IT was Napoleon Bonaparte who famously said: ‘A leader is a dealer in hope.’
Just over 12 months on from his surprise appointment as Barnsley head coach, few can say that Daniel Stendel has not dished out a liberal serving of that with last summer’s early whispers of ‘Daniel who?’ quickly becoming a distant memory.
After the morass of the Jose Morais era, Stendel has significantly raised optimism levels among an admiring Reds’ fan base and instilled a sense of purpose, belonging and identity among a group of players who were plainly craving inspiration at the same time.
In the process, he has left his indelible mark upon a re-energised coaching staff as well.
Dale Tonge can certainly vouch for that and having learned plenty during his successful working relationship with the 45-year-old – since being brought in as an interim assistant in early February following the departure of Andreas Winkler to Huddersfield Town – he is hoping to continue his education next season.
Assessing the impact of Stendel, whose first season in English football ended in a memorable promotion to the Championship, Tonge told The Yorkshire Post: “I think you would have to say the leadership qualities in the gaffer in terms of how he portrays himself day in and day out has been key. He is a winner.
“I think what he does and how he lives his life and how he wants to do things is something the players have bought into.
“His values are very similar to Barnsley as a town and its people. He is very engaging, honest and likes to engage with everybody and has got a great personality and that is one of his biggest strengths.
“Since he has been in, it has just been positive. It was a really important time for the club with the negativity of relegation last year and with that positivity from Daniel, the players have bought into it and have been outstanding this year and it has been rewarded with promotion.”
On continuing his coaching education and being an integral part of Stendel’s team next season, the 34-year-old added: “Education is a great word and the experiences I have learned is something you cannot put a price on in terms of learning every day from the gaffer and the wider staff who have had a lot of experience within first-team coaching.
“It is something I would love to carry on doing.”
Stendel, linked with the managerial vacancy at Middlesbrough but set to continue his Oakwell adventure, may readily admit that mastering the English language has proved a bugbear during his time in Oakwell and represents a work in progress. He can rest assured, though, that his fundamental messages have not got lost in translation upon a group who quickly lent him a willing ear.
That Stendel’s high-intensity style of gegenpressing football bore early fruit in pre-season and during the opening salvos to the 2018-19 season proved consequential to the project.
Ultimately, the formula lasted the course and as results became more consistent, so the innate belief of his players was fortified and togetherness and unity stayed strong when it mattered.
The fervent belief among Reds players is that Barnsley’s story has a successful chapter or two to run under the German, who is equally anxious that the club maintain their levels of progress next season and do not stand still in the weeks and months ahead.
Tonge added: “You have to look at the group of players themselves. We have got a very special group, in my opinion.
“It is something that the club can be really proud of. Fair play to the boys, they bought into Daniel’s philosophies, ideals and how he likes to play – and they did it really quickly.
“The season started unbelievably with the win against Oxford and since then, it became just a really good season.
“They have bought into a different culture and way of training and I think it has been evident not just in training but in games especially where the boys have gone out with no fear and played some really attractive football this season.”
Raised in a Barnsley-supporting household in Bolton-upon-Dearne, the pride that Tonge felt in being involved in a second successful promotion season with his boyhood club represents something that money cannot buy.
Promoted as a player in a joyous 2005-06 season under Andy Ritchie which ended in play-off final success at the Millennium Stadium, Tonge has more enriching memories for the scrapbook, even if he was too consumed in the Reds’ pressure-laden run-in to appreciate any potential personal significance at the time.
He said: “It is special. But coming into the job and getting the opportunity from the gaffer, it was not something I was actually focusing on at all. It was just: ‘how can I help, what does the gaffer want from me, what can I do to help?’
“But it has been a special time, not just for myself as a fan, but actually as a member of staff in helping to get the club back to where it should be.”