Callum Paterson believes Hearts’ regeneration offers an ideal example of how to remodel a club after financial problems.
Since emerging from administration last June, the Tynecastle club have been overhauled by new owner Ann Budge to the point where they are financially stable and ready to return to top-flight football.
Paterson, the club’s right-back, applauded the efforts of Budge and her staff in restructuring Hearts and turning their fortunes around. Gradually, Budge has restored solid foundations in Gorgie with cash injections from the fans group Foundation of Hearts, while experienced new players have arrived within the allotted budget. The result is Hearts are 20 points clear at the top of the Scottish Championship and edging closer to winning the league.
Paterson contrasted his current emotions with those of last year, when Hearts were relegated after a 15-point deduction for entering administration. The young defender stressed that was a career low but expects the feelings this year to be the polar opposite.
“Last year was horrible for the club, the fans and everyone involved,” he said. “It was a terrible experience, to be deducted 15 points before the season even starts and to get relegated with a team you’ve work hard with. This season is a complete contrast and we’re doing well at the top of the league. Hopefully, it will be completely opposite feelings when we get promoted and win the league.
“I would never erase last year from my mind. This would certainly top anything that I’ve experienced. It’s a lot better than what happened last season. That will always be one of the lowest points of my career. Hopefully this will be one of the highest.
“Everything is going right and it’s the way the club is run in the background and out on the pitch. The standard has been unbelievable on the pitch but off the pitch is where it really matters. It’s helped us take our minds off everything that has happened because last year we were focusing on whether we were going to get paid on time; are we going to get deducted more points? Are we going to do this or that? This season we’re focusing on the future and it shows that, if you have nothing on your mind, then it helps.”
Paterson praised Budge’s hands-on approach after previous owner Vladimir Romanov oversaw the lapse into administration from his far-off base in Lithuania. “I never met Romanov but Ann Budge has been in the dressing-room a few times congratulating us and she is always in the stands cheering us on. It’s a big difference.
“It’s the same with the squad. I played up front last year because I was needed but this year we have two or three players for every position. I didn’t mind, I’d played there before and it’s good for your game because you understand where strikers want the ball. I’d rather have made a name for myself at right-back but hopefully I am doing that this season.
“There are a lot of options now which is good for the team. We had a great bunch of lads last year but this year there are just more of us to muck about with. We’re not all stuck in each others’ faces.
Hearts’ success this year is in stark contrast to events at Ibrox, where Rangers have lurched from chaos to crisis against the backdrop of boardroom unrest. Paterson feels it is unfair to allow Rangers’ troubles to overshadow Hearts’ achievements.
“Of course it’s unfair. Other teams haven’t fazed us at all and we’ve been doing our talking on the pitch and not off it. We’re getting results against those teams so they can’t really use it as an excuse.”