Hearts’ title win may have been mathematically confirmed yesterday, but nobody should be saying Rangers or Hibs handed us the title.
We won it due to the desire, hunger and quality that we’ve shown ever since our opening day of the season victory at Ibrox.
To have won it by March 22 is simply incredible. Everybody at the club deserves massive credit, but none more so than Ann Budge. She came on board having never previously been involved with a football club and took the decision to place Craig Levein in charge of the football matters. Not a lot of owners put other people in charge when they’re investing their own money in the club, but she put her faith in Craig, who in turn put his faith in Robbie Neilson and Stevie Crawford, and the whole thing has worked a treat.
Everyone involved with the Foundation of Hearts must also be acknowledged because they helped bring Ann to the table. Without their tireless work to kick things off years ago, none of this would have been possible. When we were emerging from administration, I always said there would be no quick fix and that the recovery would probably be a long one. I could never have envisaged things turning round this quickly.
Forget the fact it is not the top flight, this is the first time we have won a league championship of any kind in 35 years, so we should savour it just like any other triumph in our history.
The fact we were on the brink of extinction a year or so ago and that two of our biggest rivals were in the same division merely adds to the achievement.
The supporters have been phenomenal throughout the past few seasons and they will get their chance to enjoy another memorable day on Saturday, when Tynecastle will be packed to the rafters for a title party against Queen of the South.
Perhaps from a romantic point of view, it might have been nice to have won it this Saturday as opposed to yesterday when we didn’t kick a ball. But after the turmoil this club has been through and, having been pitted in a league with Rangers and Hibs, if someone had said to any Hearts supporter last July that they could have the title sewn up on the March 22 and then have the chance to celebrate it in a home game against Queen of the South the following weekend, nobody would have had any complaints.
We should be absolutely ecstatic that we have this chance to go along to a full-house Tynecastle on Saturday and acclaim players and a management team who have done a truly magnificent job.
You can’t pick and choose when you win a championship – you just savour it when it comes along.
Getting promoted at the first attempt is massive in terms of our sustainability and ability to prosper. Because we’ve gone up with so much of the season remaining, the management are now in a position to put in the type of preparatory groundwork that served us so well for the start of this season.
I’ll be intrigued to see the comings and goings at the club this summer. There was obviously a lot of surprise last season over some of the departures and there have already been a few who have been identified for moving on this summer. I’m sure the management will already be planning meticulously for next term in the Premiership.
We still have seven games left to play in the Championship, and, given the professionalism that’s been shown so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if the players keep their foot to the floor. As a player, Robbie was always about maximising his own potential and getting every last ounce out of himself, and I think it’s safe to say he’s done that with his team so far. Having seen his approach to management, I don’t think he’ll allow them to slacken off in the coming weeks when there’s a chance to maintain momentum for next season.
Adding to the poignancy of our success is the fact we have recently lost the legendary Dave Mackay as well as Elaine Spence, a staff member at the club, and Willie Fleming, who helped with tasks around the stadium.
All three of those people epitomised the morals that Ann Budge has restored to our proud club in this glorious campaign.