Hearts: 'No argument for maintaining the status quo at Tynecastle'
Listening to the anger of the jilted three at Tynecastle has been a surreal experience.
Christophe Berra, Glenn Whelan and Jon Daly have all spoken about their anger and their hurt at being told they're no longer in Daniel Stendel's plans at Hearts, Berra saying that Stendel lacked respect, Whelan saying that the manager threw him under the bus, Daly remarking at the weekend that Stendel's move to get rid of him was embarrassing.
Through their bleating and their astonishing lack of self-awareness these three may have shown why Hearts are in such a hole right now, five points adrift at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership with two wins from 21 league games this season and only six wins from 38 league games in all of 2019.
Did any of them admit to their own failings? Did even one of them say: 'I haven't been good enough and there are consequences for that'? Instead of looking at the big picture that couldn't be much uglier for Hearts or more daunting for Stendel they put themselves first and moaned.
What did they think Stendel was going to do? Come in, change nothing and reassure everybody that everything was going to be OK? Berra says that the decision to cull him from the first-team squad "came out of the blue", much like the strikers who've taken advantage of his failings in recent months in that case.
If Berra really thinks that his demotion was a surprise then he wasn't paying attention. Not only is he not the type of defender Stendel needs - one who has the pace to play in a high press - but he's not been the defender that Hearts have needed for quite a while. His defensive instincts, his appreciation of danger and his mobility haven't been anywhere near good enough. He's won four of his last 30 games. Berra had to be removed from the team and it seems that only Berra couldn't see it.
- Stendel behaviour 'embarrassing', says Daly
- 'I've been thrown under a bus' - Whelan
- Berra 'hurt and angry' after Hearts axe
"I've done a lot for this club," he said. That's what he was paid for. That's what he was supposed to do. He wasn't on a charity mission at Tynecastle. Hearts owed him nothing. "I don't think anyone represents the club better than me," he added. Berra is a good guy and a fine ambassador, but Stendel needs a lot more than that in the battles ahead.
"He [Stendel] will say it [the decision to cut him loose] is for football reasons, it's up to him, but you'll never know the truth," the defender added.
No, we do know truth. It couldn't be more plain to anybody who's not in denial. For football reasons, and for financial reasons, Stendel had to make the call. You could wince at the brutal way it was done but football can be a savage business at the best of times, not to mind the worst of times.
Stendel doesn't believe in Berra and he needs him out of the club to free up his salary so he can get somebody in who he does believe in. This is the way of the football world. When you're manager of a team at the bottom of the league and aware that the team needs gutting in order to survive, then there isn't a whole lot of time for niceties.
Whelan followed Berra. "When the new manager came in, the first person he spoke to was me - he was already having a bit of a go," he said. Thirty-five years old, a professional footballer for 17 years, winner of 91 international caps for the Republic of Ireland and he's taking umbrage at Stendel demanding more of him while Hearts' season was going down the pan.
"The manager came in and wanted to show his power, show the other players that he's the boss, he's main man," he continued. Stendel does have the power, he is the boss, he is the main man. What's Whelan's problem with that?
He played 15 league games for Hearts, lost 10, drew four and won one. Whatever job he thinks he did, it wasn't enough.
"I do feel let down... It was all very amateurish... He threw me under the bus," were other complaints.
Whelan is 36 today. Hearts need better. They need energy and intensity and creativity in the middle of the park, the kind of qualities that the teenage Andy Irving showed in Hearts' last game, a 1-1 draw against Aberdeen.
'Hearts need shaking up'
Whelan either can't see that or doesn't want to see it.
Daly was the third one to go over the top. "I've had a five-minute conversation with Daniel Stendel and from that five-minute conversation he has come out and said he can't trust anyone at Hearts," he said. "That, for me, is embarrassing."
"The whole situation [Berra's demise] should have been handled totally different," argued Daly, as if a man who has been part of an under-performing coaching team this past year has any right to lecture anybody on decision making. "It puts the players on edge. They think if he can treat Christophe Berra like that, I could be next."
They could be. Some of them deserve to be. What does Daly find so difficult to understand here? The team, as constructed by Craig Levein and as coached by Levein, Austin MacPhee and Daly, is tanking. It needs shaking up.
Daly was "concerned" about Stendel's decision to let Aidan Keena go on loan to Hartlepool United: "And yet you are trying to bring a guy in who has scored four goals in the fourth tier in Germany." Wolfsburg's Charles-Jesaja Herrmann was the player - aged 19 - that Daly was referring to.
It's doubtful that Herrmann is going to Tynecastle but it would be understandable had Stendel asked about him. The kid has been capped by Germany from every level from under-15 to under-19.
There is no argument for maintaining the status quo at Tynecastle but Berra, Whelan and Daly are still trying to make that case. Stendel is trying to push on, as he needs to. Among others, he's pursuing Matty Kennedy at St Johnstone and has brought back Connor Smith (17), Harry Cochrane (18), Anthony McDonald (18) and Alex Petkov (20) from loan spells.
Nobody knows if Stendel is up to to the task of unravelling the mess that Levein and his coaching staff left behind, but those whingeing about him for making these changes are not exactly cognisant of the full horror of the situation Hearts are in - or the role they played in putting them there.