ANALYSIS: We look at Daniel Stendel’s dugout debut for Hearts

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Daniel Stendel may refer to the German saying, ‘Aller Anfang ist schwer’ as he reflects on this debut defeat to St Johnstone.

The translation reads: All beginnings are hard.

If he was unsure about the size of challenge facing him at Hearts, defeat to St Johnstone left him in no doubt.

Hearts slipped into the Premiership relegation zone after suffering their NINTH defeat of the season.

There was no shortage of fight as the players attempted to impress their new gaffer, but that could not compensate for a distinct lack of quality and confidence.

In his programme notes, Stendel made it clear what he expects from his team as attempts to instil his trademark high-pressing style.

“I want Hearts to have a very clear style of play”, remarked the German. “One that is full of passion, energy and a desire to attack. When we get the ball we want to move it forward quickly. When we lose it, the best strategy is to win it back as quickly as possible.”

In the end, concerns over a lack of time working with the squad and question marks over the players’ ability to heed such instructions were realised.

He proved ahead of kick off he wasn’t scared to make his mark, overseeing four changes to the team which fell to defeat at Motherwell last week.

Aidan Keena was the most notable beneficiary, starting only his second league game in a Hearts jersey.

Zdenek Zlamal, Aaron Hickey and Oli Bozanic also returned to the first XI.

Sporting his new hair cut, Stendel raised his arms to salute the supporters as he made his way to the dugout, before nodding approvingly as Tynecastle roared in response to stadium announcer Scott Wilson’s customary pre-match request for ‘noise’.

The Hearts fans liked what they saw in the opening stages as the team immediately set about trying to implement their new boss’ favoured ‘gegenpressing’ brand of football, the players hounding the visitors all over the park.

It was not pretty at times but at least the home fans were engaged and enthused by their team’s effort.

The 45-year-old was keen to familiarise himself with Scottish football’s officials too, animatedly complaining to the near-side linesman after Keena was penalised for a high foot.

Tommy Wright was next in his sights as Stendel took exception to the Saints manager’s complaints about Anthony Ralston being booked for taking out Jamie Walker on the opposite touchline.

There was no surprise that Keena remained inside at the start of the second half, with Ryo Meshino coming on in his place.

Stendel’s handwaving and shouting at the players continued unabated, particularly as he implored his defence to keep a high line.

Assistant coach Andy Kirk’s view was also now being sought with more regularity as Hearts’ tempo noticeably began to drop.

Arms folded on the touchline, Stendel’s frustrations over how an underwhelming second half was panning out was palpable.

A debut win moved moved further out of reach when saints sub Callum Hendry headed in Matty Kennedy’s corner in the 74th minute.

It was an all too familiar feeling for the home fans.

As the minutes raced down, Stendel could only turn to his bench with an exasperated grin as Meshino wasted a good chance to find the target from Uche Ikpeazu’s delivery.

Stendel still had fight left in him, particularly when fourth official John McKendrick had to step in to stop a war of words with Wright becoming a heated square-up.

The full-time whistle preceded the inevitable sound of boos ringing around the stadium.

There will be little time for Stendel to draw breath, however – a small matter of reigning champions Celtic visiting on Wednesday.

 
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