• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Revolution bloody but necessary as Hearts beat again

THE revolution has both its victims and its critics.

Craig Levein, new director of football, leaves Tynecastle after yesterday's meeting  with owner Ann Budge, right. Pictures: SNS
Craig Levein, new director of football, leaves Tynecastle after yesterday's meeting with owner Ann Budge, right. Pictures: SNS

Yet the realpolitik rises above both. The bottom line to a day of extraordinary turbulence in Gorgie is that it was not personal, purely business.

The hyperbole will be highlighted in gaudy headlines: Budgement Day, Annie Gets Her Firing Gun and The Godmother.

Matters at Tynecastle yesterday, though, were soberly businesslike even though emotions lurched drunkenly from elation to despair. Budge may be the saviour of the Hearts but she is one who is driven by a business sense rather than any unthinking devotion to 11 players running after an inflated piece of plastic.

"This is a revolution," said Donald Ford, the former charismatic striker who played for Hearts from 1964 to 1976. "The changes being introduced at Hearts are fundamental to not only the well-being of the club but the wider Scottish game that is in a really, really bad state."

Ford, a former accountant as well as an international striker, has sympathy with Gary Locke and his management team who worked so hard all season only to find they had lost their jobs. But he insisted changes had to be made at the club with a long-term plan providing a strategy for a stable future.

Ford, 69, was a member of the Foundation of Hearts until late last year when he had to step down because of work commitments in his latest career as a photographer of substantial gifts.

He sees the bigger picture at Hearts. While other legends understandably rail at the morning of the long knives at Tynecastle yesterday with coaches and player being sacked, Ford points out that "an immediate reassessment" had to be made at the club.

He came into contact with Ann Budge, the executive chair of the club, at Foundation meetings and was impressed. " She is a very intelligent lady who has the good of the club at heart in all her thinking." The former IT consultant, too, is a character who would have used every moment to prepare for her first day at the helm.

Budge's path to power at Tynecastle has included her role in fronting the £2.5m for Bidco, the company that should now take over the running of the club. The 66-year-old will work "on a no-fee basis" and ownership of the club will be transferred over to the Foundation of Hearts within five years.

She is to be joined on the board by business partner Eric Hogg, Robert Wilson, who was the Scottish Premier League's first chairman, and MP Ian Murray, who will be the foundation's representative.

The Foundation has paid £1m that will be used to provide the club with immediate cash flow. It will provide another £1.4m for the first two years and, if all conditions are met, the foundation will then be able to take control of 75% of the club.

Budge then has to act quickly and decisively. This immediate swinging of the axe leaves blood on the walls but Ford believes it was to be expected.

"It was simply unsustainable," said Ford of the legacy left by Vladimir Romanov. You do not need to have a huge number of O levels to accept the company is probably in a bit of mess behind the scenes," he added.

He has a limited amount of optimism in that he accepts the club is now on the "soundest footing for the last 15 to 20 years".

He adds: "Looking forward there is no question that the company will have prepared forecasts and budgets to cope with the first year in the Championship and perhaps the third year in the Championship. Nobody should be under any illusion that the team will automatically come back to the premiership .

"I will issue a word of warning as a Hearts supporter of a number of years: we should not expect a return to high quality within one, two or even three years ."

Indeed, he insists Budge will need all of three years to instil a solid foundation at the club.

"There may be more to come out when work is done behind the scenes," he says. "There has been mismanagement for more than a decade and it would be unreasonable to expect that to be changed within a year."

He also pointed out that "the revolution" was not restricted to business practices. Ford insists that Hearts - and Scottish football in general - need to produce players from a local base.

"The future is not the Championship next season but five years down the line when hopefully there will be a very clear nursery of young talent in the Lothians to feed the Hearts. That would be the foundation of the new club," he says.

Levein, of course, took a keen interest in youth development when he was the national coach and Ford says: "He clearly is a very intelligent man and he obviously knows the game very well."

The model, asserts Ford, has to start with 9, 10, 11 year-olds. "We do not produce genuine attacking players," he says. "We seem only to produce midfielders. We have to encourage players to go past a man."

This attention to the detail of coaching, though, is overshadowed by the trials at the club he loves and played for with such distinction, scoring 93 goals in a career that took him to the World Cup in 1974.

The manic Monday in Gorgie produced outrage, condemnation, and sackings. It has been celebrated in news bulletins and splattered in huge headlines.

But Ford quietly counsels fans to adopt a quieter trait.

"Patience is probably the word we have to use. We have to give the new regime a chance. If Ann gets the right team behind her in the boardoom and Craig gets the right people alongside him on coaching - and he manages to keep the resurgence of the young lads - who knows, we might suddenly be a Championship-winning team. But that is maybe being optimistic."

Hearts, though, are back in business. The revolution has started but the struggle will demand more pain, perhaps more victims.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

233074