The German, who parted ways with the club on Tuesday, received a hero’s welcome as he walked into the Garrison at 8.20pm on Wednesday and was visibly in awe as fans sang ‘walking in a Stendel wonderland’ and ‘Daniel Stendel’s red and white army’ as he arrived with former assistant Chris Stern.
“It’s been a very emotional time for me,” an overwhelmed Stendel told the Chronicle as gathered fans hugged him, shook his hand and took photographs.
“What a lot of people have said to me is this ‘once a Red, always a Red’.”
Stendel guided Barnsley to promotion to the Championship in his first season in English football and endeared himself to supporters almost immediately, famously being spotted sharing a beer with fans also in the Garrison after the promotion was announced in April.
However, a disappointing run at the start of the 2019/20 campaign in which Barnsley have won only one in 11 saw the board put out a statement that they had ‘separated’ from the head coach on Tuesday.
The 21-word statement which did not thank Stendel for his time with the Reds sparked further questions from supporters over the manner in which he left.
More pressing for fans, though, was that they themselves had not been given a chance to thank the popular 45-year-old something which Heather Linney, 49, wanted to address.
“After we found out that Daniel was leaving, I saw all over Facebook that lots of people were upset,” said Heather, of Grasmere Road.
“Someone asked me ‘should we do something?’ and I thought it’d be great to do organise for the fans, because it’s all about them.
“I sent a message to the Garrison and they got back to me and said they’d be more than happy to have people in. So I tried to get the message out there.
“We were hoping Daniel would turn up, but we didn’t know for sure. It’s just gone crazy.
“That reception when he walked in was just amazing.”
Anticipation had been building since the club’s announcement, with rumours coming to a head on Wednesday that Stendel would appear at the impromptu gathering.
Scott Kilner, 36, of Oxford Street, Ardsley, said the experience of seeing the former coach mingling with fans the day after leaving the club was ‘surreal’.
“It’s not often you see a departed manager come back and thank the fans,” said Scott. “It’s quite a surreal experience because you just don’t see it.
“It’s amazing really, I’ve been in this bar a few times with him. He seems as in love with the town today, even though he’s unemployed, as he did back then.
“It’s absolutely fantastic. When in management have you ever heard of the manager coming to a leaving do? It just doesn’t happen.”
Lucy Thorpe, 30, of Allott Crescent, Jump, said the occasion was testament to Stendel’s relationship with the fans.
“The fact he’s come out to be with his fans who have stuck by him through everything, it’s just incredible that he’s here,” she said.
“It just shows what kind of guy he is, properly community-oriented and it’s so good he’s having a good drink with us.
“I’m absolutely gutted he’s leaving. He’s done so much for us in the time he’s been at the club. I think most fans are shocked and gutted that he’s gone.”
For more reaction to Stendel’s departure, see the back pages of this week’s Barnsley Chronicle.