It’s been an uncertain time for many football clubs across the country, with all having to close their doors to fans over the past 18 months. There does, however, finally seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel, with supporters being welcomed back into stadiums for the start of the 2021/22 season.
During this downtime, it seems that it’s been busy behind the scenes for CEO Christian Purslow, who is preparing proposals for a vast redevelopment for Villa Park. The plans look to increase the stadium capacity to 60,000, which only the top teams in the country currently boast. It’s a signal of the club’s ambition who are looking to build on last season’s 11th place finish. This season they are odds on with bookies such as bet365 for a top 10 finish at 5/6, which still looks excellent value. You can even get 6/1 for a top 6 finish which is harder to achieve, but there are plenty of promo codes around at the start of the season to take advantage of.
The last time Dean Smith’s side played in front of any fans was on the 23rd of May with an impressive 2-1 over Chelsea in the league. Villa Park currently holds 42,000, which is still amongst the highest in the country, but they were only allowed 10,000 in for that match. The fact that fans have been kept away from the stadium for so long may be increasing the hunger for tickets.
The news of the improved stadium plans come ahead of 30,000 season tickets being sold for the new campaign. Villa’s season tickets are in high demand, with an estimated 13,000 people on the list waiting to get their hands on one. There is also a need to be able to sell tickets on a week-by-week basis. Since their arrival in the Premier League, their status has been on the rise, further cemented with incredible shirt sales. Kappa had expected to sell around 30,000 replica kits but were overwhelmed by demand in excess of 80,000. This season, they are ahead of the curve and estimate a whopping 100,000 shirts could be sold. Therefore, an increased capacity makes complete sense.
So, how do they see the stadium rebuild going, and is there a deadline? Permission has also been granted to knock down the current Family Fun Zone, ticket office and club store to make way for the new stand or stands. Purslow is quoted as saying:
“The first step of development is to understand our limitations and see what we can do to develop and improve. A waiting list is a key tool in assessing the need to increase capacity. The time scale for improvements would likely be between two and 10 years with several stages to this process.”
This seems to suggest a slow and balanced approach which is probably advisable. It means that fans can continue to show their support in the stadium while the improvements are made.
A concern for fans is that ticket prices may increase as a result of the grand plans. However, for now, at least season ticket prices are frozen at 2019 levels. Adult season tickets range from £370 – £684, depending on where you sit in the stadium. This equates to less than £20 per game, which is excellent value for money in a league where some clubs charge upwards of £70 for a standard game ticket.
Of course, it’s not the first rebuild that Aston Villa has undergone in recent times. The training facilities at the state-of-the-art performance centre at Bodymoor Heath as unveiled by Prince William at the end of the 20/21 Premier League season. Dean Smith and his side were said to be so impressed with facilities that they saw while on a pre-season tour in America at the Minnesota Vikings TCO Performance Center. The rebuild has been relatively swift and painless, and Villa now boasts one of the best training arenas in the league.
This sort of ambition will set Aston Villa above other clubs, and there is sensible, genuine growth happening. The Villans will be setting high standards for themselves next season, and rightly so. Despite falling away towards the end of last season, they should belong amongst the top clubs, and with improved facilities and stadium they’ll be able to attract big names to the club.
Perhaps higher on the list of attracting top talent is keeping hold of what they already have. One of the best signings last season was undoubtedly goalkeeper Emi Martinez. His save record is an impressive 77%, and he is all but set to become the club record clean sheet holder in the Premier League. His stock is on the rise, too, after his heroics in the Copa America in the summer. Saving three penalties in the final shoot-out, he all but secured Argentina their first title since 1993.
Jack Grealish is, of course, another name that Dean Smith will be hoping to keep a hold of. The young England international is clearly a talented playmaker and one of the most exciting players in the Premier League. If he were to depart, it would leave a massive hole in the heart of the Villa midfield. It was when he was missing that Smith’s side lost their spark a little last season. After a lot of movement in the transfer market, Grealish is 5/6 to go to Manchester City and 5/6 to stay at Villa beyond the summer. If Smith can keep hold of his star man, it would be a real statement of intent.
Aston Villa are a club with high expectations over the next decade, but it should be remembered that a lot of this rides on the club’s success. If Villa becomes embroiled in a relegation battle, then all these plans could be put on hold once again. It will be interesting to see what is next and hope that Villa will go from strength to strength