Gary Mackay: Hearts must back Daniel Stendel in transfer window as he is already improving players

Manager's work with Sean Clare offers hope ahead of new signings

Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 6:00 am
Daniel Stendel has helped Hearts midfielder Sean Clare improve

It doesn’t look like Daniel Stendel is going to be slow in making changes at Hearts. He has already alienated one or two from the group who he thinks are not the kind of player he wants, and that is his prerogative.

Everybody is now going to be looking to see what kind of backing he is going to get in January. How does he work with it? I suspect the only way some players will move is if they are given handsome remuneration – especially those of a certain age or with lengthy contracts.

We are hoping to get Steven Naismith and Jamie Walker back from injury after the winter break, and there is no doubt they would help in an attacking sense. However, I think John Souttar and Peter Haring could be pivotal to the way Stendel wants to play when they are fit.

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He wants to use a high press with players getting in about people and passing the ball out from the back. Souttar and Haring can move the ball easily through central defence and the midfield area. Hopefully he can get to utilise them and get the best out of them, as he has done with Sean Clare and Michael Smith.

Clare in particular has had a new lease of life under Stendel. He is playing right-back, not his natural position but one where he looks good coming onto the ball. No disrespect to the lad but I would never have known he had the legs and energy to be that kind of full-back.

His progress is a clear sign that the manager is looking at training and what people can do. In the modern era, a lot of players don’t play in one specific position because it’s about playing any role that gets you in to the starting line-up. Particularly when there is such a large squad of players at the manager’s disposal, like there is at Hearts.

The last two games were against two decent games, Aberdeen and Hibs. Hearts were at home and had more than 19,000 people at the Hibs game, with more than 17,000 at the Aberdeen game. Those will be the biggest crowds some of these players will have played in during their careers.

We have taken one point out of six but it hasn’t been particularly helpful because other teams round about us have accumulated more. Those clubs will also be looking to improve during January, so it’s about how much improvement the Hearts manager can squeeze out of every individual over the coming weeks and months.

He has to try and get a coherent unit so he has been chopping and changing in an effort to find something he is happy with. Sunday seemed to be as happy as he has been after getting a home point against Aberdeen. For Hearts to get themselves out of the mire they are in, there must be continued improvement.

People say that’s a demand on the manager, which it is, but it’s also a demand on the players to show they are up for it. Let us hope 2020 holds more prosperity for our football club than 2019. Happy New Year.