For the past couple of seasons, Aston Villa have turned to practically one man as far as transfer business is concerned - and that was Technical Director Steve Round. Round, highly thought of in footballing circles was brought into the club so that both Roberto Di Matteo and Steve Bruce could be supplied with footballing talent, without having to spend hours searching for them.
Lists were provided by Round and his scouts with the managers selecting from these shortlists. A sort of transfer roundtable - but without the involvement of anyone with a conflicting mindset. Previously, Villa had employed three to four people with different approaches - Tom Fox, Tim Sherwood and Hendrik Almstadt along with Paddy Riley, and for the most part, this seemed to be a success. Transfer moves were challenged, good players with pedigree were brought in, high potential was sought and the best option seemed to be down to the choices of the group. Jordan Veretout, Rudy Gestede, Jordan Amavi, Jordan Ayew. Truth be told, that’s probably one of the better transfer windows that Villa have ever had - but it failed because the manager was not willing to employ the use of certain players and did not have the strength of character to push into the light through darkness. The season quickly fell apart. On paper though, this ‘transfer committee’ seemed to work, for the most part.
In a ideal world, a manager should not be responsible at all for putting names onto transfer shortlists. Either that, or they shouldn’t be allowed the final vote. The managerial position is an expendable position with even long term managers leaving within five years at a club. Too often are clubs saddled with big money signings that a newly signed manager will deem ‘surplus to requirements’. To put that within an AVFC context, the Ross McCormack situation at Villa is hardly new to world football. Villa, through inaction and heavy spending, were quickly placed into a situation where all transfer were under the control of Steve Bruce. While Bruce’s transfer budget dried up last summer, it still meant he could spend big wages on Glen Whelan, Ahmed Elmohamady and John Terry - all good signings to push Villa forward in the sense that Villa were lacking experience and a strong dressing room. However, when the push came to shove and the reigns were seemingly handed over to Bruce, Villa mortgaged their future and were stuck without a plan for if the worst came to pass. Within a year, they failed at the final hurdle and were thrust out of the play-offs by a successful Fulham side - built upon a modern transfer committee, a successful youth policy and forward-thinking ideas behind the scenes, whereas Aston Villa had literally bet their bottom dollar, without thinking of another season in the Championship. While Round and Bruce had secured a number of well-paid and high performing loanees, these players left after their loan deal expired. For the footballing regime under Round, it was a zero-sum game. For the wider footballing scene in England, there is more to life than promotion.
CEO Keith Wyness was dismissed after scrambling around to find investment. Villa missed a tax bill and the regime closed ranks. Round followed Wyness out the door. Villa were forced to seek new investment, and that came in the form of the NSWE consortium, operated and controlled by Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris. Villa, able to operate again, quickly moved into action to support Steve Bruce (of course, only after they had decided to keep Steve Bruce). That takes us to the now. The present time where Villa are depleted of footballing infrastructure and almost forced to keep Bruce in charge (which despite all criticism, probably isn’t a bad idea when the club is barren in a technical sense).
With the summer transfer window now closing for permanent incoming transfers before the footballing league season starts, Villa’s new owners are now in a position where - for this season alone - they cannot enact their plans. Edens and Sawiris had decided to involve themselves in Aston Villa on the 11th of July. Within two weeks, they had purchased their stake in the club. This project has moved at lightning speed - and that means keeping Steve Bruce is a must. However, the club cannot hire nor vet a new technical director, which means due to the speed of the project- their hands have been tied. Saving Villa, in the meantime, has meant stabilising Villa, and it looks as though Steve Bruce will be given a single season at Villa so that Edens and Sawiris can enact their project. Promotion? It’d be a massive bonus.
Firstly, Villa have stalled on all sales. Clearly, a negotiating tactic as Villa still need to put some work in to remove the burden of financial fair play - but for the meantime, they won’t sell Jack Grealish to Tottenham Hotspur, nor James Chester to Stoke City. Tottenham have all but given up on an immediate move for Grealish, but Stoke are chasing Chester even as his price rises - and will now chuck players at Villa (including Charlie Adam) to get their man. Overnight, they have moved into a great negotiation position.
But what about incoming transfers? So it is that Villa have turned to a new transfer policy. As revealed by Alan Nixon of The Sun.
On his Twitter feed, Nixon made it clear that Villa have turned to a number of footballing agencies to source high-quality players on loan-to-buy deals (a common option for high profile clubs in the 21st century to secure incredibly talented, but ill-used players). They have already spoken to Jorge Mendes (who you should know) and as a result have seemingly acquired talented goalkeeper Andre Moreira on a loan-to-buy deal, where Villa can cash in to buy Moreira if he can show that he’s a quality option. If they lose out, then they lose nothing. In the meantime at least, this shows an incredibly adaptive array of thinking from Villa’s current ownership. In another world, Steve Bruce is forced to ‘wheel and deal’ which could only serve as a massive problem. While Steve Bruce’s transfer record isn’t incredibly awful when money is all but taken away from him (ask any Hull City fan), it’s simply a distraction from the real business of managing the team.
The question still remains. Will Steve Bruce be willing to play players that he has no control over purchasing? If so - Villa could have an issue. If he is willing to cater for a bunch of unfamiliar faces, Villa could have success yet.