On Wednesday afternoon, Ann Budge was sat in the Gorgie Suite fielding questions about possible interest in Heart of Midlothian head coach Steven Naismith. It was lost on no one that just 83 days ago, in the very same room at Tynecastle Park, questions were being asked of the board about the decision to appoint the 37-year-old as manager in the first place.

Safe to say those questions have been answered in the best way possible. Since the club's AGM back in December, Hearts have lost just once in 14 games. And this week there were reports, tenuous ones at that, that Millwall, 18th in the Championship, are admirers of Naismith. 

More pertinently, the questions the board faced back then have been flipped. Is there now an appetite for the club to tie Naismith down on a longer contract? He, along with Frankie McAvoy and Gordon Forrest, signed deals until 2025 with an option for a further year this summer.

READ MORE: Steven Naismith reflects on Hearts journey and 8 months as head coach

"I would probably say yes to that but, again, Steven has been in this game a long time and I don't know if he would be prepared to make that commitment or not," Budge, the club's chair, said. "I haven't asked him.

"It is not a short, sharp exercise, it's a long-term project. If he feels that together we can make Hearts even more successful, I think he will want to stay."

In the view of some fans, Budge, who had been talking at the launch of the club's Maroon Mile project, has been given managers too much time amid dissenting voices. It is certainly worth noting that at the time of the AGM, Naismith had been in permanent post for 23 games. Just two days after the event, Hearts went to Celtic and won 2-0, beginning the impressive run the team have been on.

"It's a funny old game," she said. "I really do think you've got to give managers a chance. Yes, certain things weren't working, but it was always clear in his head what we had to do differently. He would analyse why something had gone wrong. He gets frustrated, you've seen that at least as often as I have, but he was never giving up.

"He was saying: 'We know what we need to do, we need to keep doing it and it will come good.' I and the rest of the board have every confidence in him."

As Hearts boss, Naismith has spoken in a manner that suggests there is no short-term thinking. There is a desire to put building blocks in place and make changes to the way the club operates, whether that be stylistically on the field, how to produce more players from the academy, or ensuring there is not a sizeable overhaul of players from one season to the next.

READ MORE: How Steven Naismith wants Hearts to get better at producing academy talent

It points to a long-term plan.

"Yes, that's something we have talked about," Budge said. "This isn't a short, sharp gig where he comes in for a year or so. It is: Help us take Hearts to the next level. That's the way he thinks and that's the way he talks."

Budge, it is clear, views Naismith highly and she plans to catch up with him this week having recently been on holiday. She is keen to ensure that she and the club provide the head coach with the resources and environment to be successful and to reach the next level.

Naismith confirmed recently, that the next step is to finish third regularly and be closer to the Old Firm than the teams behind.

READ MORE: Lawrence Shankland next Hearts milestones - 66-year wait, top scorer, 30 goals?

"Things are going well," Budge said. "Steven has presented his view on what Hearts must do to continuously improve to get to the next level. The board have backed him all the way and will continue to do so.

"Will somebody come in from left field - whether it's Millwall or anybody else - and make him an offer he feels he can't refuse? I hope not, but I can't do anything about that. I can only give him all the support he needs and keep listening to him.

"I'm as confident as I can be that things are going well for Steven. Obviously, he wants to do as well as he can as a manager. As long as he is getting a challenge, I think that is part of it. If we were unable to help him achieve the next part of his development, I could understand why he'd want to leave. As long as he's got the backing of everybody here and things are going well, I'm optimistic that he won't be in any big rush to leave."