Hearts are still hoping to have Daniel Stendel signed up in time to take charge of the team for this weekend’s trip to Motherwell, despite some last-minute hitches.
But the German may not be at Tynecastle tonight, as anticipated, as all parties work to resolve an ongoing compensation wrangle with his former club, Barnsley.
The Gorgie board identified the 45-year-old as their preferred replacement for the sacked Craig Levein a couple of weeks ago but the final recruitment process has been protracted.
After personal terms were agreed, it was understood that the former Barnsley manager planned to take in tonight’s home match against Livingston. But, as the formalities of the deal edged towards a conclusion, the Tynecastle powerbrokers were contacted by the chief executive of the English Championship side, Paul Conway, who informed them that compensation would be due for the man who remains under contract until the end of the season, despite being relieved of his managerial duties in October.
After a successful initial season with Barnsley, in which Stendel led the League One side back into the second tier, he and the Oakwell club parted ways following a ten-game winless streak. Since then, it appears that little love has been lost between the Yorkshire club and their former manager, and no severance package had been agreed.
It means that Hearts chairwoman Ann Budge will have to find extra cash to finance what is already a significant package to land Stendel who wants to bring his coaching sidekicks, Chris Stern and Dale Tonge, with him to Edinburgh. The hitch is unlikely to derail the deal but it has delayed it.
It means interim coach Austin MacPhee will oversee proceedings for the fifth successive game as Hearts seek to win three points against Livingston to put some daylight between themselves and the relegation zone.
The Gorgie side are currently joint bottom of the Premiership on 11 points, alongside St Mirren and St Johnstone, having won only two league matches out of 14.
One of those, a 5-2 home victory over St Mirren last month, was under the guidance of MacPhee but the caretaker boss has also overseen three heavy defeats since stepping up following the dismissal of Craig Levein on 31 October.
It has been a frustrating time for fans and players, with midfielder Loic Damour welcoming a move towards greater clarity and revealing that the process has already dragged on longer than the squad would have liked.
“We’ve waited for too long. It’s been five weeks or something like that, so it’s too long,” said Damour.
“There’s been no information for players, for staff, for everybody. It’s hard when you don’t know. It’s not an excuse to be s**t on the pitch, I’m not saying that, but obviously it’s harder to prepare for games. It’s not ideal so it’s good to feel the situation is changing.”
Admitting that he knows very little about Stendel, the Frenchman said that one obvious outcome would be that the players will need to up their game if they want to impress. If they could secure what would be only their second win in ten games, against Gary Holt’s side tonight, it would be a step in the right direction.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this kind of start when I came here,” said Damour who joined Hearts from Cardiff City in August.
“But it’s another experience for my career, I have been through some difficult moments in the past and this is another one.
“Every time a new manager comes in it’s a new start for everybody.”