Keith Wyness appeared on BBC WM, the local radio station for Villa fans in Brum. Brave enough, Villa’s CEO stepped up to the plate not just to talk to the presenters of the Football Phone-In, but also took a number of questions from callers.
I’ve sat down and transcribed that for you here! There’s ten callers with varied questions. Some of it is paraphrased (to save my fingers), but most of it is intact. If there are mistakes, we will correct them.
Caller 1: Tom from Dudley
Tom started off the call by complimenting Wyness and told him to keep ‘doing what he is doing.’
“What do you actually think has been the main factor of the uplift in the club? Bruce, John Terry, the squad?”
Keith: Tom, it’s good to see improvements in all areas of the club, the one thing that has made a difference is stability - in terms of [Steve] Bruce and the sqaud. I believe that is a key factor in all football clubs. We’ve had rough patches in the last 12 months, but we’ve stuck through that and we’ve benefited from that stability.
Presenter (Franks): What about the so-called ‘Mass Hysteria’?
Keith: First of all, everyone has opinions, I accept that completely. However it’s the stability that allows us to get through rough patches. Change won’t fix that.
Caller 2: Tom from Aetherstone
Tom sounds like he is enjoying his Friday night (he’s pissed). He agrees with the previous caller and Keith and appreciates the stability towards the business end of the season.
Tom doesn’t really have a question, he just talks about wanting another striker and hoping that Scott Hogan’s form continues. It’s all about the goals. The presenter presents that to Keith.
Presenter: Let’s bring that to Keith. Villa have spent. Ross McCormack of course is playing his trade in Australia now, he was that good. Hogan has now started to score goals. A lot of people have said a lot of things about him, but are the fruits of that investment now showing?
Keith: Yeah, I mean we go back to stability I’m afraid. Scott didn’t have a good run for various reasons. Now he’s showing what he can do, and yeah - we didn’t use him right. The key factor is Steve Agnew, our new coach who’s made a difference to him. We are nowhere near finished, there’s a lot more to do.
Presenter: Getting down to brass tacks and the transfer window. Without specifics, how confident are you of a new face coming in?
Keith: Well, you said we’ve got a good squad with depth. We’re not going to bring anyone in unless they make a difference. Those players aren’t cheap and are few and far between. As we sit here, we don’t think anyone is going to come in. Now, here’s an exclusive for you - some of the names, big names, we’ve been looking at, like Robin Van Persie, players of that quality.
Presenter: You looked at RVP?
Keith: Certainly, he just wasn’t the right type for us at the time.
Presenter: Not right in terms of football or finances?
Keith: Football. That’s the key factor
Presenter: When did you decide not to pursue that?
Keith: Probably 2 weeks ago. It’s that level we are looking that. However, we don’t think we can bring in improvements.
Presenter: Do you get promoted with this side? What about FFP?
Keith: I am confident in the squad we have got. About FFP, let us clarify this. We will not be breaching FFP rules this season. Next season is a challenge, but we can handle it if we don’t get promoted. If we get promoted, things take care of themselves. FFP is a boring and complex situation and the politics around it are changing. I believe it’s a poor rule as it doesn’t allow you to pour money in. It protects the position of the big clubs, and we can’t invest in Aston Villa.
Presenter: It’s absolutely paramount to get that Premier League money. That’s a headache if you don’t go up.
Keith: Yes, we have to review it all, the squad.
Caller 3: Jay from Handsworth
Jay pays his condolences to those who have passed away in the Midlands football scene including Cyrille Regis
“With regards to FFP, what happens if we don’t go up NEXT season”
Keith: We simply have a smaller amount of money. We have enough in our squad to keep building and challenging. We can manage. Again, we need to question the structure of FFP. It’s an active discussion. Teams that get promoted aren’t just spending money, they are building teams.
Presenter: Are Wolves over the horizon now, with their team clearly built?
Keith: It’s football, we will never knows. Who knows? They’ve done it, there’s a lot of questions about that.
Jay’s Second Question:
“If we get promoted this season, how do we improve in the Premier League because this squad would probably get relegated”
Keith: There’s been discussions for next season. We have plans for the squad. People talk about promotion as though it’s a gift. However, we can’t just spend without thought. The reality is that we need to stabilise for three years and build the squad to stay up before pushing on and challenging. I think we just need to build a style of play through the Villa Engine while surviving. The bottom ten clubs have a reality where they play negative football to stay alive. We need to build on that.
Presenter: The reality is though - we’re getting Wolves and Villa fans enjoying Championship football. You’re winning games and scoring goals. In the Premier League, it’s going to be a struggle.
Keith: Many fans are enjoying the football and winning. Still, I want us to get into the Premier League and challenging, but it will take a number of years.
Presenter: Tony Xia said he wanted Villa to emulate Barcelona in five or six years.
Keith: Hey, we’re still on target for five or six seasons. Let’s just see
Caller 4: John from Stourbridge.
He’s an older fan and he thanks Keith for the stability. He thinks Keith has the brains to get people in and get Villa moving forward.
“Will we get the upper tier of the Trinity Stand open?”
Keith: We want to, the Birmingham game is one where it’s going to be open. It’s not easy, because everyone just assumes we can fill the stadium. Even with lower prices, if we bumped them down, would it sell out? It’s just an assumption. It’s not that simple. It’s all about how we are doing on the pitch. I think there’s a few games where we will sell out. We think 32,000 will head to the Barnsley game, and that could be a spark. The Villa fans will come out in numbers if we start winning well. We can get people in with ticket promotions and schools, we will do what we can to increase the crowd.
Caller 5: Alan in Solihull
Alan isn’t Steve’s greatest fan. He wanted him sacked! However, he thinks Steve Agnew has benefited the squad. We’ll start of with his question
“Can we get rid of no-show Micah and no-show Gabby? They must be costing us millions. It’s a disgrace.”
Keith: Alan, I understand it. We inherited these contracts. That’s the facts and we can’t change that. Gabby is trying to contribute, Micah hasn’t played, but in order to move these players on, clubs must be interested in them. At this stage, there is no interest. Gabby’s contract is up at the end of the season so we will make a decision there.
Presenter: Could you not just terminate the deals?
Keith: Not really. Bruce has played Gabby and Gabby is an option. We don’t need to do that. With Micah, that’s a few years away. We’ll try to find something that suits him if we move him on.
Alan’s Second Question:
“How did we manage to sign John Terry?”
Keith: We (Wyness and Steve Bruce) had lunch after the season had finished and he said he wanted John Terry. I laughed. There’s not a chance. However, Bruce met with John and talked to him. Terry realised that we could get him playing and show him behind the scenes. We had a lot to offer him. He was offered massive deals. He was offered a ten million pound fee to sign with one club, but he signed us. He has been tremendous for us. He signed because of Steve Bruce and Steve Round.
Presenter: Out of interest, if you were promoted - would John Terry stick around?
Keith: Well, we agreed to talks at the end of the season. There are options. Now, John didn’t play a lot at Chelsea towards the end. We’d need to review it at the end of the season.
At the start of the conversation there was a discussion about Steve Agnew:
Presenter: What has Steve Agnew brought to the club then?
Keith: Okay, we were a coach light in terms of numbers. Steve is a gifted coach with an attacking focus. He’s been accepted by the players, Hogan’s a great example. Agnew has spent 1-to-1 time with our strikers - Rushian, Keinan, Scotty. It’s helped and helps our group of coaches concentrate on their focus - Colin [Calderwood] can now focus on the defence. It’s about attention to detail.
Alan: I agree. Steve Bruce has proved me wrong. I think we can finish 2nd.
Caller 6: Dave in Bloxwich
Dave passes his condolences to the family of Cyrille Regis before going into his question.
“I’m not a fan of how Bruce treats the kids. O’Hare has done well when he’s come on, but where is he?”
Keith: I have to disagree with you slightly there Dave. Bruce has brought the youth in well. It’s hard to see how they are ready for a match and only Steve can judge that. Callum is a great talent and he’s going to get chances. However, we need to give them the right start. We need to handle them.
Dave: It’s always in an out though! On, then off, then on. Look, we played them out of postion against Peterborough. The selections are unusual. Onomah gets chances and O’Hare doesn’t get them and Josh Onomah isn’t ours.
Keith: As a young player you are fighting for your place every day. As for the Peterborough team, I was excited for the team with young talent, now it didn’t work out. The u23 team is fantastic and now they need to bounce back and show character.
Caller 7: Christina
Christina agrees with Keith’s planning and can see the improvements.
“Given where you are now - excluding the plans for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, what is the biggest challenge on the pitch and off the pitch?”
Keith: Off the pitch - it’s the development of Villa Park. There is no news on the develop. We have some amazing architectural plans - it’s going to be a centre if it goes forward. Now, it’s a huge development at Villa Park. There’s stages including the North Stand and capacity, but also the area of Villa Park. Also, the social element - I’m proud of the Aston Villa Foundation.
Keith: On the pitch - building a sustainable club that can manage within the constraints of FFP. Also, the Villa Engine - we want to build a philosophy through Steve Round and give us future hope. It’s a style of play - these changes start in the youth teams and come through. The first team can’t do it as it has a challenge to meet.
A text comes in from a listener before the next call; after Keith’s performance on the show, the listener is now happy with how Villa were run after having concerns.
Caller 8: Julie
Julie starts off by appreciating Keith’s answers on financial fair play and parachute payments.
“Just to echo the question about the style of football. It’s improved since Agnew has been here. The key to getting bums on seats is attacking football. We’re a good team. Hopefully that continues?
Keith: I take the point. Stability is the key point. We’ve got a healthy-ish squad and if it stays like that, we can play more attacking towards the end of the season.
Caller 9: Jason
Jason thanks Keith Wyness for being open on the show.
“Why isn’t Steve Bruce more accessible on WM?”
Presenter: To be fair, we haven’t asked him on. We will get him on before the end of the season.
Jason’s Second Question:
“Sky is ruining the game. Games are being changed at the drop of a hat, as a season ticket holder, sometimes I’m caught out. How do I get a refund?”
Keith: This is a problem. We need that TV money. However, there are eight weeks notice of changes. We are being picked too often by Sky - but we are a big club with a big following. I want to help fans who can’t make it though.
Caller 10: Darren
Darren goes straight into it.
“How about the atmosphere. We had drums in the Holte End?”
Keith: I’m not going with a drummer! The Holte is pure and when we do well, they will back us.
Keith Wyness performed very well and handled the questions admirably. There were some difficult ones! However, Julie made a good point. Regardless of what is said, we need to look to what is done. People were assured that Carillion wouldn’t collapse, and it did!
Myself? After hearing the full interview, I’m happy with Villa. I think we’re in, for the most part, good hands.