Ann Budge: I’d only walk away from Hearts if majority of fans wanted change
Criticism of Ann Budge’s Hearts tenure is not causing the club owner sleepless nights. However, she admits she would voluntarily walk away from Tynecastle Park if the majority of fans wanted a change.
Chants of “Heart of Midlothian, we’re in the wrong hands” were evident during last weekend’s Betfred Cup draw at East Fife. Budge was in attendance and took flak from some individuals, but most were supportive of the 71-year-old.
She has no intention of leaving Hearts and plans to stay in charge as chief executive even after next year’s majority shareholing handover to the fan group Foundation of Hearts.
Having totally rebuilt the club from the ashes of administration five years ago, she retains the backing of most supporters. She insists she would have no problem stepping aside if that ever changed.
“The fact more of the criticism is now directed at me, I’m not losing sleep over it,” Budge told the Evening News. “I know how much work I’ve put in alongside everybody else. I also know an awful lot of supporters don’t understand that [criticism] and don’t want to.
“As well as listening to the chanting at East Fife, there were a number of supporters saying: ‘Don’t listen to them, Ann. Just keep going.’ I don’t want to come across as complacent but I genuinely believe the majority of supporters can see the bigger picture while being unhappy with a bad performance.
“Yeah, it’s not nice. I get slightly annoyed because we all have families. I’m not on social media but I get phonecalls about what is said. I just tell them not to worry about it. If it’s going to upset them, don’t read it.
“I will know soon enough if it’s a proper deep-rooted concern. If that’s the case, I’ll be happy to go. I don’t want to go but if I genuinely thought the majority of supporters thought it was time for me to move on and someone else take over, I’ll do that. I’m a fan like everybody else.
“I’ve been representing the fans for the last five years. If the majority of them don’t want me to be here, that’s fine. They won’t get any objection from me.”
Budge explained her pragmatic attitude to football and Hearts’ fight to return to the top four of the Ladbrokes Premiership, which begins on Sunday at Aberdeen.
She has just finished a busy summer and is confident everything is in place for her club to thrive this year.
“We tied up the spine of the team, identified signing targets and we got who the football management team wanted. I’m happy in that regard. We have invested over £4million in the youth academy since I’ve been here. That’s not going to deliver immediate benefit but look at the young guys we have fighting to get into the first team. I’m happy about that because it’s working. We have also developed coaches.
“I’m pretty content. I don’t go out there expecting to win every game. I would like to, absolutely, but it’s not realistic. I’m like every other fan. I want to see the effort and desire. That’s when I go home and think: ‘What happened today?’ I haven’t quite worked out why it happens in football: One week everybody is up for it and the next they got out the wrong side of bed. I don’t begin to understand why that happens. I guess it’s because they’re people and we all have a bad day at the office.
“I’m happy with the team we have. A lot of time and effort has gone into bringing people in with the right character and I feel we have managed that and I think we have a good bunch of guys with the right attitude.”