A few weeks ago I wrote an article outlining my concerns with the signing of John Terry and I do still have some reservations despite him signing for the club on Monday. I am not going to get into whether he will be a success or not. It is down to John do the talking on the pitch.
Whether you are completely over the moon at Terry joining, or you think it a potentially disastrous move, no one can deny it is an absolutely huge coup for the club at the level we are currently at.
Not just that though; I believe that the signing shows that the club is finally finding its way back to being well run, professional and perhaps most importantly of all, having the right people back in charge.
Terry had plenty of offers. Premier League clubs such as Swansea, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion made enquiries. The obligatory offers from the USA and China were of course on the table, as was a huge financial package from Turkish giants Galatasaray. Oh, and of course our neighbours Birmingham City.
Yet, in the face of such adversity, Villa prevailed.
The fact that our offer wasn’t the most financially rewarding is extremely important. Of course, Terry is a man who knows his own standing in the game and is not a cheap acquisition. Wages of £60k a week a far lower than the original estimates of £100k. Whilst it is still a huge outlay for a club at Championship level, there are several significant factors which show that we have finally learnt some lessons from past disastrous contracts that have seriously impeded the club previously.
Firstly, the deal is for one year only. In the past, we’ve been so keen to land ‘star’ players that we have offered ridiculous contract lengths as a sweetener. We were taken for a ride by so many players who knew that the Aston Villa gravy train was making its way round. This meant we were lumbered with under-motivated players who underperformed massively for several years on huge wages. At least if Terry doesn’t work out, we aren’t saddled with a player picking up a huge wage for an additional one or two years afterwards.
Similarly, despite the wages on offer, Terry’s contract features huge bonuses, most noticeably for helping the club gain promotion. For me, this is exactly how the player should be earning his money and acts a great incentive to Terry himself. Reports state the ex-England stalwart will pick up around £2million should the club regain our Premier League status next May. It’s a huge bonus but in the grand scheme of things, it is a very small price to tap into those vast riches on offer as a top flight club. Again, no promotion, no bonus. Finally, we have a situation where a player will really earn his big money.
Randy Lerner’s legacy at Villa was, unfortunately, a squad full of mercenaries taking Villa for a ride. The people at the top had zero negotiating skills and would crumble at the first sign resulting in us seemingly giving players and their agents exactly what they wanted at the first sign of our interest. We were desperately pathetic.
Whilst the Terry deal will inevitably attract other clubs fans to mock that we have signed a has-been and are overpaying him, we’ve actually constructed a good financial deal in the circumstances. Yet, it isn’t just financially where we’ve excelled.
Villa has shown initiative and guile to attract Terry. I’m not sure how the golfing holiday in Portugal came around, but credit must go to Steve Bruce. He clearly saw an opportunity and got the idea into Terry’s head from a very early stage. For once, we stole a march on our rivals rather than being caught on our heels.
Bruce’s influence in this deal by all accounts was huge. Let’s not forget, that as well as being well known for having a head like a potato, Bruce was one of the finest defenders of his day. Terry has already alluded to his respect for our manager. The fact that a player of his stature believes in Bruce and his ability and plans for the playing sides of things is an extremely positive sign. Simply, if he didn’t believe that promotion was achievable, he wouldn’t have signed.
In fact, every major player currently at the club seems to have played a huge part in this, which is really pleasing and reassuring that we do finally have a board and supporting staff who know what they’re doing in regards to football.
Chairman Dr Tony Xia has, of course, played his usual games on Twitter. Yet when it came to the real business, he kept things confidential. Quoting Jose Mourinho about not ‘talking about a player who belongs to another club’ was actually probably appreciated by Terry at the time of the comment. Whilst Harry Redknapp resorted to his usual kiss-and-tell tactics and couldn’t resist himself, Xia actually remained professional at a crucial moment in the deal.
Keith Wyness will also have played a huge part in negotiations and due to his presence on Twitter has also received much of the praise along with Xia and Bruce. Our Chief Executive has become a favourite with the fans for his open lines of communication and is a major upgrade on predecessor Tom Fox.
However, perhaps an understated figure in all this is Director of Football Steve Round. Whilst he largely goes under the radar behind the scenes at Villa, his work and reputation in this deal were pivotal by all accounts. BBC Sport’s respected Midlands correspondent Pat Murphy reported that Round’s involvement was a key factor, with Terry an admirer back when they were both involved in the England set-up.
This is the point; we now have real football people in charge again of the key aspects of the club. People with contacts and good working relationship with others involved in the game. People with good reputations. People who know what they are doing.
It is almost like a bad dream to think of the board that Lerner assembled. It’s beyond a joke that we had such a lack of football experience in the boardroom. Some may argue Fox had marketing experience at Arsenal, but he was never anything like a CEO. Hendrik Almstadt again had experience at Arsenal in analytics, but by all accounts, the Gunners were very surprised he was elevated to a Sporting Director role at Villa. Don’t get me started on General Charles Krulak. A complete farce. It’s incredible how out of their depth and cobbled together the whole board was.
Finally, we seem to be making better decisions from the top down and have good people in place. Whilst Terry is a gamble, financially, I actually think we have it pretty much spot on. It is much more calculated and risk-assessed that we previously would’ve constructed. When things are run well from the top, that usually filters down into every aspect of the club and that includes on the pitch.