My fellow Villans, the 2017/2018 season did not end the way that we all wanted. Emotions have been flying high, curses yelled loudly, and pints of beer consumed. And that is OK — sports are an emotional outlet for me — and likely many of you. Many supporters have gone on a Villa hiatus and as the calendar flips to June the focus must turn from the May failure to the preparation for August renewal. There are some scary headlines and a roller coaster summer ahead.
But let’s start with where the team is right now.
Current Roster with a few of the reserve players I expect to be given a chance (contract through according to Transfermarkt).
- Pierluigi Gollini (2020) ** (Transfer likely)
- Jed Steer (2019)
- Matija Sarkic (2020)
- James Chester (2020)
- Tommy Elphick (2019) ** (Transfer reported)
- Micah Richards (2019)
- Neil Taylor (2021)
- Ahmed Elmohamady (2020)
- Ritchie De Laet (2019)
- James Bree (2021)
- Easah Suliman (2019)
- Mitchell Clark (2019)
- Mile Jedinak (2019)
- Glenn Whelan (2019)
- Jordan Lyden (2019)
- Conor Hourihane (2020)
- Henri Lansbury (2021)
- Birkir Bjarnason (2020)
- Gary Gardner (2020)
- Aaron Tshibola (2020)
- Jack Grealish (2020)
- André Green (2019)
- Albert Adomah (2020)
- Carles Gil (2019) ** (Transfer imminent)
- Jake Doyle-Hayes (2020 (TM has it at 2018 but the youngster signed a three-year extension in 2017))
- Callum O’Hare (2019)
- Ross McCormack (2020)
- Jonathan Kodjia (2020)
- Scott Hogan (2021)
- Keinan Davis (2020)
- Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (2020)
Follow the Money
Cliff notes (TL;DR for you young folk out there who don’t know what Cliff Notes were): FFP is a problem — but not one that should make Aston Villa noncompetitive this season. There have to be some outgoing transfers and ones that cover losses in a significant way.
Tony Xia sought to reassure supporters that they club is aware and have a plan — “Under the current circumstances, I think the club needs to rethink not only the past two years but also the past ten years. Villa needs to be a sustainable football club. People join. People leave.”
To Bruce, or not to Bruce?
It is yet another question that we do not have an answer to.
Arguments for keeping Steve Bruce:
- Aware of the FFP restrictions.
- Helped cure the rot of the club.
- Instrumental in recruiting players.
- Improvement and growth of Jack Grealish.
- Got Villa to the playoff final in his first full year.
Arguments for firing Steve Bruce:
- Lost the playoff final.
- Defaults to ugly football (see first half of final — actually don’t watch it again. It hurts).
- Lack of rotation.
- Seems to have lack of trust in youth players, which could stifle growth (Grealish is obvious exception).
Tony Xia’s statement was vague on the issue. “I know that all our management staff, coaches, players and myself need to get back on our feet and prepare to fight again (Bruce & co stay!)... I want to thank Steve from the bottom of my heart, particularly for his remarkable level of professional focus despite losing his parents this year. With that, I would like to say thank you to Steve and his coaching staff once again for leading the team forward wholeheartedly throughout the season (Bruce & co go!).
For me it comes down to the question of possible alternatives. I don’t have the answer -- but if Villa fire Bruce — they should do it soon and better have manager ready.
Jack and the Giant Question
The other big questions is of course the fate of Jack Grealish. Can Aston Villa compete without their best player? Can Aston Villa compete if they keep their best player — but have to sell the supporting cast?
It is a miserable situation of Villa’s own making from reckless spending and now the bill has come due.
Mark the Summer Calendar
Thursday June 21 — Championship schedule announcement.
Saturday June 9 — Transfer window for international transfers
Thursday August 9 - EFL summer transfer window closes for permanent transfers (loan deadline is August 31 — so in essence a player could be “loaned” with a permanent transfer effective on January 1, 2019.)
The question marks are there right now. The summer is not going to be pretty. The club has to find an answer on management, fix the finances, and re-arm the squad for another promotion push. That is a tall ask but what must be done.
Up the Villa.