‘Five years’ for Hearts to clean up Romanov mess

Donald Ford running on to the pitch in 1972.
Donald Ford running on to the pitch in 1972.
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HEARTS legend Donald Ford – a founding member of the consortium poised to grab the keys to Tynecastle – has warned it will take up to five years to untangle the mess left by the Romanov regime.

The ex-striker, who retrained as an accountant after retiring from the game, was an early convert to the Foundation of Hearts (FOH) after being approached by former chairman Alex Mackie.

Mr Ford trumpeted the perseverance of the fan-led consortium which now stands on the brink of owning the club alongside businesswoman Ann Budge, who helped fund the ambitious takeover bid after her £2.5 million offer was accepted by Lithuanian creditors.

But he urged against complacency, claiming there was still “an awful lot of work to do”.

He said: “The euphoria supporters feel at the moment will have to be replaced very shortly with serious examination of all that’s needed to be done to put it right again.

“There’s a lot going to happen which is very exciting, but don’t underestimate the difficulty of putting right the last ten years of trauma within Tynecastle. Who knows what they are going to find when they look at the admin systems, the marketing and all the things involved in running the company, never mind producing the footballers for a Saturday.

“It will take between two and five years to put the club back in a situation where money isn’t cascading out the door.”

The three-cap Scotland international also spoke glowingly about the way old rivals Hibs were managed off the park.

“I have great admiration for the way the Hibs situation has stabilised, even though it’s not perfect, at least they’ve stopped the exhaust of money,” he said.

Mr Ford also joined a chorus of voices praising the “initiative” of Mr Mackie, left, who vacated the FOH chairman’s seat for the incoming Ian Murray MP last year.

And former Hearts chairman Lord George Foulkes, who first met FOH members at a meeting in the Caledonian Hotel five years ago, applauded Mr Mackie’s “vision” for the club and said he had been an inspiration.

“I would meet with them regularly at [entrepreneur and FOH member] Brian Cormack’s place at Melville Street,” Lord Foulkes said. “Ann Budge was there in the background and Brian and others were involved. Alex Mackie was certainly the driving force behind it. He was certainly the inspiration behind starting it.”

Mr Mackie is understood to have ignited the FOH journey after publicly denouncing the Romanov regime at a shareholders’ AGM five years ago.

He said: “I’m glad to have played a part in this. It has been a long journey and this isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning.”