Christian Purslow, representing Aston Villa FC, is ready to sing for his supper. His Villa are not here to make up the numbers, get relegated without investment, and cash a big cheque, no. As long as he’s balancing the books and heading AVFC - and as long as Villa are part of the Premier League twenty - he’ll be ensuring that he makes good on the Premier League’s investment in the teams.
The money that is coming into the club is being spent on the club - and it’s a large reason as to why Aston Villa decided to spend so much money in the summer transfer window. £127 million is the initial outlay, and will rise to £145 million should Villa meet the terms of the various clauses that exist in each of the deals. When questioned on the spend, Purslow was more than happy to respond - he’s ready to reward the Premier League due to the money they have granted and will aim to create a competitive Aston Villa squad with the riches of England’s top tier.
However, if you were to state that it was ‘his’ Aston Villa, the smile on his face would likely turn into a slight grimace, and as many have already found out - a quick shot across the decks to correct the lines of questioning. It’s not his Villa, and the CEO is more than ready to correct people.
The one word Christian Purslow uses a lot? ‘Our’. Every single time that the AVFC CEO opened his mouth to speak about Aston Villa matters before the eyes of the nation, he spoke of ‘our Villa’, ‘our transfer window.’ In a world where the individual is king and the first-person interests take priority, Purslow is very happy to wrap it all up in a synecdoche. We’re Aston Villa. It’s ours. Altogether.
That stems from his job. What does a Chief Executive Officer do? There are varying answers to that, but Purslow’s definition of his job is ‘balancer’ - he’s there to manage, control, balance and communicate. It’s all about turning the multiple arms of a football club into one holistic corporate being with a single voice, from Content Creators to Marketing to Head Coach to Ownership. Aston Villa are united and while Purslow is more than ready to ensure his voice his heard, he’s just as able to listen - and balance.
Balance - that’s key. It contradicts the early criticism, fuelled by recency bias and a quick check of the blindspot where Fulham lie, of Villa’s £127 million transfer bounty spent on players from Belgium, Brazil, Spain, Zimbabwe, France, England and Egypt. The CEO will point out to you that the spine that won promotion is mostly the spine of this current squad.
The Villa boss has been on the receiving end of plenty of critiques from unwanted sources - and he’s very quick to shut them down with calm and reasonable answers. When questioned, Purslow can easily point to the connections between Aston Villa and their signings. A number of them were in the scouting database at the club, a number had already played under the Head Coach, some had played with current members of the squad. The new purchases that didn’t have a link? They were brought in early to maximise their time with the squad before the season kicked off.
It was never going to be a “trolley-dash” according to Purslow - and he’s very happy to state that he’s not met a Villan yet who is at all worried about the spending. It’s the spending that a great club like Villa requires.
Any money spent in the manner that Aston Villa have spent money will bring judgment and critique - and Purslow isn’t at all afraid of it, but he’s realistic. How can Villa ‘do a Fulham’ if the season has only just started. If you’re going to judge Villa, judge them when they actually fail - not before they do so. The budget, according to Purslow has been well thought-out and should be judged on its results.
The only judgement that Purslow takes on the transfer spending is that it is proof of the support that both he and Dean Smith have been granted by Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens - a far cry from the bankruptcy that Villa faced in June 2019. It’s a transformation started by NSWE - bringing Villa from an ageing and almost worthless squad to a young team, full of assets with lots of promise. It has been rebuilt - with no help from former owner Dr Tony Xia, who has had no contact or involvement with Purslow since he was bought out by NSWE last year.
As for his aims? Purslow sees no reason why Aston Villa can’t aim for a finish that places them in the top-half, but will take each game as it comes. Every phrase and word he delivers shows his clear joy in his current role - and as he’s happy to say, he’s living the dream. A football exec? Yes, but also a football fan. When he takes to the screen, it might seem like he’s a showman, but there is a lot of substance, and a plenty of mindfulness in his comments. Purslow has meaning and is ready to build Villa in his image, with the help of others, to finally thrust Aston Villa into the present.
For a club that has been stuck in the past, that’s more than a breath of fresh air.