Aston Villa took a major step today in proving that it knows there are lands beyond the green fair isles of Britain. They've hired Michael Henke as their head of European scouting. Henke has previously held similar roles at Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. He worked as a coach with Paul Lambert (as a player) in their time at Borussia Dortmund, so there is a history between the two.
Everything about the linked article is encouraging. First, we start with what Henke likes in a player:
Our objective will be to identify young players who have a good future and a good mentality... It is not only about good technique but it is also about the right character... It is not always about young, emerging talent either - also players with experience who will be motivated by the challenge and who we believe will bring the right qualities to Aston Villa and benefit the club
But perhaps even more exciting is the official company line on expanding scouting:
Henke's appointment and the arrival of players such as Karim El Ahmadi, Ron Vlaar and Brett Holman demonstrate the strong focus on the European market and new manager Lambert's determination to work with the club in enhancing key areas that will ensure long-term strength and development.
Be sure to read the whole article, it's worth it. And, once you do, I imagine that you'll be positively giddy with where this club is headed. No, Henke isn't the left back that we all desperately want, but he is a really strong sign that the club is headed in a direction that will lead to success now and sustained success in the future.
The past two years have seen a few knee-jerk reaction moves that haven't paid off (and, going back to MON's tenure, have actively hurt the club). It seems that, under Paul Lambert, Aston Villa want to win now, and they want to lay the foundation for a return to Europe. This won't be quick or easy, but it's absolutely something that the club can accomplish. It's hard to remember sometimes, but Aston Villa are one of the most decorated clubs in Europe. It wasn't always true that being a Villa fan led to sympathy from others. Maybe, just maybe, that will stop before long. Everything we've seen this summer points to a return to Aston Villa actually re-claiming its old place in the football hierarchy. The move to snag Henke - even if he specifically doesn't pan out - is just another encouraging sign that we're working towards that goal.