We’ve only gone and done it, Aston Villa are back where we belong in the Premier League and after a week of celebrations (especially from our boy Jack!) it’s time to let the dust settle and look ahead to what will surely be Villa’s biggest transfer window in a long long time.
Let’s start with the players heading for the exit door. At the time of writing the club have confirmed the departures of Glen Whelan, Albert Adomah, Alan Hutton, Mile Jedinak, Tommy Elphick, Mark Bunn, Ritchie De Laet and Micah Richards. I personally wish every player on that list well and none of them leave with any ill feeling.
Even the likes of Micah Richards who I know some supporters feel let down by has my best wishes, sure he’s been collecting money from the club and not playing but that is not his fault, look towards poor previous management before we all jump on the back of somebody who has had a lot of physical issues.
As for the rest they leave as icons, as part of the team that won us promotion in tremendous style! I will never ever forget Hutton’s Messi-esque goal against Blues or the way Whelan went from an afterthought to one of the stars of the season. Jedinak’s Viking stare into the away end at The Hawthorns still gives me chills and let’s not forget Uncle Albert’s dance moves. Farewell lads, it’s truly been a pleasure.
As much as I will miss those guys it’s time to look towards the future. I’m going to be working off the assumption that we will be able to sign big, bad Tyrone Mings and our silky new hero Anwar El Ghazi, at least I hope so! I think it’s incredibly important to try keep as much of this team together as possible, it’s clear they all have an amazing bond and losing the players mentioned above as well as Axel Tuenzebe and Tammy Abraham who will both likely be returning to the fold at their parent clubs, will definitely have an impact on that special team bond Dean Smith has built.
With that in mind I really hope we keep some of the older players in the squad, players such as Ahmed Elmohamady and Neil Taylor who I can’t help but envision being victims to last minute transfers back to the Championship after younger, more expensive replacements come in. Yes they would likely be reserved to playing a more bit-part role but keeping as many familiar faces around from one of the best seasons in recent history I think will be important just to keep as much momentum and positivity going as possible. We don’t want to do a Fulham...
Fulham this time last year found themselves in the same position as we are now, having just won the play-offs and being constantly reminded by pundits, commentators and all media platforms that now they’re a Premier League club they have an extra £100 million in the bank to play with; and that they did! Almost exactly £100m was in fact spent over the season on around fifteen incoming players, some permanent and some loans, some of them being big names that carry big wages. By the time their first game of the season rolled around at home to Crystal Palace, Fulham had 9 new players in their matchday squad and more would soon follow.
Eventually the likes of Ryan Sessegnon who was pivotal in their promotion winning campaign was pushed aside. I can’t begin to imagine how damaging that must be to a young players confidence and attitude, especially when those new players don’t do the job. Fulham would go on to finish in 19th place with only seven wins to their name and having gone through three managers. If you were to tell me now that Dean Smith would be sacked by November much like Slaviša Jokanović was, I think I’d lose all hope
We have to be patient, Fulham tried to buy a whole new squad on their first season back and it blew up in their face. Sure we need to improve in certain areas and money will of course need to be spent, it’s naive to think otherwise but we have to go careful not to completely overhaul the current squad. John McGinn is a fantastic example of business done right as he fits right into the team, has a great attitude and is of course a brilliant player that we managed to snap up for a bargain price. Players who won’t disrupt the dressing room is a must, the last thing we want to do is bring in big players on big wages with big egos and bigger expectations. Though I do want to say that I have the utmost confidence in not only Dean Smith but Christian Purslow and the entire set up we now have to not go make silly decisions like that.
Youth also seems to be high on the list for Smith and judging by the players he’s allowed to leave the club, this would definitely seem like the case. If things work out this way and we are able to snap up some young and hungry players who have a brilliant work ethic without pushing aside the top players that got us here in the first place then there would only be one thing left to do - support them.
Yes we are Aston Villa, yes we are one of the biggest teams in the country but let’s not get too carried away, there’s every chance that this ambitious attack minded Dean Smith team comes up against the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool and gets absolutely smashed 5-0. This may well happen and if it does then let’s not all jump on their backs, let’s support them through thick and thin and show the Premier League why we’re the best supporters in the land. Let’s not lose our heads and start calling for Smith to be sacked after a bad run or start demanding that we spend more money in January to try stay up as it’s that attitude that got us in this mess to begin with! We have to be smart and build a team of players who want to play for the badge, players similar to what we essentially already have, a great bunch of lads who understand what it means to be part of the pride. So let’s not try build a typical overpaid ego-driven Premier League side, let’s try build an Aston Villa that we can be proud of in the top flight.
Up the Villa!