Hearts apologise to Daniel Stendel over Robbie Neilson’s appointment
The German coach said he will not hold grudges over his departure from Tynecastle Park and retains positive memories of Scottish football.
He discovered he was being replaced by Neilson on Sunday night after Ann Budge, the Hearts owner, lured Dundee United’s manager back to Edinburgh for a second spell in charge.
Stendel’s contract was no longer valid following Hearts’ enforced relegation from the Premiership, which came after coronavirus brought football to a halt in March.
He stated he would be willing to discuss a new agreement to work in Scotland’s second tier, but that possibility ended when Neilson signed a three-year deal.
Stendel was appointed by Hearts last December and explained that he did not intend to stay if the club dropped into the Championship, hence the relegation release clause in a contract which would have run until summer 2022.
“When I signed the contract, I had already decided not to go into the second division if the worst came to the worst,” the 46-year-old told Kicker. “Since the drop did not take place under regular conditions and mainly because I got to know the Hearts as a really great club, I then offered.
“I could imagine, under certain conditions in terms of staff and philosophy, to stay anyway. However, this has become increasingly unlikely lately, the things mentioned could not be fulfilled, and there are simply too many question marks .
“Nobody knows when game operations can start again. Maybe in October, but you definitely don’t want to start without fans. I found out about the commitment of the new coach on Sunday evening.
“Communication in this case was certainly not the best, but in the meantime several people responsible have apologised for it. This does not damage my positive image of the club.”
After returning to his family in Hannover in March, Stendel generously told Budge to keep his wages. He continued working from home without remuneration to help Hearts pay other staff as they cut costs amid the global crisis.
The club will pay United compensation for Neilson, inset, the irony of which is not lost on Stendel. “Then I even paid for my successor,” he joked. “Seriously, I’m not going to complain. I made this decision with full conviction to support my club. I have no regrets about that. I am at peace with myself and the club.”
Many of his belongings remain in a flat in Edinburgh and he plans to collect them soon. Due to United Kingdom quarantine laws, he must stay for two weeks in isolation before flying back to Germany.
“I flew to Germany on 19 March with the idea of coming back in early April. As a result, I hardly took anything with me.
“In the meantime I have given up my apartment and will soon clear it out,” he said.
“However, I will have to stay in quarantine for two weeks after my arrival due to the Corona regulations in Scotland. So I fly over, sit in the apartment for 14 days and then fly back with my things.
“I paid for the apartment for five months and lived in it for one month. My landlord will also keep a very pleasant memory.”
His own fond memories include two victories over Rangers and a stirring victory against Edinburgh rivals Hibs at Easter Road. Stendel remains convinced Hearts could have avoided relegation if given the chance to play their final eight league games of the 2019-20 campaign.
“In December I started at a time that was certainly not the best. We had four defeats from the first five games,” he recalled. “But we changed the style, improved the cutting edge and saw a positive trend.
“I was convinced of staying in the division. There were 24 points left and we were four points behind. I’m sure we could have done it. Unfortunately, that ultimately remains theory.
“We did too little in the direct fights against smaller teams to make decisive progress. The successes against Rangers with Steven Gerrard were, of course, absolute highlights. Just like the 3-1 in the city derby against Hibernian in early March.
“The atmosphere was just awesome. There is a rivalry like that between Hannover and Braunschweig – but purely sporting, without riots and police operations. Simply a great experience.
“In general, I was very positively surprised by Scottish football.”
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