the next night.
At Hearts, there is no time for such joviality even this close to Christmas. The Edinburgh club sit joint-bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership and need Stendel to revive them after an exhaustive and drawn-out recruitment process.
Barnsley were similarly low and punch-drunk when they hired him in June last year following relegation. They sought a coach burning with emotion and able to facilitate a quick turnaround by instilling an attacking mentality. Much like Hearts require right now.
“We wanted to play a more aggressive, pressing style,” explained Conway. “So, utilising data, we identified some of the best potential pressing coaches for Barnsley. Guardiola was on the list, he was not available. Klopp was on the list, he was also not available. But Stendel was on the list and it seemed like a really good match for the club’s ambitions.
“When we met Daniel and asked him to explain his strategy to football, he immediately pulled out an ipad and walked us through, minute by minute, a typical game that he manages. You could see it in his belief in his system and his confidence.
“He’s a passionate guy and this is a town that’s passionate about its football. It’s a remarkable story. Here is someone coming from across Europe and to a new country, and in that first match when the fans saw the product on the field, they immediately loved him.”
Hearts fans will do likewise if the football on the pitch is of the same standard. They are desperate to see drive, tenacity and a desire to harass opponents returning to Tynecastle. They will also appreciate the working-class attitude which endears Stendel to so many.
A humble but intensely-demanding East German, he hails from a region where people worked hard to earn anything they got in life. The Brandenburg town of Frankfurt an der Oder on the Polish border was where Stendel learned Russian for nine years as a child. “It was a picture that did not have so much colour. It was more grey and black and white,” he is quoted as saying.
Stendel’s adult life has not been without hardship, either. The night of November 10, 2009, is etched in his mind forever as the date his former Hannover 96 team-mate, Robert Enke, committed suicide after suffering from depression.
Stendel knows how to fight back from adversity, which is why he became such a success during 16 months in Barnsley. Automatic promotion in May saw him hailed a hero and his sacking just five months later brought widespread mourning.
“I work hard. I have emotions every time. I want to win,” he has said. “In the other countries in Europe, you say English football is so hard and in Germany you think hard is a lot of fouls or big injuries, but this is not so. It’s powerful football, it’s with high speed every time, not too much rest in the game. I like it. We give 100 per cent but every time we try to play fair. I like it in English football.”
After downing tequila and sooking lemons in South Yorkshire, Daniel Stendel will hope to remove the sour taste currently in the mouths of Hearts fans with their team at the wrong end of the league.