Ann Budge has revealed that she continues to be “blown away” by the level of backing Hearts fans give to the club.
Despite all the uncertainty over the past five months the supporters have rallied behind the club and once again shown why they are best in the country, with more than 11,000 season tickets snapped up for the 2020/21 campaign.
The Chairman believes that kind of backing has proved that fan-ownership can be a success and has thanked the fans for stepping up when the club needs them the most.
Speaking to Hearts TV, Ann said: “I think myself and I think all of the other Directors all feel the same. We’ve said it before and you just feel like you’re constantly saying that we’re blown away (by the fans’ backing).
“You think they can do no more and then they excel themselves. Without the support of our fans I wouldn’t be sitting here, confidently looking ahead, albeit it will be a struggle but without their support we wouldn’t be able to do it, quite simply.
“They’ve proved, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that being a fan-owned club can work. They step up every time, they have done every time over the last six years when we’ve had a challenge, they’ve been there.
“I just can’t thank them enough. It’s not enough to say but I don’t know what else I can say, other than they will get what they set out for, which was – I say they, actually what we set out for – we will be the largest fan-owned club and I think we’ve proved that we can make it a success because of their backing.”
In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with the club's TV channel, Ann discussed her delight at getting Andrew McKinlay on board as Chief Executive, how seamlessly Robbie Neilson has transitioned back into life at Tynecastle and confirmed that there will be funds available for him to strengthen his squad.
“I’m very, very happy (to have Andrew on board), delighted in fact,” she said. “I met him initially when I first got involved in football because he was, at that point, working at the SFA.
“Even then I found him as someone I could talk to and could advice of, could ask opinions of and he was always very helpful. That was a good basis for the discussion then as we talked through what we felt we need as a business, as a club moving forward I think Andrew’s experience at the SFA will undoubtedly be helpful.
“When you make a senior appointment it’s really, really vital that you believe that individual will fit into the culture of the business, the culture of the club, and in my various meetings with Andrew I felt that was going to happen.
“Robbie, as you know, was the first manager I was ever involved with in football and we got on well then. Our styles were quite complimentary, and actually quite similar. We had a very good working relationship.
“I’m sure both of us have changed to a certain extent over the last few years but the fundamentals don’t change. Robbie is more experienced but he’s still the same man. It’s as if he’s never been away. We’ve just slipped into a very good working relationship.
We all acknowledged that we had to trim the team. There was no question about that. We have made good strides in that direction. Yes, a few players have moved on but equally, Robbie made it clear to me when we were discussing coming back, I obviously said to him ‘what do you think we need to do with the team?’ and he told me which positions we need to strengthen. We should be able to fulfill Robbie’s needs. He knows our budget has got to go down from where it was but I think we can still address everything that he needs and achieve our objective.”
Ann’s interview is available to watch in full on Hearts TV by clicking here.