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Hearts in Europe as turnaround ahead of target

Ann BudgeHearts have secured a slot in European competition next season, marking a remarkable turnaround in the club’s fortunes.

Three years ago, following its tumultuous ownership by the Lithuanian Vladimir Romanov, the Tynecastle club fell into administration and was barred from signing players aged over 21 for eight months.

Technology entrepreneur Ann Budge (pictured)  fronted a consortium which acquired the club in May 2014 and it exited administration a month later.

Relegation that year led to a season in the Championship which ended with the league title and the aim of finishing in the top six this year.

Last night’s goal-less draw at Inverness guaranteed the club’s place in the Europa League and valuable extra revenue.

It will also boost the club as it plans to redevelop the stadium with a new 7,000 all-seater main stand.

Coach Robbie Neilson said: “European football is great for the club. Obviously top-six was the aim this year so to be able to secure European football before the split is great for us.

“We’ve taken two huge strides over the course of the last two seasons – one, getting out of the Championship and the next one getting into Europe. It’s important to try and build on that over the summer and keep that positive momentum going.”

However, he is taking a realistic view of the club’s prospects of splashing the cash on the squad and there will be no big-spending over the summer.

“We have to recruit guys that are out of contract, free agents,” he said. “We have got quite a few players we have targeted but nothing concrete yet.”

Hearts’ best showing in European competition was in the 1988-89 UEFA Cup when they reached the quarter–finals and narrowly lost 2–1 on aggregate to Bayern Munich.

The club became both the first–ever Scottish club and the first–ever British club to reach the new group stage format of the 2004-05 UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) . They also qualified for the 2006-07 Champions League, becoming the first Scottish team from outside the Old Firm  to do so since the tournament changed from the European Cup to the Champions League.


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