'I want to try and win' - What Hearts fans need to know about new manager Daniel Stendel

The lowdown on new Hearts boss Daniel Stendel

Thursday, 21st November 2019, 4:50 pm
Updated Sunday, 8th December 2019, 7:16 pm

To succeed at Hearts, you are obliged to understand Hearts.

Whether it is player or manager, the same rules apply. Leave everything out on the pitch, to be brave, to play forward and do so with intensity. Winning the Edinburgh derby also helps.

The person chosen to replace Craig Levein as the Tynecastle boss grasps those ideas.

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Daniel Stendel led Barnsley to promotion to the Championship. Picture: Getty

Hearts confirmed Daniel Stendel as the new manager on Saturday evening, after the side had lost 1-0 at Motherwell.

The German had been out of a job since being relieved of his duties as Barnsley manager in October with the Tykes 23rd in the English second tier and in the midst of a ten game winless run.

Such a snippet is the equivalent of being presented with a board on Catchphrase but with only one of the corners visible.

It has been along but ultimately fruitful pursuit of the 45-year-old, who, according to a Barnsley fan "brought the whole football club together" in season 2018/2019 following relegation from the Championship the previous campaign.

Stendel got his first coaching experience with German side Hannover 96. Picture: Getty

Stendel is a Frankfurt an der Oder local. A former East German border town with Poland. But it was in Hamburg where he took his first serious steps in football in 1994. It wasn't until a move to Hannover 96 before the end of the century when the striker forged a strong career in the game.

It proved to be a pivotal move years later in his post-playing career. He would return to the club to play for their second team before moving into a coaching role within the academy. And, in a move which is common in Germany, he was chosen to step into the caretaker role of the Bundesliga side in April 2016 as they headed towards relegation.

Bizarrely, the following season, with the team four points off first place in 2.Bundesliga and nine games to play, he was sacked.

Hannover to Barnsley

Hearts have approached Stendel over the managerial position. Picture: Getty

Having been relegated from the Championship, Barnsley saw Stendel as the ideal man to bring together a young squad in a competitive third tier, which included Portsmouth, Charlton Athletic and new Hibs boss Jack Ross' Sunderland - a rivalry which has been stoked by the clubs already.

The club's CEO Gauthier Ganaye said: "We've identified that the counter-press has been used by the most successful teams in the world and Daniel is one of the best coaches at doing that.

"We identified him as a candidate as he's a coach that has a style of play that matches the mentality of club and town, it's attacking with flair and high intensity designed to press the opposition.

"As well as the style, Daniel has the philosophy of using and developing younger players which fits perfectly in our model too."

The Tykes may have seen him as their own version of David Wagner, who was revered for his work with Huddersfield Town, taking the Yorkshire side into the Premier League.

Such a billing in football so often leaves clubs and fans with egg on their face. Hearts fans only know that so well after the underwhelming - to put it mildly - reign of Ian Cathro.

Yet, there was a quite telling quote from Stendel's Hannover days, when they went toe-to-toe with Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich.

"It was not so easy, we were already relegated and Bayern were the champions. But we played on the front [foot] and attacked. Bayern had world-class players in the team, but I don't like to be passive. I said: ‘OK, when we lose, we lose, but I want to try and win.'"

They may have lost 3-1 but it was a clear indicator of a positive manager, who prefers to win than not lose.

Losing wasn't a common occurrence last season for Barnsley as Stendel, who clashed with ex-Rangers midfielder Joey Barton during the campaign, led them to 91 points, a second-placed finish and promotion. There was only seven losses in 46.

'Exciting attack with a robust defence'

The stats make for positive and exciting reading. No team had more shots than Barnsley's 816. It worked out at 16.43 per 90 minutes. This season Hearts average 9.69.

They hit the third most crosses (920). No team enjoyed more possession in the league or played more passes, but at the same time they weren't afraid to go long, averaging more long passes per 90 than Hearts currently do this campaign.

At the back they kept 21 clean sheets, conceding just 39 goals. He improved former Partick Thistle Liam Lindsay so much that he was sold for big money to Stoke City. Considering Hearts have two centre-backs in John Souttar and Craig Halkett who have bags of potential, Stendel's work with Lindsay can't go unnoticed.

They married an exciting attack with a robust defence. A defence which was pushed high up the pitch to allow for a high-tempo style, designed to go hunting, dispose opponents and attack.

It was aided by a youthful vibrancy - the average age of the team across the campaign was 24.8, the third youngest in the league.

What happened off the field, positively influenced what happened on it. He fostered a camaraderie, a togetherness, aided by bonding sessions, some of which were unorthodox, from head tennis to tackling a Ninja Warrior assault course

“We have played Laser Quest, go-karts and I like fun things with a little bit of competition,” Stendel said. “When I play, normally I want to win."

The desire to win rubbed off on his players and created that siege mentality many managers desire.

"It is a little bit of ‘us against all others.’ I like this feeling," he said.

'Joy to watch'

Perhaps as important as the player, he had the buy-in of the fans, helped by an exhilarating 4-0 opening day win over Oxford United.

"Last season our football was a joy to watch," according to Barnsley Fanzine ‘Ey Up & Down’. "He really got the players working together and they seemed to really enjoy their football. Strange as it sounds, we just want the bloke to do well for himself, no matter where he ends up.

"Daniel brought the whole football club together after a terrible relegation season under Jose Morais. We all loved going to games and you could see the players enjoyed it too. He was active in the community and installed a belief and an identity that was based on graft. We’re going to miss the bloke."

A unique take from fans of a club that sacked a manager who hadn't won in ten games.

One of the local bars in the town, The Garrison, had even branded one area of the pub ‘Stendel’s Corner’ with the German having watched some of the 2016 World Cup games in the venue.

And it was there where he went after being sacked to drink and down shots with the Barnsley fans who respected and adored him.

His departure from the Tykes can be explained through the nature of the club. Stendel, dogmatic in his attacking blueprint, tried to play the same way in the Championship but he was hamstrung by recruitment.

The owners of Barnsley want to develop and sell players. In the summer, he lost his centre-back partnership of Lindsay and Ethan Pinnock, while striker Kieffer Moore moved to Wigan Athletic. All three went for seven-figure fees.

Stendel wanted to add experience to his side. The average age of the 12 signings was 21.5. Only one player over the age of 23 arrived.

Barnsley are by far the youngest side in the Championship and now find themselves bottom of the league.

His availability saw him linked to the Sunderland job after the sacking of Ross, a prospect which excited fans of the Mackems having witnessed what he produced with their former League One title rivals.

Now, their loss could be Hearts' gain. And there would be little issue with Stendel understanding the golden rules of being a Hearts manager.

“It doesn’t matter what team we are playing, we play our style, we play forward, active and we want to win the game," he said. "I like emotions and I like a lot of team spirit.”

He is a manager who dares to win, rather than being scared to succeed.

Who knows, come Boxing Day he could be embarking on a Gorgie pub crawl - Diggers, the Tynie Arms and Luckies - celebrating an Edinburgh derby victory with fans.

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