Hearts bosses have funds for players, says owner Ann Budge

Director of football Craig Levein, Eric Hogg, Jacqui Duncan and Ann Budge at Hearts' annual meeting
Director of football Craig Levein and business partners Eric Hogg, Jacqui Duncan and Ann Budge at Hearts' annual meeting

Hearts owner Ann Budge says funds are available to strengthen the squad as the Edinburgh side attempt to stay top of the Scottish Championship.

It all depends on who head coach Robbie Neilson and director of football Craig Levein are able to target.

"If Craig and Robbie identify the right person to bring in that they believe can make a difference, at the right price, we will be as supportive as we possibly can," Budge said after the first Hearts annual meeting since her takeover.

In recent days, Hearts became the first Scottish club to become an official living wage employer and have paid off debts owed to players by the previous administration.

Asked what her biggest challenge was, she said: "I think, if I didn't say promotion, I would be slated for it.

Hearts owner Ann Budge
"A lot of supporters are going to be driven by emotion and we have to make sure the club is run along business lines."

"At the forefront of everybody's mind is making sure we do get promoted next year."

Hearts, who were relegated last season while in administration, are nine points ahead of Rangers at the top of the table.

But Budge stressed: "There's still half a season to go, so no guarantees."

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Interview - Hearts owner Ann Budge

The Edinburgh businesswoman pointed out that moving up to the Premiership was such an important target because it would be worth more than £1m to the club's finances.

"It is a big hole to fill, so we really do need to get there," she said.

Budge again stressed that it had never been her desire to own a football club and that he long-term plan remained to hand control of Hearts to the fans.

Her financial intervention allowed Hearts to move out of administration this summer and a number of shareholders thanked her for her role.

"A number of them came up to me after the meeting closed and it's very gratifying and they are saying thank you for giving us the club back, which is fantastic," she said.

"But it does show that a lot of supporters are going to be driven by emotion and we have to make sure the club is run along business lines.

"Our cash situation is very positive and everything to do with building the income stream is working very positively also."

Hearts owner Ann Budge
"Our cash situation is very positive and everything to do with building the income stream is working very positively also."

In her annual report, Budge suggested that Hearts have the best young squad of footballers in Scotland.

She also believes that their new business structure will allow the Tynecastle outfit to "move forward in a positive manner".

Budge described the last two years as "turbulent" but thanked players, supporters, shareholders and business partners for pulling the club through administration.

Club accounts confirm that a £27.47m debt was written off in the financial year to June 2014, while turnover was £6.5m, down from £7.3m.

Hearts' financial statement says their net debt is £3.16m.

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