Hearts boss urges players to understand gravity of relegation battle

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Hearts manager Daniel Stendel has warned his players they will be playing a dangerous game if they consider that time is on their side in the battle to avoid relegation from the Premiership.

The German will oversee his third game in charge in today’s relegation scrap at Hamilton, with the Gorgie side just one goal better off than 12th place Accies.

Regarded as one of the Scottish football’s heavyweight, the general perception is that Hearts are too big to go down.

Some 20 games are left to salvage what has become a car-crash first half of the campaign, but Stendel has hinted that the squad are yet to fully appreciate the gravity of the situation they find themselves in.

“I think we need to change some things,” said the 45-year-old. 

“I cannot say they don’t understand the situation or realise it but I think it’s a difficult situation to think we can do it next year, we can win the games that we need in the second half of the season. 

“We need to start immediately to change the things. 

“We can play better I think but the first thing in every situation is that you bring more attitude, more mentality on the pitch, especially in a game like Saturday.

“You need to demand more from everybody. 

“I can do it, but the easiest way for the players to improve is to demand more from themselves, to start to work harder in training. 

“For me it’s also the mentality when we’re not winning, what we do then. 

“Edinburgh, I haven’t seen so much of but it’s a nice town, nice city. 

“But that’s not the reason you come to Hearts. 

“The reason is that you want to play successful football. 

“Every player has to understand that and that I expect more from everybody. Everybody has to start that themselves.”

Plastic pitch

Stendel will get his first experience of plastic pitches at New Douglas Park today and insists he will not tolerate any concerns players have about such surfaces.

The Hearts boss is hoping to welcome back Scotland striker Steven Naismith from a hamstring strain, while Jamie Walker is regarded as 50/50 after sitting out Wednesday’s loss to Celtic with a knee issue.

He added: “You can say one player likes the artificial pitch more than another.

“But we’re not in a situation where we can say: ‘Hey, it’s okay, you have a rest’.

“They’re all professional players. This is their job.

“They can’t say: ‘I’m only playing when the sun is shining and the pitch is dry.’ You are wrong here.

“They have signed a contract for Hearts and we think it’s good enough and they need to show it in the game.”

Great manager

Hearts put up a spirited showing in Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to Celtic after Stendel suffered defeat on his dugout debut to St Johnstone last weekend.

Goalkeeper Joel Pereira, restored to the team for the game against the Bhoys, is adamant Hearts are on to a good thing with Stendel in charge. 

He said: “He is a great manager who wants us to play our own style of football no matter which team we’re playing. 

“When he gets his ideas across, I have no doubt that the fans will enjoy the football he wants to play. 

“You saw on Wednesday, although we lost, people stayed behind clapping hands because they saw that our attitude was great and we tried to play football. 

“I think there was a lot of positive things from that game that we can take into the next games.”

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