Hearts finally confirmed the appointment of Daniel Stendel as their new manager and took a thinly-veiled swipe at Hibernian counterpart Jack Ross in the process.
In a statement, the club announced that the prolonged search for Craig Levein’s replacement had drawn to a close after more than five weeks, with German-born Stendel agreeing a two-and-a-half year deal. The 45-year-old was one of several candidates interviewed by the Gorgie club, another was Ross, who ultimately ruled himself out by accepting a post with Edinburgh rivals Hibs. He has enjoyed a positive start, with three wins, one draw and just one defeat since taking over mid-November and has moved the Leith club into the top six, ten points clear of Hearts.
But, in their statement, Hearts insisted that Stendel had always been their “number one target” and, in praising his achievements at Barnsley, they also highlighted the fact he had secured The Tykes promotion from League One by masterminding a top-two finish in his first season in charge, finishing ahead of Ross’ Sunderland side.
“Daniel made a name for himself in his playing days as a striker in his homeland, featuring for clubs such as Hamburger SV, Hannover 96 and FC St Pauli,” read the statement, which was issued just over an hour after Hearts interim manager Austin MacPhee had overseen a 1-0 defeat, away to Motherwell
“It was at Hannover where he would cut his managerial teeth in April 2016 after a spell coaching the U19 side. A little over two years later he arrived on British soil to take over at then League One side Barnsley. Having been relegated prior to his arrival, Daniel immediately turned round their fortunes, leading the Oakwell outfit to a second-placed finish ahead of Jack Ross’ Sunderland, and securing promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking. He left them in October of this year.”
That dismissal did not go down well with Barnsley fans, despite the fact it came on the back of a ten-game winless run, and they protested the board’s decision and threw a leaving party for the popular German at a local pub.
Stendel’s enthusiasm, energy and man-management skills will be tested at Tynecastle, where an annus horribilis has left a squad that was flying high this time last year, level on points St Johnstone at the foot of the table.
“While it has taken some time for this process to reach its conclusion we firmly believe that Daniel is the right man to take the club forward,” continued the Hearts statement,
Stendel has already been shown around Tynecastle and the training centre at Oriam. He will start work on Tuesday and will be in charge for next Saturday’s relegation scrap with St Johnstone, at home.
And, having taken over five weeks to conclude negotiations with Stendel and Barnsley, who insist they are due remuneration, despite having placed their sacked manager on gardening leave in October, the board and the increasingly impatient and disgruntled fans will be looking for a quick bounce in positivity and results.
Especially as comparisons between the fortunes of the two capital clubs will be more keenly considered in the wake of last night’s barbs.
“With our number one target now on board and his future pledged to Hearts, everyone at Tynecastle Park welcomes Daniel and hopes his appointment heralds an
exciting new era for the club as, together, we look to climb back up the Ladbrokes Premiership table.”
Having drawn attention to the current Hibs boss, there is pressure on Hearts to prove that they made the correct decision in opting for Stendel rather than Ross.
The pair will lock horns in the Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle on Boxing Day.