Daniel Stendel won't train Hearts before Hibs clash but assistant Andy Kirk insists team will be ready
Manager has returned to Germany and his assistant is in charge at Riccarton
Hearts manager Daniel Stendel will not take a single training session in the build-up to Boxing Day’s meeting with Hibs, but coach Andy Kirk insists the team will still be properly prepared for the Edinburgh derby.
Stendel returned to Germany to attend to personal business after Saturday’s defeat at Hamilton, which leaves Hearts three points adrift at the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership. He is due back in the Capital on Christmas Day but the Hearts squad have been given that day off.
Kirk is in charge of training this week having been asked to carry out Stendel’s instructions. Officially reserve coach at Riccarton, the Northern Irishman stepped up to assist Stendel when Hearts appointed the German two weeks ago.
“We’re in constant contact with Daniel. We know exactly what he wants and we’ll put that across to the players over the next few days. We’ll make sure we’re ready for Thursday. I think he’s due back on Christmas Day,” said Kirk.
“We’ve got a plan that was put together before he left and we’re in constant contact. We will make sure we put across the things he wants and prepare the players as best we can.”
Asked what help he will have on the training ground, Kirk replied that he would be “mainly on my own”. “There will be myself, Paul [Gallacher] will be with the goalkeepers. We’ve got other support staff there as well if we need them. Things will be run properly over the next few days,” he said.
“The players are here to work so they need to focus on the game. The information that will be given will be consistent with what has been delivered since Daniel came in. Their focus will be totally on the game, as it should be because this club needs three points very quickly.”
Kirk intends to use the experience as a useful aid towards his own managerial aspirations. “Listen, I’m in that position because that’s what I want to do. I’m quite happy to take the responsibility. I know Daniel trusts me to do that,” added Kirk.
“I’ve got a good bond with the players and I’ll make sure that everything geared towards Thursday is done right – and we all understand the importance of the game. Added to that is the fact that it’s a derby game and what it means to the club, what it means to the fans.”
Kirk believes he shares a similar philosophy to Stendel which led to him being promoted from the reserve side whilst fellow coaches Austin MacPhee, Jon Daly and Liam Fox were re-assigned.
“It was more probably what he [Stendel] saw in me, from the conversations we had about how he sees the game and the way he wants to play,” said the 40-year-old.
“It’s very similar to myself and what I was trying to do with the reserve team. It’s great for myself that he showed that confidence in me and I’ll be working as hard as I ever have to ensure that it’s a success.”
Hearts will check on the fitness of Steven Naismith and Jamie Walker, both rated touch-and-go with back and knee issues respectively. “Some of the injuries are quite close. Thursday might be too close for them,” said Kirk.