The Aston Villa Supporters Trust hosted an Annual General Meeting with questions posed to Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow.
Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)
If there was a group of football supporters that want the firm truth no matter the circumstance, that group would be the die-hard supporters of Aston Villa.
At a recent meet and greet with the Aston Villa Supporters Trust and it’s members in a public forum, Aston Villa Chief Executive Officer Christian Purslow answered tough questions and explained the mindset behind the scenes at the club.
Purslow was asked why the U-23 players at Aston Villa haven’t been given a great amount of opportunity in the first team, to which the CEO replied: “A superbly functioning academy was a core pillar of the new owners’ strategy. There was no value to the club of having players being paid to play in the U-23’s who were not seen to have a future at Aston Villa. Supporters would see a change of emphasis even during the current window with players in the 18 to 21 age range being promoted to working with the first team squad at the expense of older players.
Purslow’s answer echoes that of himself in previous interviews as well as the mindset that Dean Smith has said over the past few weeks. The Aston Villa first team has seen the inclusion of youngsters Dominic Revan and James Bree on a much more consistent basis. While that consistent basis may have been born of necessity rather than choice, it has been a breath of fresh air to see some of the youngsters Aston Villa supporters hear about make an appearance in the first team squad.
Purslow was also asked about Financial Fair Play and how exactly the new ownership at Villa are tackling that issue:
“It was a huge priority of the new owners to clean up the financial position of the club. The first stage had been to remove the debt from the balance sheet.
This has been achieved with the significant equity investment by Sawiris and Edens. The second stage is to reduce the operating losses, this was now being addressed with the aim of dramatically reducing the average age and average cost of the playing squad.”
This particular answer by Purslow is fascinating to say the least. There is no secret that Aston Villa under former manager Steve Bruce was an ageing squad that seemed to be losing pace and longevity by the month at times. With new management and ownership now at Villa, there seems to be a giant emphasis on seeing some of the ageing and experienced players out of the door. It should not be a surprise to any Aston Villa supporter to see the likes of Glenn Whelan, Mile Jedinak, Micah Richards, Mark Bunn and Alan Hutton gone in due time. Every pivotal figure behind the scenes at Villa have now stated that the squad needs to get younger, while at the same time helping the club be more financially responsible with contracts that match the ability of players.
Aston Villa has not had the most promising run of games in the near past to give supporters hope that promotion to the Premier League is an attainable goal. Purslow seems to be saying the right things in an optimistic way when asked about how exactly important is promotion this season. Purslow claimed that promotion was not a ‘prerequisite’ of the new owners and that there will be “no short term measures taken to chase promotion which would put the long term future of the club at stake”. Purslow was adamant about the idea that Villa could still fight for promotion with the current squad, even while many of the current squad do not have a long-term future at the club.
It is starting to become very obvious that Edens, Sawiris, Purslow and Smith are all on the same page in the same book. All four men seem very vocal that there are things that need changing in the Aston Villa first-team and U-23 squads, but it would be naive to think that will happen overnight. This season could be a transitional period that has not been seen by Villa fans since coming down from the Premier League to the Championship. Except this time, instead of buying players for insane transfer fees on incredibly high wages, the right people seem to be in place to bring in the right players at justifiable fees.
For a complete run down on other questions that Christian Purslow answered, head over to the Aston Villa Supporters Trust website.