Aidan Keena admits he knew after just 45 minutes under Daniel Stendel that his Hearts days were over.

But the Irish striker has backed the German to turn things around and build a bright future for the Jambos.

Keena was handed a start in Stendel’s first game in charge but was hauled off at half-time in the 1-0 defeat to St Johnstone.

After finding himself only a bit-part player since his arrival from St Patrick’s Athletic in 2017, the 20-year-old realised there and then that he was likely to be on his way out of Tynecastle.


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The Mullingar-born marksman joined countryman Glenn Whelan in leaving Hearts last week, with coach and fellow Irishman Jon Daly also having been axed since the New Year and skipper Christophe Berra told he is no longer wanted.

Others are set to follow as Stendel puts his own stamp on the club in a bid to haul them away from the foot of the Premiership table.

And, despite being deeply disappointed by the way things ended for him in the capital, Keena reckons the former Barnsley head coach’s clear game-plan can bring success – even though there will be casualties along the way.

He said: “I started the new manager’s first game but I was brought off at half-time and I thought, ‘I might have to find myself somewhere else’.

“It was a frustrating few months for me. Game-time was few and far between but the new manager came in and I trained well all week. Then he gave me the shout and I was looking forward to it, but I hadn’t started a game in over six months and hadn’t played for more than five minutes for over a month.

“I just wasn’t able to play as well as I could. There was just no way I could be match fit or match sharp.

“With the squad of players they have I think they will turn it around. There are too many big players there and I would like to think there’s too much talent and it’s too big a club not to.

“Hopefully they turn it around, even though the first half of the season wouldn’t give you too much hope. But the new gaffer does get his point across and you do know how he wants you to play, so hopefully it works for them.


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“He just likes people to press and get after the ball. That suits some people and it doesn’t suit others. The ones who are still there it suited.”

Keena thrived on the regular football he got on loan at Queen’s Park for the second half of the 2018/19 campaign and at Dunfermline the following season, scoring 12 times in 25 starts.

And he is now hopeful dropping down the divisions south of the border can help him revive his career – and his love of the game.

He added: “I’m a striker who needs to play games and if I play games I score goals, but it just wasn’t happening at Hearts. For me to get any sort of form I needed to be playing more than once every six weeks.

“I felt that if I had got the run of games I needed at Hearts then I would score goals.

“Any time I went out on loan and got a run of games I scored goals, but at Hearts it was very stop-start. I was just getting five minutes here and five minutes there and not getting much else.

“There’s some players who can get away with that but, for me, if I want to be on-form and scoring goals then I need to be playing.

“It’s frustrating because I liked the club and I liked living in Edinburgh but if it doesn’t work out then it doesn’t work out and you have to go again and try somewhere else.

“Hopefully this move goes well and I can’t wait to get enjoying football again. Whenever I went on loan and had a game to look forward to every Saturday, I loved it.

“But, when I was at Hearts, it got to the point I was just trying to keep myself because I knew I wasn’t really working towards a game.

“I’m looking forward to scheduling a working week around a game at the weekend again.”

Hearts manager Daniel Stendel, however, has insisted that he did not treat club captain Christophe Berra with a lack of respect as he clears the decks at Tynecastle.


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He told Hearts TV: “We respect all of the players that play for Hearts or sign for Hearts, especially our skipper, Christophe Berra.

“He gives his best for this club, not only the last two-and-a-half-years but also before.

“He is a really good player but we talked about the situation and we tried to find a good way for him and for us and especially for this club and I hope that we find the best way.”

Meanwhile, Kyle Lafferty’s move to Sunderland is destined to end in tears according to his former Rangers and Northern Ireland team-mate Gareth McAuley.

“I fear Kyle Lafferty’s move to Sunderland will be a car crash. A disaster waiting to happen,” McAuley said.

“I want to see Kyle playing regularly and, if Phil Parkinson wasn’t the Sunderland manager, then the Black Cats would tick all the boxes for him.

“But I struggle to see how ‘old school’ Phil will tolerate Kyle’s behaviour. They will be chalk and cheese.”