In her latest update to supporters, the Hearts owner admitted that the Tynecastle club has “had a few disappointments this season”, along with “some great things to shout about”, such as the rise of Harry Cochrane, Anthony McDonald, Euan Henderson and the other youngsters who have featured for the first team so far this campaign.
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Budge said: “Every Hearts supporter must be delighted at the now demonstrable success of our academy, proving beyond any doubt that our investments over the last three years into our youth programmes, our coaching methods and our scouting arrangements have been well worthwhile.
“I’m sure it makes all of us immensely proud to see so many of our Academy graduates running out regularly at Tynecastle as part of the first team.”
Addressing the first team’s recent results, Budge continued: “The first team has suffered some disappointing results over recent weeks. A tough run against Premiership sides took us to the quarter final stage of the Scottish Cup; our first appearance there since 2012. Losing to Motherwell was a blow but rest assured, we go again next season, with renewed efforts to reach Hampden.”
Admitting that the club’s current placing in the league was “not where we would hope to be at this point in the season”, Budge added: “We should not underestimate or forget the challenges of the early part of the season, when we had so many games away from Tynecastle.
“Since returning ‘home’ the boys have tried hard to make Tynecastle the fortress of times gone by, as evidenced by the fact that we are still unbeaten since coming ‘home’.
“I can assure you that everyone here is totally focused on securing a top-six finish.”
Budge also revealed that a tendering process for laying a new pitch at Tynecastle was “well under way” but a final decision still needed to be taken.
“We want to ensure that we put down the best pitch possible but with new drainage, water systems, new undersoil heating etc., this will not come cheap,” Budge warned.
The club has launched its season ticket campaign today in a bid to help fund the “next phase of developments and improvements”.
Budge explained: “We have tried to hold price increases to a minimum, while recognising that improvements come at a cost. The new main stand developments continue apace, we need the pitch, and we have to continue to invest in our first team squad and our youth players.”
In terms of the new main stand, Budge confirmed that, “after many delays on the part of our utility suppliers”, the new kiosks and first-floor kitchen were now fully operational.
Hearts are still hopeful of opening the first supporters bar and coffee shop in the main stand along with a new shop and ticket office, but Budge warned: “I will not give actual dates as we know from experience that delays can happen. Suffice to say, the target dates are tight.”
The club also has plans to construct a permanent studio for TV games, as well as reducing the size of the control room, and repairing any damage to other stands caused by the recent snow in Edinburgh.
Summarising her briefing, Budge said: “We set out this year to grow our turnover and to break-even in performance terms. I am pleased to say that we anticipate growing our turnover, once again, by approximately £1 million.
“We also anticipate achieving a break-even position, which is no mean achievement, given the challenges we have faced in the last year.
“The Tynecastle Redevelopment Project has gone over-budget but we are managing this to ensure we do not over-stretch ourselves.”
Finishing her statement, Budge added: “In business terms we are doing well, and I am confident that the future looks good. We are approximately two years away from becoming the largest fan-owned club in the UK.
“With your continued backing we will, together, make history.”
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