Ann Budge reveals details of Hearts' recruitment process and her interviews with different managers
Club owner feels drained but insists he will keep going because she still has work to do at Tynecastle
Ann Budge sat on holiday in Portugal five weeks ago sifting through CVs of people who applied to be Hearts manager. She came across Daniel Stendel’s and embarked on a draining and laborious process which eventually brought the 45-year-old German to Tynecastle Park.
Revealing details of conversations with Stendel and others interviewed, the Hearts owner outlined some of the difficulties of trying to recruit Craig Levein’s replacement. Long before Barnsley claimed compensation for their former coach, Budge’s daily life was already consumed with Hearts’ need for a new football figurehead.
“I’d say it was a bit draining. It has been quite intense, because I didn’t really want to be in this position,” she admitted. “It was not a happy place to start from and then there was the way we chose to go about recruiting. I thought, ‘let’s see what’s out there, let’s look for something different’. So that was obviously going to make it a bit lengthy. So, yes, a bit draining.
“We had relieved Craig of his duties and I was flying to Lisbon, by which time I had a pile of CVs and letters from agents and various people. All of which I took to Lisbon with me, all of which I went through.
“I was on the phone for about three hours a day while I was away and Daniel was of those I thought we should interview. It was his agent who sent the information in. I spoke to Craig about Daniel and others as potential managers and what did they know about him, if anything. It was the same as I did with other folk.”
Budge went on to interview Stuart McCall, Steve Cotterill, Jack Ross, Neil McCann and Alan Irvine before Stendel.
“I think, with one exception, every manager I interviewed had been sacked – not just once but several times. That is the ridiculous thing about looking for a new manager. Clearly one of my questions was, ‘what went wrong?’ In most cases, not just with Daniel, the answer was between ‘it was all down to the chairman’ or ‘it was all down to the board’.
“That was usually because the chairman had insisted on selling the best players and wouldn’t give more money to buy new ones. Was that 100 per cent in every case? I’ve no idea but it was the stock answer.
“I looked at what people had achieved and then when you ask what went wrong you either believe them or don’t believe them. Daniel was exactly the same and we know that a number of players were sold [at Barnsley].”
As various issues arose during protracted negotiations with Stendel, Budge began to wonder if the whole thing might collapse.
“I’d be lying if I said that didn’t sometimes cross my mind, because we would get so close in negotiations, and then I’d get a message, or something else would come up. So I thought, if I don’t get this over the line, and if people think I’ve taken a long time so far, then just wait,” she smiled.
“We were convinced that Daniel was the one that we wanted – so it just meant that I’d keep going to try to get him.
Was the stress worth it? “It’s the first time I’ve ever felt like throwing my phone out of the window. It just has not stopped in the last few weeks, whether that’s messages, phone calls, WhatsApps or whatever. I wanted to scream and say ‘give me five minutes!’. But, having said that, I’ve still not finished the job I started [at Hearts]. So, I’ll just keep going.”