THE POSTPONEMENT of Hearts’ Premiership fixture against St Mirren afforded Daniel Stendel a welcome opportunity to savour some home comforts.
He is hopeful the Jambos find similar solace on their own patch when Rangers visit Tynecastle.
Stendel confesses that his initial feeling when last Friday’s encounter against the Buddies fell foul of inclement weather was one of disappointment; a fantastic opportunity to get their season back on track washed away by a deluge in Paisley.
Stendel returned to Germany to spend some quality time with his family for the first time since Christmas, while Hearts’ strained staff were able to enjoy a couple of days without the suffocating pressure of a fraught fight for survival.
Liam Boyce – who would have missed that game against St Mirren, Stendel yesterday confirmed – has also benefited from the recovery time, while Aidy White is fit to face Rangers. Time is, indeed, a great healer.
“The team were off at the weekend and it was the first time in eight weeks that I could see my family,” said Stendel. “I went back to Germany. It is good being away from all that you see every day and it’s the same.
“Honestly, when you work as a manager, you don’t really have one minute off, but it was good and we started with new energy on Monday. Now we work for Saturday.
“When the game is off we have to take a break. We used it and I think it was helpful for the players and staff. We had two days with no football, especially after the last few exhausting weeks with a lot of games and not such positive results.
“It is also good that we have a little bit more time to train and bring some players back from injuries or illness.
“Now, the feeling in training is good and we need to bring it to the match-day.”
While Stendel returned from his homeland refreshed and refocused, St Mirren’s victory over Motherwell on Tuesday tested that renewed positivity.
Hearts are now six points adrift of the guaranteed safety afforded by 10th spot and, unless they can arrest their league malaise swiftly, pipping Hamilton to a relegation playoff place is in danger of becoming their sole survival route.
“I saw the St Mirren win and at first you think ‘aw, why?!’” said Stendel. “But then I said: you cannot hope that other teams play for you. You need to play for yourself.
“We have no time to look at other teams. It doesn’t matter what has happened, we have two games against St Mirren, we have a game against Hamilton again – so we have chances.
“The gap is two points to Hamilton and that is the first goal for us.
“The next team [St Mirren] is six points above with a better goal difference, but maybe it’s helpful when you can see this is the reality.
“We know we don’t have more time. Especially after Tuesday night, it’s clear. The time is over.”
As such, the visit of Rangers in the Scottish Cup, in comparison to their perilous Premiership position, will represent relative respite.
Hearts are not expected to defeat the Gers – despite a stirring league victory last month – and most of the club’s supporters accept that this competition is far from their priority.
Nevertheless, Stendel intends to mastermind another triumph and, unlike last time, ensure it proves a catalyst for a resurrection of their league form.
“We know we can beat Rangers at Tynecastle and they know it as well,” added Stendel. “We have the chance to win but also make sure everyone sees in the stadium that we are fighting for everything.
“This isn’t a league game but it’s a good game to show that fight.”