PIED PIPER OR PIE IN THE SKY?

Charis­matic Sten­del could be ideal fit to lift gloom in Gorgie

Scottish Daily Mail - - Football - by JOHN McGARRY

IN giv­ing care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to ap­point­ing Daniel Sten­del as Hearts’ next head coach, Ann Budge will not be bogged down by end­less sta­tis­tics and em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence for one good rea­son. There is not much to go on.

A man­ager for ex­actly 100 games with Han­nover 96 and Barns­ley, the 45-year-old Ger­man is a com­par­a­tive new­comer to the game.

De­spite tak­ing the Tykes to pro­mo­tion from League One last sea­son, he was sacked in Oc­to­ber — just as he was in his first job. A bright, en­dear­ing per­son­al­ity and a rep­u­ta­tion for play­ing at­trac­tive foot­ball at break­neck speed are his strong suits as op­posed to a litany of win­ner’s medals.

In this re­gard, it’s not hard to see why the Hearts owner has been drawn to the man from Frank­furt an der Oder in the old East Ger­many.

With just one win in nine and dan­ger­ously close to the foot of the Premiershi­p ta­ble, the Gorgie side are en­gulfed in dark­ness right now.

Sten­del comes with a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a born op­ti­mist and a peo­ple per­son. The kind that im­me­di­ately lifts a club and get a de­mor­alised sup­port on­side.

The con­nec­tion he ap­pears to es­tab­lish with sup­port­ers seems ca­pa­ble of sur­viv­ing just about any­thing. Af­ter be­ing dis­missed at Oak­well with just one win in 11 matches this sea­son, you may have thought he wouldn’t have been short of vol­un­teers to drive him to the air­port.

And yet the Ger­man was to be found nowhere other than in his favourite pub in the South York­shire town af­ter an im­promptu farewell party at the regulars’ be­hest.

It seems there wasn’t a dry eye — or an empty glass — in the house. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, far from wish­ing Sten­del good rid­dance, the Barns­ley Sup­port­ers Trust took the un­usual step of is­su­ing a state­ment which left no one in any doubt as to who they felt was to blame for a dire start to life in the Championsh­ip.

‘We would like to go on record thank­ing Daniel for not only gain­ing pro­mo­tion from League One in his first sea­son in charge, and first sea­son in Eng­land, but for im­mers­ing him­self in the town, the val­ues it holds, and the foot­ball club,’ it read.

‘We gained pro­mo­tion to the Championsh­ip play­ing won­der­ful, at­tack­ing foot­ball, com­bined with a sense of to­geth­er­ness that brought some fan­tas­tic mem­o­ries for many sup­port­ers.

‘We wish Daniel great suc­cess in the fu­ture and will al­ways con­sider him one of our own.’

So who is this charis­matic fig­ure who can es­tab­lish such a re­mark­able con­nec­tion with a club and its sup­port­ers?

There was little about his up­bring­ing in the old East­ern Bloc to sug­gest he would one day shine light in dark places.

Re­flect­ing on a child­hood which saw him learn Rus­sian for the first nine years, he re­called: ‘It was a pic­ture that did not have so much colour.

‘It was grey or black and white. Af­ter the re­uni­fi­ca­tion, you could travel to any coun­try and buy ev­ery­thing. You could get to know other peo­ple. It was like go­ing into a sur­pris­ing new world.’

Foot­ball was al­ways the re­lease from the te­dium of life. Sten­del played for Frank­furter FC Vik­to­ria, his lo­cal club, then the likes of Ham­burg, SV Mep­pen, FC Guter­sloh, Han­nover 96 and St Pauli over a 14-year ca­reer.

At Guter­sloh, he played be­side David Wag­ner, and counts Per Merte­sacker as a for­mer team­mate and close friend from his time at Han­nover. In those days, he also crossed swords with a Mainz de­fender by the name of Jur­gen Klopp.

Af­ter end­ing his play­ing days at Han­nover, he be­gan coach­ing the club’s Un­der-19s.

He took his first steps into se­nior man­age­ment when tak­ing tem­po­rary charge of the side at the end of the 2015-16 sea­son.

Sten­del couldn’t pre­vent rel­e­ga­tion from the Bun­desliga but a joust with Bay­ern Mu­nich, then man­aged by Pep Guardi­ola, em­bold­ened him.

‘Af­ter the game, he told me

Big per­son­al­ity: Sten­del was a fan favourite at Barns­ley, de­spite get­ting the sack that with this style, and with this young team, we will have a lot of suc­cess in the fu­ture and will be back in the Bun­desliga,’ Sten­del re­called.

‘It was not so easy. We were al­ready rel­e­gated and Bay­ern were the cham­pi­ons. But we played on the front (foot) and at­tacked. Bay­ern had world­class play­ers in the team, but I don’t like to be pas­sive. I said: “Okay, when we lose, we lose, but I want to try to win”. In the end, we lost 3-1.’

Han­nover made a pos­i­tive start to the fol­low­ing sea­son but Sten­del was sur­pris­ingly sacked in March 2017 af­ter a 0-0 draw at St Pauli left his side in fourth place.

Af­ter a sea­son out of the game, the Ger­man was seen as a left-field ap­point­ment as he took charge of Barns­ley.

Ex­plain­ing why they ap­pointed him as man­ager, ex-Barns­ley CEO Gau­thier Ganaye said: ‘We’ve iden­ti­fied that the coun­ter­press has been used by the most suc­cess­ful teams in the world and Daniel is one of the best at do­ing that.

‘As well as the style, he has the phi­los­o­phy of us­ing and de­vel­op­ing youth, which fits per­fectly in our model.’ Ex­plain­ing his meth­ods, Sten­del told fans: ‘It doesn’t matter what team we are play­ing, we play our style, we play for­ward, ac­tive and we want to win the game. I like emo­tions and I like a lot of team spirit.’

At that time, the Tykes had just been rel­e­gated to League One along­side Sunderland.

De­spite the Black Cats, un­der the stew­ard­ship of Jack Ross, be­ing favourites for pro­mo­tion, it was Barns­ley who went up.

How quickly the op­ti­mism of last spring was lost, though.

A club which had ad­vo­cated a ‘Money­ball’ spread­sheet ap­proach to re­cruit­ment failed to add the nec­es­sary ex­pe­ri­ence to their ranks over the sum­mer.

When the axe fell two months ago, the con­sen­sus was that a strict ad­her­ence to the pol­icy — and not Sten­del — was the root of the prob­lem.

It is now for Budge to de­cide where the truth truly lay. And if this Pied Piper fig­ure is in­deed the right man to guide her club back on the straight and nar­row.

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