Daniel Stendel is fully focused on raising confidence levels among the players currently at his disposal at Hearts although he knows he will have to add more quality to his depleted squad in next month’s transfer window.
Ahead of tonight’s formidable clash against Celtic, the new manager reaffirmed how disappointed he was with the way his first game in charge against St Johnstone unfolded but it highlighted to him just how bereft of belief the players – even the most experienced ones – are at present.
Changing the mindset within a team languishing joint bottom of the Premiership is currently the priority for the German.
“My experience after Saturday’s game tells me that, if we want to do more in the future, we need more confidence, more players who say: ‘OK, I take responsibility, I’ll take the ball, I’m defending this ball’. When we can change that, we can change so much more.”
Asked if he detected that he had the required character in the squad to improve the situation, Stendel said: “Yes, and, if not, we have to develop that character more. We have a lot of experienced players who have played a lot of professional football games. I expected more, especially from these players.
But, in the end, we are all people, and, when you don’t have confidence, even when you have played more games than other players, then it is difficult. I am trying to talk with some players about what we can change on the pitch and I have the feeling they want to change, too, but the question is how quick we can change it.
“I try to talk with some players, so I can get more of an idea about why the situation is like this at the moment.”
Stendel’s job is complicated further by the fact he does not currently have either of his trusty assistants, Chris Stern or Dale Tonge, to help him implement the changes required. The German is confident that he will soon have the aid of at least one of them once a legal dispute with the trio’s former club Barnsley is resolved, although he is unsure if this will be sorted within the next month.
“A lot of things are easier when you have people on your staff who know what you want because you can start immediately making changes,” he said. “But this is the situation, I cannot change it. The club cannot change it at the moment. But now the style of play is not important. We want to get results. If we get results, we get more confidence back.
“I want to give the players more structure in possession and out of possession. To do that, you need to have things in your hand, so you can show them: ‘This is what we want. This is what we try to do in a game’. In a game against Celtic, with expectations not so high, it’s a big chance for us to change the situation – and change things in the minds of the players.”
League leaders Celtic are hot favourites to strengthen their position at the top of the table in Gorgie tonight, but Stendel insists most of his pre-match focus will revolve around his own team – not Neil Lennon’s.
“I know it sounds a little bit crazy, but my idea, every time, is that we concentrate on our game,” said the German. “I know that is difficult after seeing the last game. You can say that Celtic have so many good players. We know that.
“But we need to watch ourselves and look at our strengths. We need to work on the weaknesses of Celtic. They don’t have many – but they have some and we want to exploit those.
“When we are concentrated on our game and we play with a little more courage than we showed on Saturday, which isn’t difficult, then we have a chance to create chances. But the concentration is, every time, about our game.”