Daniel Stendel finds he and Hearts fans are singing from the same songsheet

Supporters chant his name and his squad strengthened during the January transfer window. Daniel Stendel has genuine cause for optimism approaching his two-month anniversary as Hearts manager. Victory against Kilmarnock tomorrow night would merely increase the positivity.

Daniel Stendel roars instructions at training yesterday, having heard the Hearts following roar their approval in Perth on Saturday. Picture: SNS.
Daniel Stendel roars instructions at training yesterday, having heard the Hearts following roar their approval in Perth on Saturday. Picture: SNS.

It seems strange detecting an upbeat feeling around a club joint bottom of the league. However, that is the atmosphere generated since Stendel replaced Craig Levein on 7 December last year.

Hearing the travelling support at McDiarmid Park on Saturday break into a chorus of “We’ve got Daniel Stendel” merely underlined their feelings on the German and his methods. He responded instantly by applauding in their direction.

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Stendel wanted another forward before Friday’s transfer deadline but a proposed loan move for Barnsley’s Mamadou Thiam did not materialise. He did sign midfielder Marcel Langer from Schalke 04, who joined Liam Boyce, Toby Sibbick and Donis Avdijaj as the four winter recruits to reinforce the Hearts squad.

Now it’s full focus on preserving top-flight status. Three points against Kilmarnock could lift the Edinburgh club out of the relegation zone completely. Had events transpired differently, they might have had a new attacker to help.

“It was close but in the end nothing happened. This is our squad and I think we have a better squad than before the transfer window started. We have more confidence in the squad too,” said Stendel.

“If you look at the squad on Saturday we didn’t have Aaron Hickey and Michael Smith. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions. It’s not easy to tell players they are not in the squad but it’s my job to do it. But it’s a better situation because you can’t have every player in your squad.

“We have some players with confidence and experience. Toby Sibbick has been in one week but he is young, Andy Irving is young, John Souttar is just back from a long injury. The central players in defence are very young or have not played so much in the last weeks. I think all these players have big potential to improve and become very good players. I am happy they play for us and they can keep this confidence and develop this quality in our game. This is what I see a lot. It is a process, to learn things, learn, improve, keep your confidence and show your qualities every time in the game.”

Stendel plays down songs about him from fans, yet he has struck an instant rapport with the Tynecastle public which augurs well for the future.

“It’s a good sign for our work but the important thing is they support our team. If the team play the way I want, they will support the team. We need a close relationship between our fans and our team.

“I think we do a lot of things in the last couple of weeks to change it and I am happy about this. When the supporters sometimes sing my name, it’s nice. But when they support the goals and our performance on the pitch, this is the best way to show me we have unity in the club.”

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With only two wins in their last 11 games, Kilmarnock’s form is less than convincing. Hearts can only look after themselves after drawing 3-3 with St Johnstone at the weekend in front of 3,231 of their supporters.

“My feeling from the fans was great. We had a feeling like it was a home game and they supported the team,” said Stendel. “After it was 3-3, I think it was a great sign for the players that we have a new situation in our club. The supporters are standing behind us in difficult moments and I think the second half on Saturday was a difficult moment. They helped us to come back and they will support us again on Wednesday. With our fans and our Tynecastle, we have big chance to win.”