DANIEL STENDEL is adamant he did not treat Hearts captain Christophe Berra with a lack of respect as he clears the decks at Tynecastle.
With the Jambos toiling five points adrift at the foot of the Premiership, Stendel has wasted no time in putting his stamp on the club, with Glenn Whelan and Aidan Keena having already departed this month.
Jake Mulraney, Craig Wighton and Colin Doyle have also been linked with exits, however it was the decision to tell Berra he was surplus to requirements and order the Scotland defender to train with the reserves which prove the most eye-opening.
Berra, who has made more than 250 appearances for the Gorgie outfit over two spells, later confessed was ‘hurt and angry’ regarding the decision.
However, breaking his silence on the issue during an interview with club channel Hearts TV, Stendel emphasised that he has nothing but respect for Berra.
He explained: “We tried to talk with all of the players. I know that some players were big players for the club with lots of experience. They love Hearts and this club and we look for all of the right solutions, with respect.
“But in the end it’s not easy to find the best way so that they are all happy. There are always two sides but I can only say that we tried to do the best for the club.
“We respect all of the players that play for Hearts or sign for Hearts, especially our skipper, Christophe Berra. He gives his best for this club, not only the last two-and-a-half-years but also before.
“He is a really good player but we talked about the situation and we tried to find a good way for him and for us and especially for this club and I hope that we find the best way.”
With a swathe of stars seemingly heading for the exit door, Hearts are desperate for reinforcements, with the club linked with the likes of Matty Kennedy, Liam Boyce, Mamadou Thiam, Jordan Green and Charles-Jesaja Hermann.
As yet, however, no deals have been done and Stendel concedes that the January window is a challenging one to navigate.
He continued: “It’s sometimes hard, for every club in January, to find the right player for the right money.
“But I can say that the club is working hard to bring the players in. I hope that we can give news this week. We are very close to signings.”
Stendel, who noted that new assistant Jorg Seivers ‘can help us to improve at Hearts in the future’, has revealed that he will make a decision regarding the captaincy of the club this week in light of Berra being in limbo.
Craig Halkett took the armband against Aberdeen and is the clear front-runner for the post, having previously held the role at Livingston.
Stendel continued: “We will talk this week about the situation.
“He took the responsibility for the Hearts team, for my team, on the pitch. It was a good reaction from him and he had a good game – but the decision will be made on Friday.”
And Stendel is hopeful that Conor Washington, John Souttar and Steven Naismith will be able to play a part in Saturday’s Scottish Cup clash against Airdrie following lengthy battles with injuries.
He added: “All three are important players for us. We hope that they stay fit and can play in the second part of the season, so much more than they played in the first.
“I think we have some ‘new players’ in the squad that we missed in the first half.”