Aidan Smith: Passion in fashion for new Hearts boss Daniel Stendel

Daniel Stendel meets the press as Ann Budge looks on
Daniel Stendel meets the press as Ann Budge looks on
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For weeks now, from underneath an impressive but increasingly buffeted blonde mane, the slogan has been never-changing. No, not Boris Johnson and his infernal Get Brexit done. The gloomy Hearts support have only been focused on the mantra of Ann Budge.

Get Stendel done. Was he coming? Did he even want to come? What was this about compensation when previous club Barnsley had emptied him? How many games are we going to lose before the appointment – any appointment – is confirmed? And what about famed German efficiency when the chair for his big “And this is me” moment remains vacant?

Half an hour behind schedule, Daniel Stendel finally showed, smiling with Budge by his side, and the first German to attempt to impart his football ideology in Scotland since Berti Vogts greeted the 70 pairs of eyes scrutinising his opening gambit as the new Jambomeister with a cheery “Hello”.

In his zippy top he cut a slightly bedraggled figure, his own hair having suffered in the most dreich of debut days as he met his new charges on the training pitch. Later he would tell the written meeja that the weather was similar on his only previous visit to Scotland before Hearts showed interest in him, an ascent of Ben Nevis with the Barnsley chaplain, who actually dragged Stendel round all of Britain’s toppermost peaks, possibly to get closer to God.

Before then Stendel spoke to the broadcast boys when all the early questions 
concerned the ongoing Barnsley snags, until Budge pleaded for the chat be switched to Hearts, currently with their own mountain to climb. What did he know about the club? Initially, Stendal seemed to suggest he hadn’t even heard of Hearts before coming to work in Britain, but clarified later that back in Germany he was aware of a Scottish quartet: Celtic and Rangers (and there was the obligatory Old Firm inquiry, this one concerning the fact he’d once crossed paths with Jorg Albertz) plus Aberdeen from their glory days when he was a boy in East Germany and, yes, Heart of Midlothian, the new man adding: “I never forgot them because the name is special.”

Stendel had an interpreter by his side and one question – Glesca rasp, very fast – prompted bemused looks from both men. “I’ve heard the Scottish accent is difficult,” Stendel said. “I hope to get to know it better.”

He then sought help with “excited” but vowed he would do his best to return the faithful to this state. “Passion”, though, he understands. This was probably his most-used word of the afternoon. He has it, wants the players to show it, and hopes the fans will rediscover theirs for the team, concluding as early as this Saturday: “Nice game, next week come back.”

It might be viewed as surprising that Hearts have taken this long to appoint a German coach, at least among some Jambos of your correspondent’s acquaintance. A few years ago, attempting as a non-believer to follow the club for a season for a book, I befriended a group of Germanophile Jambos. Before an away game at Dunfermline, one of them lifted up his maroon shirt to reveal the colours of the German national team, confessing: “I f****n’ love efficiency.”.

Before then and since, though, Stendel’s countrymen have been extremely thin on the Gorgie ground. Full-back Lennard Sowah was one of Ian Cathro’s flop signings, so it’s wide open for the new coach to become Tynecastle’s favourite German.

Two weeks ago, Craig Levein showed him round the place. At first he didn’t know this was his sacked predecessor but, as all managers will tell you, nothing surprises about football. Certainly an inquiry about potentially becoming the Jambos’ answer to Jurgen Klopp, inset, didn’t surprise Stendel. “It’s a little bit of an old joke,” he said, explaining he’d been asked if there was a valid comparison with the Liverpool manager during the Barnsley stint. “Klopp is Klopp,” he said. “I like the same idea for playing football, though I don’t look to him. But when I have the same success as him, I’ll be happy.” Then he reintroduced his watchword. Maybe we don’t think of passion as being an outstanding German characteristic but Stendel stressed: “I need a club with a lot of passion. Managers and players get good money but the reason I started in football as a young guy was the passion. I think I can get this here.”