SEAN CLARE reckons Daniel Stendel’s football philosophy suits him to a tee as the Hearts star opened up on his transformation into a rampaging right-back.
The 23-year-old, who joined the Jambos in October of 2018 as a creative midfielder, has shone in the unfamiliar role as part of the back-line following the German’s appointment in December.
As well as adapting to his defensive duties, Clare scored five goals in his 11 appearances prior to the enforced SPFL shut-down and is one of a handful of players to emerge from a miserable campaign in Gorgie with their reputation enhanced.
Speaking earlier this season, Stendel underlined why Clare is perfect for the role, lauding: “He is fast, he can defend well, he can dribble well, and he can score goals.”
Clare admits he is still learning on the job but is relishing adding another string to his bow.
He said: “I played right-back a little bit before coming to Hearts, and filled in there a couple of times for Hearts before making the transition more permanent.
“So it wasn’t brand new to me, but it certainly wasn’t somewhere I had played a lot.
“It was difficult at first but if I’m able to be on the pitch at all to help the team, that’s the main thing.
“I’ve actually enjoyed playing there because of the style the new gaffer [Stendel] wants to implement.
“He wants the full-backs really high so it was almost like a winger role for me rather than a traditional right-back.
“I was able to get the ball in deep positions and spend more time in position so that’s another positive. I’ve just been trying to learn as much as I can about the role – and I’m still learning.”
Clare’s new status as a fans’ favourite is a far cry from his first 18 months at the Jambos, during which he struggled to shine in midfield and live up his £170,000 price tag.
However, he has undoubtedly won over punters in Gorgie despite Hearts sitting rock-bottom of the Premiership – as shown when he was given a standing ovation earlier this season following a red card.
Clare was dismissed for a last man foul on Jon Gallagher during Hearts’ 1-1 draw against Aberdeen on December 29 and, instead of turning on the former Sheffield Wednesday man, he was given a raucous reception on his way up the tunnel.
He continued: “That was a strange feeling and I really appreciated it tenfold!
“It made me feel great – then I realised I was being red carded, which wasn’t so great.
“That support for my performance, and the backing the team got, was amazing. If you watch the video, you can see me waving and trying to acknowledge that backing from the fans.
“Even with 10 men I thought we responded and were on top on the game. We could have won it.”
Clare, meanwhile, is adamant the SPFL deserves more credit from south of the border after hailing the standard of the Premiership.
He has got 71 appearances under his belt in Scotland and – as the table shows – it has been anything but a cake-walk for Clare.
In an Instagram Q&A, he added: “Down south, Scottish football isn’t spoken about a lot so I didn’t know what to expect when I first came up. I knew the teams in Scotland but I didn’t know an awful lot about the standard or style of football.
“It is a very competitive league; intense and physical.
“The league is much better than a lot of people give it credit for and is on the up.
“It needs to be watched more because there is a lot of talent in Scotland – not just among the top clubs – and there are some really good games.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying being a part of it and have learned a lot.”