“Our goal was to get into the Premier League, but that’s just the beginning” – Why it would mean more than just survival for Aston Villa come August.
“We want to build one of the best clubs in the world, so this is a major step in that direction, it’s just so exciting.”
The richest game in British football, a sea of claret and blue, an eye-opener to the potential of Aston Villa – it was all on show for Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris under the Wembley arch 12 months ago.
Securing the club’s Premier League status only a year after saving it from the abyss was a huge success for the club’s hierarchy who adopted a two-year plan to secure top-flight football when they took the reigns at Villa Park.
25 top-flight games after Derby County fell to Dean Smith’s playoff heroes, Villa haven’t quite seen a return on the £130 million layouts spent over a hectic summer of 2019 where they assembled their first Premier League squad for three years.
Premier League was the goal
“It’s an amazing thing to be part of this great club and its history and to be back in the Premier League, it means everything,” boasted Edens only hours after winning the final.
“Our goal was to get into the Premier League, but that is just the beginning.”
The very statements that Villa’s ownership gleefully articulated in the Wembley media tunnel were refreshing and exciting, with Purslow promising stability and Sawiris pledging funds – Villa were looking on the way up.
In the words of our Egyptian owner: “There is only only one way to go from here, only up!”
Now, nobody thought our first season back in the big time was going to be easy, nor was it going to be filled with record-breaking runs like the sort we produced only a year before, but there was a resounding expectancy at least from Villa fans that survival would be achieved.
Unlike the false promises from the previous owner Dr Tony Xia, Sawiris and Edens, in particular, have experience in the sports industry, with their economic wealth completely vital to any long term success in the Premier League. Christian Purslow is more than adept to running a top-flight football club, but with negligent buying methods and rusty scouting tools, Villa hasn’t quite taken to life back in the Premier League as first hoped.
It is paramount that the club stays adrift come August, with so much expected and promised from the owners. Edens is an astute American businessman who more than doubled the value of NBA franchise Milwaukee Bucks after sharing the 2014 purchase of the basketball club with Marc Lasry. His expertise and Sawiris’ deep pockets have the blend to produce an exciting future for Aston Villa.
With Jack Grealish, John McGinn and Tyrone Mings all starring in the Premier League this term, Villa have the bedrock of a promising side, coupled with the cheap purchases of young hopefuls Douglas Luiz, Ezri Konsa and Wesley. Relegation would seemingly tear apart the spine of the side, letting go of fan favourites Grealish, McGinn and Mings would also be heartbreaking for Villans before another Championship slog ahead.
It would be unsustainable to shell out hundreds of millions on transfers every season, but whilst exciting youngsters such as Louie Barry and the Ramsey brothers develop in youth sides, Villa have also got a long-term strategy to bed in hopefuls that can make an impact within the next four years. Though, speculation around a couple of academy players has already surfaced, with Carney Chukwuemeka particular in demand.
It would be inconceivable that the like soft Manchester City and Liverpool couldn’t sway a youngster of his ability if Villa found themselves languishing in the Championship once again in 12 months time.
Over social media, in the past fortnight, Villa fans have unified to reminisce about last year’s playoff success and the season that brought back the positivity in the club that hadn’t half fallen on some tough times of late.
Videos of celebration, McGinn’s header and everything in between flooded across timelines, and it felt good after being without football and indeed everything else that comes with a global pandemic lockdown. Though it once again proved how far Villa could reach and the paramount importance of surviving the final ten Premier League games with safety achieved. Last year’s glory cannot be rued with another season to forget.
Individually, there’s been the odd fleeting sparks of quality aside from obviously Grealish running the show, for the most part, this season. For most of Villa’s first team players, EURO 2021 will be in their thoughts having spent the last campaign knocking on the door of respective national teams. Grealish, McGinn, Mings, Bjorn Engels and Tom Heaton were all tipped to represent their nations at the tournament.
Premier League football is again pivotal to their international hopes, with national team managers historically reluctant to pick players below the top-flight with the exception of McGinn and Conor Hourihane who claimed Scottish and Irish caps at the Championship level.
Although playing for self-pride should always be an essential psychological component of an elite player’s makeup, the carrot of representing your country at a historic European Championship will certainly benefit Villa next season if Premier League is to be played at Villa Park.
Due to the importance of the match, last years play-off final exposed many subplots, from the club’s future promise, a return to the Premier League after a three year exile, but more importantly, the touching speech that Dean Smith spoke of during his post-match interview.
‘Next time I come and see you, I’ll be a Premier League manager’, Smith revealed that he’d promised his father.
On the night Villa fans were remembering the year anniversary since Wembley, the news that Ron Smith had tragically passed to Coronavirus generated an abundance of heartfelt condolences, which we at AVILLAFAN.com echo. A tribute to Ron Smith.
Performing at maximum levels, for not only his remembrance but for the Smith family as a whole will surely be called on from within the dressing room. Club captain Grealish told talkSPORT: “I used to ask the manager every day how his dad was getting on.
“When the news came he had died it was devastating for him and his family. As players, we have tried to be there for him and to help him.”
“One good thing about football when you are having a problem away off the pitch when you do come into training or play a match, it takes your mind off everything else at home. It certainly does for me.
“That’s what we tried to do for the manager and I’m sure we all want to avoid relegation even more now, for the Smith family.
“The manager has been a massive influence on me. I could never give him enough credit.
“I see him as like a father figure and I can go and speak to him about anything, on or off the field. I have played the best football of my career since he arrived.”
Clearly Smith’s impact on Grealish, as well as other key figures at the club have been poignant, after all, taking over the club only 19 months ago with promotion secured and a League Cup final entered, the club clearly has a long term vision – all so dependent on Premier League survival this season.