Hearts: 'More will follow Glenn Whelan & Christophe Berra' - Michael Stewart

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Axing Glenn Whelan and Christophe Berra is the start of "a lot of chopping" as Daniel Stendel looks to lift Hearts "from the depths of despair".

So says former Tynecastle midfielder Michael Stewart after midfielder Whelan was released and captain Berra was told to find a new club.

Hearts have yet to win in five games under Stendel and are five points adrift at the foot of the Premiership.

"A substantial number of players will have to leave," Stewart suggested.

"There's no doubt there's some serious surgery needed to the squad to get them to play the way Daniel Stendel wants them to play and it's just unfortunate that there's some casualties in that on a personal level.

"The margin for error with Hearts now are so small that some drastic measures are having to be made."

Whelan made 17 appearances for Hearts after leaving Aston Villa, but Stendel was quoted as saying the 35-year-old Republic of Ireland midfielder did not have the necessary leadership qualities.

Former Scotland centre-half Berra has been a regular starter since returning to Hearts from Ipswich Town in 2017 and has been left "hurt and angry" after being instructed to train with the reserves.

"On a professional level, I can understand what the manager is trying to do," Stewart told BBC Scotland.

"I think if circumstances had been better then, on a professional level, you would want to keep Berra around because he's a really good character, he's somebody who knows the club intimately and would help the manager to get his message to that changing room in a positive fashion even if he wasn't playing every week.

"But I think what you are seeing are drastic measures taken to free up wages to try to get other players in and Hearts are obviously right at the limit financially."

'Important that Stendel communicates with players'

Berra, capped 41 times for Scotland, suggested the new manager had been unclear about the reasoning for the decision, claiming Stendel had shown him a lack of "respect".

"This is where managers live and die by the decisions they make," Stewart said. "He's got to be communicating with the players a lot to make sure they are clear with what is being done and the reasons for it.

"The big problem, not just in football, is when management do things and there's no discussion and there's no conversation with people about it and that vacuum just gets filled with speculation and bad feeling. It's very important that Stendel talks to his players a lot in a period of time that is very tumultuous."

Stewart believes that, although a Hearts need to reduce their "massive squad", the arrival of "three or four good quality additions" would be enough to revitalise the team.

"It's not going to be easy because Hearts are going to have to clear some of the wage bill first," he added. "They can identify the players they want to come but then not be able to free up the wages and they go somewhere else. Telling players they are free to go is one thing - them going is another.

"Anything Hearts do at the moment is a gamble. If they don't get the right people in now, it will be a repetition of what has gone before because the turnover of players at Hearts has been astronomical and they need to build some strong foundations."

Meanwhile, Hearts have confirmed midfielder Olly Lee has extended his loan deal with Gillingham until the end of the season.

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