Hearts owner Ann Budge ‘felt like throwing phone out of window’ during manager hunt

Ann Budge said she considered throwing her phone out the window as the pressures of the past few weeks piled up.

Hearts owner Ann Budge admits there is an element of risk in the appointment of Daniel Stendel. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Hearts owner Ann Budge admits there is an element of risk in the appointment of Daniel Stendel. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

But despite testing times during her five and a half years at the helm, exacerbated recently by the desire to shake up the football department in a bid to address the first team’s disappointing form, she has never seriously considered throwing in the towel.

Convinced she has the right man in place to replace ousted Craig Levein as manager, she knows that public perceptions of her rest on Daniel Stendel living up to her expectations and winning back disgruntled supporters.

“If I get it right I will be back to being everyone’s favourite whatever. If I get it wrong I will get stick,” said Budge. “But I am too long in the tooth to worry about it and I don’t have a career at stake, let’s put it that way.

“But this was the first time I’ve ever felt like throwing my phone out of the window, because in the last few weeks it just has not stopped, whether that’s messages, phone calls, WhatsApps or whatever. I wanted to scream and say ‘give me five minutes!’ But, having said that, I’ve still not finished the job I started. So, I’ll just keep going.”

The majority shareholder since stepping in, along with the Foundation of Hearts, to save the club from liquidation, she has steered it out of administration and stabilised the ship. But with club ownership about to be turned over to the fans in a matter of months, she says that if people are unhappy with the appointments 
she has made or decisions taken, they will soon have the 
power to act.

“Maybe the next person can do better,” she said. “The timing is quite helpful because, as you know, I am about to hand over the shareholding so I won’t be the majority shareholder. If people want change then, it is in their hands to get change and if they want to change the board then they can do that, too.

“But, it is important to me, personally, to get it right. Absolutely. I would rather, at the point I do hand over, hand over something that is successful and not something where people have got to go again and find a new manager. But as I said I don’t have a career relying on it. I’m not going to be applying for any more jobs!”

Sacked by Barnsely on the back of a ten-game winless run this term, Stendel does not come with any guarantees, but Budge says that he was the man who stood out from 
early in the recruitment 
process and despite facing obstacles along the way, she is pleased that they managed to get him tied up on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

She added: “I’d say it was a bit draining. It has been quite intense, because I didn’t really want to be in this position. It was not a happy place to start from.”

But having decided that change was needed, she was quickly inundated with notes of interest.

“Just a few days after we had relieved Craig of his duties, I was flying to Lisbon, by which time I had a pile of cvs and letters from agents and various people. All of which I took to Lisbon with me, all of which I went through,” she recalled. “I was on the phone for about three hours a day while I was away.

“But I thought, ‘let’s see what’s out there, let’s look for something different.’ So that was obviously going to make it a bit lengthy. And I would be lying if I said [switching attention elsewhere] didn’t sometimes cross my mind because we would get so close in negotiations and then I’d get a message, or something else would come up. So I thought, ‘if I don’t get this over the line, and if people think I’ve taken a long time so far, then just wait!’

“But we were convinced that Daniel was the one that we wanted – so it just meant that I’d keep going to try to get him. I think the one thing I did get clear in my head is that there is a risk no matter what we do.

“If I had brought in a clone of Craig it would have been risky and there would have been criticism so I don’t think it would have mattered who I brought in.

“Daniel is a risk and I think he said that himself. It would be great if he can go and win the next three, four or five games but if we don’t, I don’t think 
it means it is a failed appointment.

“We are trying a different way because, like the supporters, I was watching games and thinking there wasn’t enough passion. But his style will be different and I think he is a very passionate guy.”