Daniel Stendel insists Hearts’ use of ropes and goggles in training is not unusual or bizarre. The German manager utilised the equipment to improve defensive shape and tactics, and was rewarded with a Scottish Cup victory over Rangers on Saturday.
The preparatory work involved players linked together by ropes to ensure they move as one unit. Some were also wearing masks to impede peripheral vision, forcing them to turn heads to track opponents’ runs.
Hearts recorded a clean sheet against Rangers to earn a cup semi-final place against Edinburgh rivals Hibs. Stendel admitted the merit of the training drills will only be clear after several games.
Speaking about the methods, he said: “Honestly, I hadn’t done it before. In the end, it was a result of our analysis, what we had seen in games.
“We needed more discipline, more trust in the behaviour of team-mates when someone does things. So it was one idea. The future will show whether it was the right idea or not. One game is not enough.”
Joining players together with ropes is designed to develop better defensive structure. “Everything we do, if we want to press high or defend deep, it’s important that we do it at the same time – and together,” added Stendel. “That means not only the back four. That means all players on the pitch.
“It was more difficult than I expected to get this. That’s the reason why we decided to break it down and come up with some ideas for training. This was one idea but, in the end, it’s not the secret that changes everything instantly.
“It was an idea. After the St Mirren game was postponed, we had a little bit more time to work on things. So the focus was more on our defensive play. That doesn’t mean we want to sit deep all the time.
“It only means that we have more trust in our defending in every part of the pitch. It was useful for the last time. It’s not an idea for every time.”
The goggles were used to reduce the amount of ball-watching being done by Hearts players during matches. “Yeah, that’s also not such a special idea but there aren’t many opportunities to train that,” said Stendel.
“We just had the feeling that the players were watching the ball too much, that they didn’t look enough at the spaces, at their team-mates – and the opposition players, especially the striker.
“It’s a big, big part of football for the best players in the world. I watched Real Madrid against Barcelona and, every second, the players were looking at the space around them, looking at what could be the next ball, what the next situation could be.
“If you have that, you don’t need a fast player. You just need a player who is quick in the head. So that training was to help that side of the game for everybody.”