HAILING from the town of Frankfurt (Oder) on the far eastern flank of the old East Germany, Daniel Stendel would be the first to admit that his grasp of English is still a little rusty.
While children growing up in the former West Germany learned a basic command of English from a young age, it was somewhat different in the east.
I know exactly what I need to do as a player and also the team know what they need to do to get results and performanceBarnsley’s George Moncur
But no-one can suggest that his coaching messages have got lost in translation among the players he is now leading at Barnsley – quite the opposite.
Clarity of thought, order and a modus operandi has been refreshingly provided; and the Reds are rediscovering their footballing identity.
Early days maybe, with the real stuff beginning at home to Oxford United on Saturday week. But the decision by the club’s board to opt for their second successive overseas appointment and plump for a comparative rookie with no previous experience of managing in this country has at least been given credence by the way in which the players have taken to Stendel.
Speak to Barnsley’s players and it is clear that Stendel has breezed into Oakwell like a breath of fresh air with the training-ground impact which he has made in his opening month at the club being a genuinely vibrant one.
His high-press style of transitional football, based upon the gegenpressing principles espoused by many leading German coaches, including, most notably, Jurgen Klopp, won over Barnsley’s hierarchy when it came to deciding upon Jose Morais’s replacement. Crucially, Stendel’s players have quickly bought into the philosophy and are being positively energised by it.
Goalkeeper Adam Davies said: “The intensity in training and everything has gone up one thousand per cent. Straightaway, he has brought the positivity back into the lads, so, hopefully, that can continue.
“His English is definitely improving and it not like he is not trying to learn. He is speaking in English quite a lot and the assistants speak English well, so it has not really been a problem.
“The way he has been with us has been fantastic and I am buying into it and it has been good.”
Critically, players have also been left under no illusions about their own roles within the framework of the side and what is expected of them individually and collectively, too, following disorientation of the last few months of last season, when the tactics of Morais were questioned by the squad.
“He (Stendel) has been really good. I know exactly what I need to do as a player and also the team know what they need to do to get results and performance,” observed midfield player George Moncur.
“There was a bit of confusion at the back end of last season and we know exactly what we now need to do and he has come in and made a really good impact.”
There is coherence and good sense, too, in the fact that Stendel has concentrated on working with what he has got and implementing his coaching philosophies with the players he has inherited rather than immediately dipping into the transfer market following relegation.
It is a squad which, if it remains largely intact, should be strong enough to make an impact at the sharp end of League One.
On this season’s aims and on the impact of the former Hannover head coach, chief executive officer Gauthier Ganaye said: “We want to get promoted, obviously, and I do not think our fan base will understand if we have any other expectations.
“We want to keep the core of this team and build around that and with Daniel’s hard work, we will, hopefully, get promoted. This is our aim. Maybe it will not happen and this is not the end of the world. But this (promotion) is what we want to achieve and working towards.”
Specifically on why the club came to the decision to hand the reins to Stendel and avoid the safer-looking option of bringing in someone with hardened experience in the British game, Ganaye explained: “The first step in a thinking process was to identity a style of play which was successful – and then narrow it down to a potential candidate.
“Daniel had good results and statistics with the first team (at Hannover) and played a very attacking style of football with high intensity and high pressing with quick counter-attacking which was quite entertaining and that is why we identified him.
“For us, the fact that Daniel was German or English and whether he had coached in League One or not was not that important. We do not think it will be a problem. The feeling with him has been very good.
“He is straightforward and really enthusiastic and energetic and he communicates his energy to others. When you meet him, he is someone who, after a few seconds, you feel as if you can trust.”
From those in red who were scarred by the chaotic events of late last season, culminating in the club’s relegation on an awful afternoon in Derby in early May, Stendel, 44, is providing some balm.
After a dysfunctional end to last season, Barnsley are finding direction once again, with the fervent desire to remedy the events of 2017-18 also representing a strong motivational tool for many.