Hearts owner Ann Budge wants sixth place in the Scottish Premiership as the minimum next year and feels her club are capable of achieving even higher.
After winning the Championship, Budge feels the Tynecastle side can reach the upper echelons of Scotland’s top flight.
She said she is confident of keeping the majority of the playing squad together but stressed than any exits would not derail the club’s revival. Her plans for Hearts’ future will continue to be “conservative” and sensible as she tries to grow the club following their exit from administration last year.
Budge was speaking after announcing a new three-year deal for the Save The Children charity to have their name on Hearts’ shirts instead of a commercial sponsor. The ground-breaking deal is worth a seven-figure sum in total to the club.
Asked if a top-six place is achievable next season, the 67-year-old replied: “That’s the minimum we would be targeting. If we finish sixth, we’ll be happy. I’d like to think we will finish above that.
“We hoped we would be able to get up from the Championship in one season but we planned on the basis of perhaps taking two. I will always be conservative, we will always have a conservative plan, but we are ahead of the game. No question.”
Budge outlined her plans for Hearts to prosper over the next three to four years. “We should be playing at the highest level. I’d like to think that, at the very least, come the end of my tenure we will have a clear strategy for the stadium. We should also be doing this kind of thing [with Save The Children], which is giving something back to the community and helping address some of the bigger issues which face all of us in society. In my view, that’s why football clubs started.
“I’m the kind of person who looks at it from a business perspective. Of course I’m a fan so I’ve been absolutely delighted this year but my feet are firmly on the ground. We have an awful long way to go. This is one year and we still aren’t in a situation where we can do everything we want to do without the financial support of the fans and Foundation of Hearts.”
Asked if she believed everything can be kept together over the summer, including the playing squad and management, Budge gave a pragmatic response. “I’m not sure I’m going to say everything,” she said. “There have been and will be a lot of interest in our players and management team. I’m not worried about it. This is a team effort. If we lose one or two players, we’ll be disappointed but it won’t bring everything to a standstill. I’m confident we can hold on to the majority of people we have. I think most have bought into what we’re about.
“That said, it’s a commercial world out there. If someone comes along and offers someone something substantial, who knows? The next few months will tell but I think we have a fantastic base on which to build and I hope we can hold as much of that together as possible. We have a budget and we have one or two positions [in the team] we would like to strengthen.”