Hearts will bounce back and Ann Budge is doing everything she can despite criticism

Club captain Christophe Berra mounts a defence of owner after poor start to the season

Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 6:00 am
Christophe Berra has defended Hearts owner Ann Budge
Christophe Berra has defended Hearts owner Ann Budge

Critics of Ann Budge are plentiful given the on-field mess at Hearts right now. She gave Craig Levein too long as manager, she shouldn’t have appointed him in the first place, she did not listen to fans enough. Those are just some allegations thrown at the club owner.

Christophe Berra, the Hearts captain, sees a wider picture. Budge rescued the Edinburgh club with her own money as it teetered towards extinction in 2014 and rebuilt it. She is still being repaid for her initial outlay and, aged 71, runs business at Tynecastle Park each day having constructed a brand new main stand.

By her own admission she has made mistakes. Her comments on these pages yesterday strongly suggested she feels giving Levein both director of football and manager titles was one of them. With Hearts joint-bottom of the league, hindsight is easy now in the wake of his sacking.

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Berra enjoys a close relationship with Budge and knows criticising her is an obvious consequence of the current predicament. “I have a good relationship with Ann and she tells me things from time to time, which will stay private. She has had a lot of stick recently but she’s done a fabulous job for this club. Ann will continue to do that,” he said

“Her old business [running an IT company] is completely different to running a football club, where there are a lot of eyes watching you. It’s been tough for everyone and it’s probably been even tougher for Ann, but she is doing everything she can for the club.

“If it wasn’t for her – and the fans – who knows where Hearts would be? There are ups and downs but this club will bounce back.”

Budge is currently preoccupied trying to appoint a manager and a new sporting director, with Levein now in a background role at Riccarton until his contract expires at the end of the season.

Assistant coach Austin MacPhee took charge of Sunday’s 3-0 Betfred Cup semi-final loss against Rangers as interim manager. He is now preparing the team for a vital Premiership game at Tynecastle this weekend against the club who jointly share bottom place with Hearts – St Mirren.

Whether he can make a serious claim for the job permanently remains to be seen. “That will be down to Ann and the board. Austin will leave no stone unturned and have us as well prepared as possible this week,” said Berra.

“Going forward, he will have his own ideas and will want to put his own identity on the team. He’s an assistant manager at international level and I don’t think he slept on Saturday night because he wanted us well prepared for the semi.

“In a short space of time, he did as much as he could but Rangers are a good team with good players.”

Berra and the Hearts players feel responsible to an extent for Levein’s dismissal. “Yeah, we all take responsibility for what happened. From top to bottom, we could all have done more. If we had got better results, the gaffer would still be here.

“We didn’t and, unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast. Sport can be very harsh and it’s a result-based business. But don’t think we walk away and don’t think we shouldn’t take any responsibility. We do. It’s a tough period for everyone at the club but this will separate the men from the boys.

“We have a massive game against St Mirren on Saturday and the focus has to be on that. We need to be full of energy and intensity.

“It’s been a tough period but it’s part and parcel of football and we need to stick together. We do have good players. On our day, we can be a good team. From top to bottom, everyone of us needs to have a look at ourselves, start afresh and go again. The aim is to get this club back to where it should be.”