Hearts: Owner Anne Budge says club 'plan to be top three or four'

By Bryn PalmerBBC Scotland
Hearts finished a disappointing Premiership campaign in sixth place
Hearts finished a disappointing Premiership campaign in sixth place

Owner Ann Budge has made it clear she still expects Hearts to be competing for a top-four place and European qualification next season.

The Edinburgh club finished this term in sixth spot, 18 points behind Hibernian in fourth, after a fifth-placed finish in the previous campaign.

It has coincided with redevelopment work on the main stand at Tynecastle.

"Hearts as a club should always aim to be in contention, fighting to be as high as we can," she told BBC Scotland.

"We want to be regularly in Europe, and we are not going to change from our position - we want to be top three or four in Scotland; that is the way we plan, and for this coming season as well."

Work on the new £15m main stand, which reopened last November, is not now expected to be finished until the end of next season.

While Budge said funding for the £2m needed to complete the work is already in place, with fans group Foundation of Hearts having fulfilled their promise of a £3m contribution to the Tynecastle Redevelopment Fund, she conceded that it may have affected the budget for the Hearts first-team squad.

"Clearly undertaking what we have undertaken has take some of our finances and put it in different directions," she said.

"A couple of years from now, maybe even a year from now, when this [work] is all finished, there will be a greater focus on that.

"But right now it is about balance. You have to have the resources for other things as well as the football department."

Hearts owner Ann Budge
Budge is keen to see Demetri Mitchell and Steven Naismith return to Tynecastle

Hearts manager Craig Levein said recently he hoped to recruit between seven and 10 players this summer.

Five have already been signed up - strikers Steven MacLean and Uche Ikpeazu, midfielders Jake Mulraney and Olly Lee, and left-back Bobby Burns.

Budge revealed the club hope to "close some further business quite quickly", although refused to be drawn on reports they are poised to sign Australian left-back Ben Garuccio on a pre-contract agreement from Adelaide United.

She confirmed the club are keen to retain both left-back Demetri Mitchell and striker Steven Naismith, who spent the second half of last season on loan from Manchester united and Norwich respectively.

"To a certain extent it is out of our hands, but we have made it clear we would like to continue with both Demi and Steven, and if we can, we will," she said.

Meanwhile, the installation of a new £1m hybrid pitch is well under way, with Budge saying work is "slightly ahead of schedule" and on track to be ready for the start of the new season in July.

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