Hearts delay decision on Daniel Stendel until they identify sporting director

Ann Budge says she will understand if manager decides to take another job

Hearts owner Ann Budge wants to appoint a sporting director before making a decision on the future of manager Daniel Stendel. Picture: Craig Williamson / SNS

Hearts have warned Daniel Stendel that he may have to wait another month before they are in a position to negotiate his managerial future, with owner Ann Budge revealing that identifying a sporting director is currently a higher priority.

The Gorgie chairwoman has spent the past couple of months fighting to preserve the club’s Premiership status and was unable to offer the German any assurances during that time. With Monday’s collapse of league reconstruction talks, the capital club, who are launching a last-gasp legal battle, have had to prepare to spend next season in the Championship.

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As things stand, though, a clause nullifying his original deal should the club drop down a division has been activated in Stendel’s contract, prompting speculation that his short association with the Tynecastle club is about to come to an end.

Admitting that discussions have some way to go before the former Barnsley manager’s future is resolved, Budge says it will ultimately come down to finances, and his willingness to sit tight while she presses on with filling the position of sporting director.

“I have been speaking to Daniel about the future and what will work for Daniel and for us. These conversations are ongoing,” Budge said.

While far from certain, she has not written off Stendel returning to Tynecastle for the new season. “The bottom line is that Daniel feels that things are unfinished for him,” Budge added. “He came here to do a job but didn’t get the chance to do what he hoped, so from that perspective he is certainly driven to see things through.”

Stendel arrived in December 2019 but had failed to lift the capital side off the foot of the table by the time the season was called to a premature halt by Covid 19 in March. That led to Hearts being jettisoned into the Championship despite there being eight games of the campaign remaining.

“We do have a lot to sort out,” stated Budge. “A lot of it will be financial and there has to be the understanding that it is a different scenario from when we negotiated originally. Clearly we have things to resolve, regarding players and the other coaches, etc. So it is not going to be a particularly quick decision.

“I know it is frustrating for everybody but there are still so many unknowns and the other thing I have been working on in the background is identifying a sporting director. I feel I need that more quickly.

“If we are in the Championship we won’t be playing before October so players won’t be back until the middle of August. So that gives me time to get the sporting director sorted out as quickly as possible.”

There is a preliminary shortlist and with the tussle with the SPFL about to be handed over to her legal team, she says she will now work her way through online interviews with candidates in the hope that an appointment can

be made by mid-July at the latest.

“That’s the timetable I am working to but it could depend on the individual but I want to make my mind up over the next few weeks so that they can be in place to oversee any signings we may be able to make,” said Budge.

Although stressing that none of the squad has signalled a desire to leave, she says any budget for new arrivals may depend on whether current players balk at a shortened campaign in the second tier.

The Championship is scheduled to begin on 17 October and teams will play each other three times instead of four, for a total of 27 matches.

Budge wants the sporting director’s input in any such discussions and when it comes to either renegotiating a new contract with Stendel or determining a replacement.

“As soon as Monday’s [reconstruction] decision was taken, I had people sending me managers’ CVs but I want to keep the dialogue open with Daniel,” she revealed.

“I know he is frustrated, as we all are, by the waiting and the uncertainty, and I have told him that I will understand if another job he likes the sound of comes along and he wants to take it, but I do think it is important that the sporting director and the manager are compatible and can work together so I don’t want to rush into anything until I get that position filled.”

Stendel, who took over as Hearts manager on 7 December last year, has waived his wages during the coronavirus crisis.

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