It has been almost three weeks since Aston Villa’s playoff final triumph and the transfer merry-go-round is in full swing at Villa Park.
Most recently the club announced the record signing of Brazilian striker Wesley Moraes from Club Brugges for £22million, which blindsided the Villa faithful, who have been perpetually awaiting the announcement of Tyrone Mings since Wembley.
In truth not many of us can claim to know anything about Wesley, who is due in Birmingham at the weekend, presumably to have his picture taken and await international clearance. However, this signing feels very significant in our rapid accent into the Premier League, not least because it breaks, or at least matches a decade old transfer fee record, set by the purchase of Darren Bent.
As a fan it has been an astonishing ride to where we are now. I was thinking back, after the announcement, to one match in particular on the 8th February verses Sheffield United at Villa Park, live on Friday Night Football. I was considering the atmosphere in the stadium as Billy Sharp completed his hattrick to put Villa three-nil down and several incidents happening around me in the Holte End, downstairs in the concourse as disgruntled fans left early and jeering from all around the ground.
As we know, three goals in the last 10 minutes completed a remarkable comeback and in many ways sums up Villa’s season, however for around 20 minutes or so, the mood was as low as it has been at any point since relegation. Scuffling and arguments broke out between fans and the Upper Holte End concourse looked like a whirlwind had gone through it. There was sarcastic cheering as Villa tried to put some passes together and even Mings’ fine headed goal to start the comeback was greeted with muted appreciation.
We don’t need to go over what has happened since as we have all waxed lyrical about it hundreds of times over. However, where we find ourselves now, just four months later really feels like part of a dream, from which we are expectant of a rude awakening.
The news that Villa will travel to Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day of the season, to play in their phenomenal new stadium brings this feeling even more to the fore. No-one, no matter how confident would’ve expected us to be playing there in August in anything more than a pre season friendly.
Whilst the Champions League finalists await, we appear to be on the brink of an exciting summer of transfer activity, which could see that transfer record broken more than once more, if reports are to be believed. Whilst that is symptomatic of the huge transfer inflation during our time in the wilderness, it only adds to the shellshock from the dramatic change in fortunes and the expectation shift since that Sheffield United match.
fter a summer of bad news and worry twelve months ago, this summer is almost polar opposite as everything at the club from top to bottom appears to be progressive and professional. Even the fear that we could replicate Fulham’s disastrous transfer window of last year, writing huge cheques an disrupting the squad, is tempered by a feeling that our guys know what they’re doing and exude and project confidence around the club and fan base. Even ‘Villa Twitter’ is relatively calm, barring some overly emotional desperation to get the Mings deal completed.
There is no doubt that this is a time to be enjoyed for fans. We have endured the miserable deterioration towards relegation and the stress associated with the promotion campaigns of the past two seasons, so we should be lapping the positivity up now. However, it is worth remembering that Villa will be seen as potential whipping boys and relegation favourites going into the season, so a quite and humble confidence should be the order of the day.
There is every chance that the new look squad may take some time to gel and adjust to top flight football, so it will be important to stick together and continue the raucous support that we showed, home and away last season and to not turn on individuals or the manager at the first sign of difficulty. We certainly have a deal of momentum and the support plays a vital role in keeping that going.
Dean Smith tells his players to ‘be a good teammate’ before each game. I firmly believe that applies to us as fans too, by backing our players when they do well and cheering them even louder when they are having a tough time.
In the meantime lets savour the new additions as they arrive and build the excitement for the new season and a brand new Aston Villa Football Club ascending to the Premier League.