Chief executive Andrew McKinlay's ancestor was a founding member of Hearts and scored against Hibs

Family history dates back to Edinburgh side’s origins
New Hearts chief executive Andrew McKinlay. Pic: Heart of Midlothian FC.New Hearts chief executive Andrew McKinlay. Pic: Heart of Midlothian FC.
New Hearts chief executive Andrew McKinlay. Pic: Heart of Midlothian FC.

Hearts’ new chief executive Andrew McKinlay has revealed how one of his ancestors was a founding member of the club back in 1874.

McKinlay’s great, great grandfather, George Mitchell, also scored against Hibs in a cup final and is one of the most notable figures in Tynecastle history.

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Mitchell’s involvement began a family association with the Edinburgh side which will now continue after owner Ann Budge appointed McKinlay CEO

The former Scottish FA official explained how his connection to Hearts dates back to the very origins of the club.

“In many ways, you could argue that this is like me coming back home,” he told the official Hearts website. “My great, great grandfather on my father’s side was one of the original members of Heart of Midlothian Football Club back in 1874.

“He was actually one of the players when they won the Edinburgh FA Cup in 1878 after a fourth replay. I’m glad to say we beat Hibs 3-2 in that fourth replay and he was one of the scorers.

“I have a family connection right back to the beginning of the club, so it’s wonderful to be here at the other end of the history of the club.”

Mitchell also featured as Hearts won the 1879 Presidents Cup and helped the club establish private grounds in Powburn and Powderhall before retiring from first-team football in 1880.

“I know how big this club is, how important it is in a Scottish football context. To have the opportunity to come here as chief executive is just a real privilege for me,” added McKinlay.

“It’s hard for me to tell you how much that excitement is. To come in to the home changing room, you get a real sense of what it’s about. I can only imagine how excited the players will be to get back in here. It’s fantastic and I can’t wait to get to really get stuck into things.

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“Ann and I have known each other for a few years from my time at the SFA. I was involved there when Ann took over the club and I’ve worked on a number of things with her.

“When Ann asked me if I was interested in coming here, I was delighted to hear that. We’ve had a lot of discussions about the way we will work together.

“By and large, Ann will focus on more strategic projects to really take Hearts to the next level. I’ll do more of the day-to-day things. Ann will be there to help me and I hope I’ll be there to help her.”

McKinlay’s knowledge of Scottish football’s governing bodies is something he plans to use to help Hearts after recent legal battles with the Scottish Professional Football League.

“I spent six years at the Scottish FA and we dealt with a lot of interesting issues during my time there. I think it’s fair to say you felt you were more of a firefighter than anything else as you went from one crisis to another,” he said.

“I know how the SFA works, I know how the SPFL works, I know all the main people involved in those organisations and I’d like to hope that is something I can bring to Hearts which will be helpful for us going forward.”

After a controversial relegation to the Scottish Championship, there is ony one priority at Tynecastle this season.

“Success for us this season is to get back up to the Premiership. Everyone will say exactly the same and we are keen to do that at the first time of asking,” said McKinlay.

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“I don’t think anyone is complacent. The Championship is going to be a difficult division, there will be difficult games and there are some good clubs in there.

“We need to make sure we take it seriously and come back up. I think everyone in the club will be working towards that goal.

“In my lifetime, I’ve always viewed Hearts as the third team in Scotland and I want to make sure we get ourselves back to that position.

“One of the important reasons for getting back to that level is there are bound to be a great number of opportunities coming about in football – particularly at European level – over the next few years.

“We are seeing changes in the football landscape and we all want to ensure that when the changes come that we are at the table, that we are best positioned to make sure we can take advantage.”

He added that supporters’ loyalty since Hearts emerged from administration back in 2014 deserves to be repaid. They have bought more than 11,000 season tickets over the summer despite no official date on when fans will return to stadiums.

“It’s only when you see what they’ve done, not just this summer but several years ago when the club was in trouble. I don’t think any other clubs has seen supporters rally in quite the same way as they did then and they have again now,” said McKinlay.

“We need to repay that loyalty. I’m very aware that for many of those individuals much of their life is about this club. It’s about coming to watch the team. Their whole week is about that, both coming into the game and after the game.

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“I want to make sure we get smiles on those faces and make sure they get what they deserve.

“I’ve been to Oriam in the past and I know how lucky we are as a club to have facilities like that. You come to the stadium and the pitch looks unbelievable. I still get a buzz any time I walk out into a football stadium.

“You are lucky when you work in sport but you are particularly lucky when you are working in an environment like this with the facilities here. I’ll be pinching myself every day.”

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