Hearts are striving to become a ‘big club’ in Europe, insists Ann Budge

Ann Budge has admitted Hearts are striving to become a “big club” in Europe as they seek to build on the success of their third-place finish in the Premiership.

The Gorgie side are guaranteed to play Europa League Conference football until Christmas if they fail in their bid to qualify for the Europa League group stages, and are likely to see their revenue increase by more than £3m as a result.

Hearts plan to invest much of that money in the squad as they seek to cement their place as Scottish football’s third force and become regulars on the European stage.

After inheriting a club that had been ravaged by the effects of administration on and off the pitch in 2014, Chairwoman Budge, who oversaw the £20million investment in a new Main Stand at Tynecastle , insists the club are now focusing on continued reinforcement on the park.

Budge said: “So far we have resolved the underlying infrastructure and business issues while trying to keep football going.

“So that now we can focus on the number one priority which is how we help the men’s and women’s first teams really succeed and reach heights that we haven’t reached in a long time. I’m really excited about this. topic.

“We still have to take a long-term view, but our goal is different. We have come such a long way and it is no longer a question of survival, as a club, or survival in terms of staying in the Premiership or even in the top six. These are still fundamentals but our objective is to succeed and play regularly at European level. We want to become a big club in Europe.

“If I had said that in 2014, I would have sounded a bit like Mr Romanov, but we are in a different position now. I’m not saying that in a few years we will be number one, but we can succeed without ourselves. set unrealistic goals.

Budge understands Hearts need a bigger and stronger squad to be able to withstand the physical and mental pressures of competition in domestic and European football and cites Rangers as an example.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side beat Hearts in the Scottish Cup final last weekend after 120 minutes of football, just three days after going on penalties in an agonizing defeat in the Scottish Cup final. the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Speaking to the Scot, she added: “We need to set the bar high and recognize that if we want to play in Europe, in the group stages and hopefully longer, we need to build a team that has a real ability to play at this level.

“Okay, maybe from time to time things will go wrong, but if we want this to continue we have to increase the caliber and look at both quality and quantity.

“Look at Rangers, they’ve had these big games in Europe but it hasn’t weakened them because they have such a big squad. They have almost two starting XIs and we have to gradually get into it without going too far.

“We have to be careful and make sure we continue to cut our fabric appropriately, but we’re in the very lucky position that all the money we get from our success in football comes back to the football department and that’s a position I never thought we would be in a few years ago!

“We’re not stupid and after going through what we’ve been through nobody wants to go overboard. We must be reasonable. But, for the most part, the football team did well and they will reap the rewards, which is exciting. We will not miss this opportunity to take advantage of what we have.

Budge acknowledges that lucrative runs in European football could also help Hearts in their bid to get closer to the old business.

She added: “We have known for a long time that Celtic and Rangers were able to come into Europe and get the huge financial benefits that come with that and we know that widened the gap and meant the rest of us couldn’t. not expect to compete. with them.

“Getting football into the group stage means that although we may not be able to close that gap, it will not widen at such a rate and the changes to European football mean there are more opportunities now. , so we have to be able to grab them.”

Mary I. Bruner