Been away for a week, and the transfer news has been flying fast and furious. I know it’s always this way, but I’ve lost track of the number of players we’ve been linked with. Then there are new sponsors to go along with a new kit partner, the upcoming season’s fixtures, and the exodus.

I don’t know that all the departures really need much addressing other than to say Thank You, All. It’s been a side I’ve liked in terms of character and effort, and obviously most everyone has contributed to getting Villa back up.

And while I might’ve been a touch surprised at how quickly it all came about, I can’t believe there was any surprise amongst the players. Well, I guess someone found out from a reporter’s call, but each of them would’ve known that’s always how it was going to be. Which in many ways makes their achievement even more remarkable. They all played for themselves, each other and the club, knowing full well that winning the final and grasping promotion would be their swan song at Villa.

The alacrity with which Villa cleared the dressing room (and wages) obviously indicates that decisions had been made a while back and that there’s no time to waste getting the club remade in time for the preseason. So, Promotion Plan was implemented, and it seems a lot of homework has been done.

Exhibit A was the speed with which they shipped out Gary Gardner and got Jota in. Exhibit B is what’s being called the shock signing of Wesley. There’s some obvious intent when you go out and sign someone we’ve barely heard of for £22m or whatever it ends up being. Was good to see Anwar El Ghazi made permanent, and that the Hause option has also been exercised. Everyone’s getting sick waiting to hear about Tyrone Mings, but that will sort itself out soon enough. And getting rid of Ross McCormack? Had to happen, obviously, and there was no hesitation to get it done.

I’m feeling good about the business so far because I feel good about the people making the decisions. And I feel good about quick action. That means thought has gone into things already, and Villa were primed to act and trump the Barcodes to sign Wesley, for example. And now the rest of the business promises to be rather interesting.

I’ve seen various interpretations of our needs in the always excellent comments, and I can’t say any are far off the mark. Given that neither has really played much part of late, I’d be betting Henri Lansbury and Birkir Bjarnason might also be considered surplus to requirements, but we’ll see what deals can be made. With Andre Green, I’m thinking he’ll need to go out on loan. He seems to have a taken a step backward, and was not the same player who impressed before his lengthy layoff. There’s a good athlete there, but his decision-making and work-rate, at least, need to improve. Maybe he just needs more time in the system. Who knows.

Jonathan Kodjia? Hard seeing him strike terror into the hearts of PL defenses any longer. Scott Hogan, well, even less frightening. Unless he’s still on the books. I’m not sure what to make of Conor Hourihane’s future. There are a lot of links to midfielders, and one wonders. After the job Kalvin Phillips did on Jack Grealish, I wouldn’t mind seeing him in claret and blue. He’s athletic, quick, young, and plays with a lot of bite. We’re going to need that. But if reports are true, I’ll be curious to see how Villa view a £20m valuation, and whether Leeds will play ball regardless.

So obviously there’s still lots more to happen. Wouldn’t mind seeing a smaller striker to complement Wesley. We need to sort the fullbacks, bring in some more wing depth/competition, get another CB or two for the same reasons, and, it would seem, another keeper. Be a bit strange if Lovre Kalinic came and went so quickly and quietly, but I suppose that’s the way it works, and even though he hardly impressed, we could probably recoup some money given he hardly played and it will chalked up to what was in front of him and not getting a chance to settle. And Orjan Nyland, I’ve no idea about. The situation might seem unfair to Jed Steer, but honestly I think we’re going to need a better and more seasoned keeper.

Anyway, seems like good business so far. The backing’s there along with the awareness that we can’t stay up on the cheap. Players near and far are being considered. We’re getting younger. In other words, I can’t complain yet.

And then wouldn’t it be lovely to turn over Spurs opening day? First things first, though.

Over to you.

Comments 31

  1. Hi guys always reading never posting. Took me about 6 months to find my password.
    Can’t believe we are back up.
    I haven’t seen this kind of enthusiasm entertainment in so so long. It’s almost like winning lottery for football.
    Great to hear very sensible positive sounds coming Smith & Purslow.
    Some super interesting signings. It’s almost like these young players want to come here because they see something good seriously happening.
    Thanks John Clarke your a legend keeping it going since Matt.
    Steamer would be loving this. Actually puts a real spring in my step at the moment.
    Loving spurs for first game. We should bring the cup, to
    Show them what it looks like . Utv

  2. It’s actually unreal, this time last year we were going bust and Bruce at helm. Just about keeping above water. Roll on 12 months . Un recognizable. Hope it all
    Comes together

  3. Thanks JC
    Good write up mate, you’re saying most of what I’m thinking, & Green didn’t was ok in flashes so probably needs more time to really get fit & be integrated back into the DS system & time to make an understanding with whatever right back they end up with.
    Then they’ll all be starting from scratch with half a new team
    Im really looking forward to preseason, especially to see the new Wesley Morris Brazilian, if it is confirmed.

    But as you say, the management have been quietly direct, signalling that they’re actually being professional & have a clear idea of where they want to go.

    I don’t think Hogan will be here for much longer either.

    The kids appear to have got younger as well as the first team, which bodes well for some continuity.

    I shall sit back & watch the fun, while processing the new sensations emanating from a positive approach.

    Yeah, I’m dreaming of beating the spuds as well, & it would be so, so satisfying.

  4. Cheers, woodyz66.

    A labor of love, and great supporters need a place to talk sense.

    Like you, feels to me like a wonderful time to be a Villan. Good to see you.

  5. AVFC
    ‘Aston Villa and Club Brugge have agreed the transfer of Brazilian striker Wesley, subject to a work permit and international clearance.’

    Oh well, wonder what the FA will do now.

  6. First off, thank you John, for keeping the site going through so many dark days. Life as a Villa fan has been pretty grim at times these past few years, and as much as I’d warmed to our squad since Smith came in, I feared that failure in the playoffs would mean a difficult couple of years to come. That said, what a feeling when we did it!

    As per most of the other comments, the feeling around the club is incredible. I haven’t felt this much freshness and optimism about our grand old club in years. Even when we were regularly performing well and spending cash, it always felt as though we were signing a few duds that didn’t necessarily fit. Players like Sidwell, Harewood, Beye; decent, but not really an obvious fit. Now it finally feels as though we’re creating an identity, casting the net wide, and we’re back to signing players with ability, but most importantly, the potential to improve even further. This, folks, is sustainability, and it’s a wonder that we’ve never had anyone in charge who has even tried it!

    Huge summer ahead – lots of excitement to follow, no doubt lots of ups and downs, but I don’t care. We’re back, it feels like we’re moving forward, and it’s a great time to be here. The years of disappointment finally feel like they might have been worth it!

  7. Ian G – I wouldn’t worry too much on the Wesley front. No way would the club have announced anything if they didn’t think it was a safe bet.

    On another note: have we actually signed Hause yet? I can’t recall seeing anything to confirm it, but it’s taking forever!

  8. Thanks JC- Strange reactions going on about Wesley, fans have been throwing names in the hat but not his. Now they seem to be lamenting Tammys loss, I think its a weird feeling to be celebrating with your heroes one second (3 weeks) and looking at a row of new faces in a new league the next.

    Prices seem a lot higher since our last season, breaking our club record for an unknown is a sign of the times, unless we pull out some really unknowns then we could be looking at £100m, which going on Purslows comments is us being careful 🙂

    How about Hogan playing off of Wesley? or Ohare? Shame RHM has such a terrible injury record.

  9. Loving the striker signing, stolen under the noses of the Geordies who are complaining about club mis-mgmt, sounds familiar to Villa in the past but now we are in team building mode as opposed to avoiding implosion.

    Nothing but positive about the mgmts efforts to build a squad as quickly as possible and allow DS to work on systems and personnel development/integration in advance of the season.

  10. Hiya Woodzy, Hiya Darran.

    JC, I agree with all your comments. I haven’t been this excited since Herbert signed MON and sold the club in the same week.

    Looking forward, Sheff U and Naarwich haven’t invested much money and stated they don’t intend to either. As Darren says, we’ve signed a new striker from under the noses of the wai aye’s so Rafa is another one who doesn’t look like getting much cash. There’s 3 teams we can finish above.

    It’s all looking good for surviving the first season up and then building a quality side.

  11. Definitely think there will be 3 teams worse than us if we can secure our signings. Really encouraging to read Smith say that there’s a lot more work to do. He’s not wrong! You can pretty much look at any department in the team and make a case for further signings being needed. Crucial ones are at CB and DM, but full backs would be welcome too, and a good keeper would be a bonus.

  12. Plug- unfortunately I don’t think Sheff utd or Norwich have our problems having much more of a team they own than us. , they’d be mad to throw money at players when their teams play good football and deserve their chance. They will buy a few then reassess at crimbo. I suspect that like us they are ahead of where they expected to be. Its a shame we did not get to buy and test drive in the relative safety of the Champs but it is what it is.

    Thats not to say that I’m despondent I’m loving the rebuild, its is and always will be a tough proposition in this league to produce a side out of a hat.

  13. Welcome Woodzy and Darran, nice to hear more voices.

    MK – Looking at (and learning from) Fulham last season, the obvious difference is that we are bringing in the players early and will be available for the pre-season so that DS can get his ideas down. This doesnt mean we will not struggle, especially since our spine is changing. I see your point about Norwich and Sheffield United but the PL is a step up and we know teams will fade away after a while. The quality of signings may be the difference if we get them settled quickly.

  14. Villalore- I’m relaxed about it but not expecting us to pull up trees, promoted teams usually start well then fade, nobody has ever been relegated with 11 wins I learnt today though. The excitement of promotion and the players eagerness will probably buy you maybe 3-4 wins early on, having a team already is a big plus, its more like cup football to start with.

    Just read this which is about how Watford unearth so many cheap quality players each season, worth a read.

    https://www.ft.com/content/4bb66cd4-dc9b-11e8-8f50-cbae5495d92b

  15. Darran,

    Good to see you. Keeping the site going is what kept me going a lot of the time, truth be told. All any of us have wanted is to feel some pride in the club again and get some fun and excitement out of the football. And god knows that felt like some sort of impossible dream at times.

    So what a feeling, indeed.

  16. Heroes,

    Wesley & Maupay up top………drool, drool.

    Phillips and Lolley added to midfield…..drool, drool, drool.

    Mings, Hause and Tuanzebe as a back three…….drool, drool, drool, drool.

    I would run with Kalinic and Steer in goal and the full backs can be sorted next season.

  17. MK,

    Yeah, it is strange to actually see it, but anyone who was being realistic had to know it would happen (the clear-out).

    Have to say, not too fussed about Tammy. He did a lot for us, and I loved his attitude, but if what I’m reading is correct, I like the fact Wesley seems to drop a little deeper, isn’t someone we’re always trying to connect with close in. And Tammy’s feet…I was never convinced he has enough close control to flourish in the top flight. He was having trouble linking up in the Championship. A bigger frame on Wesley should help, too. He’s bigger than van Dijk, but I’m seeing he has good speed.

  18. JC- me neither for the same reasons, I think its a comfort thing 🙂 I also think last season was not how Smith ultimately wants us to play

  19. Think you’re right Mark, I don’t think we’ve seen the full DS vision yet, but I’ve liked a lot of what I’ve seen. That’s why I mention the full backs though. Particularly Taylor, who I don’t think adds enough at either end of the pitch, but certainly not going forward. Elmo at least gets the ball in the box and that could be a major plus with Wesley in there.

    Having said that, I’ve seen a few articles which suggest Wesley will drop deep, and perhaps more tellingly, drift out wide. He’s clearly confident with the ball at his feet, so we may well expect to see midfielders expected to run on beyond him, which would add fluidity to our attacking play; in short, exactly what I’d expect from a DS side. If we’re looking to do that though, a DM is essential, otherwise we’ll have our pants pulled down week after week.

  20. JC – thanks for the warm welcome. It’s been a while since I’ve dropped by, but the interest has never waned. The appetite for discussing it might have slipped a bit though!

    So does Matt not contribute anymore? I can’t recall seeing any articles by him, which is a real shame as he’s always done a great job of writing interesting, thought-provoking articles too.

  21. MK,

    Agree with you that things may not be rosy. Could be very bumpy. You look at the fixtures, not a lot of pushovers in there. Like you say, remaking a team on the fly is tricky business, and supporters have accept that simply surviving is the primary goal.

    At the same time, also think you’re right that what we saw isn’t how Smith would ultimately like us playing. If we can get a full preseason in with the entire side, obviously would be ideal. What I’m hoping is that based on Purslow’s comments, Wesley and Jota, for example, are exactly what Smith wants and will fit right in with Dean’s style of play and not require a lot of adaption.

  22. Darran,

    “so we may well expect to see midfielders expected to run on beyond him, which would add fluidity to our attacking play; in short, exactly what I’d expect from a DS side. If we’re looking to do that though, a DM is essential, otherwise we’ll have our pants pulled down week after week.”

    Spot on. The midfielders we’re seeing links to, lots of quality on the ball, etc. But we’ll need someone like Phillips who can put himself about. The attacking quality coming at us is obviously going to be much higher, speed, height, ball control, finishing, all of it. Not even sure Mings and Hause will be up to it.

  23. No, Darran—Matt’s not written in a while. Couple different factors, and he would’ve liked to, but I can tell everyone he’s doing well. I might see if I can get him to pop in and do an encore for us. Would be great to have him back, if only for one performance.

  24. JC- Its going to be a very young side and Wesley will have a lot on his shoulders. He’s been compared to Miraslav Klose but could be more Kosak. It all points to wanting a forward that will bring others into play not score 20-30 to save us like a Benteke.

    Full backs are going to be a massive part of Smiths plan so I am expecting some more attacking options, Guilbert sounds very defensive but that just might be the team he was with being under the cosh a lot, which might be handy.

    I think we will need and maybe get a maupay/Angel type Striker in but the more I look at it the more I see that spend rising. I’m sure plenty will leave yet hopefully for meaningful sums having ditched a whole team and come out down a few Million.

    That said they seem to keep our real signings under the radar but I can’t say I am not shocked by the mention of £20m goalkeepers or £15-20m DM’s.

  25. MK,

    Yep, the numbers being bandied about on our links are pretty remarkable, as are prices in general.

    And yes as well to the FBs issue. Curious about Guilbert, obviously, can’t see Elmo or Taylor being what we need.

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