Christian Purslow spoke in a Question and Answer event in Minnesota this evening, and we’re here to detail what was said.
Words by Regan Foy & Mark Jirobe | @Findfoy / @VillaMarkPGH
Aston Villa’s Chief Executive Christian Purslow sat down at a Question and Answer event in Minnesota ahead of the sides first pre-season friendly today and spoke to some of our fans stateside.
We were lucky enough to be able to be involved and are able to detail what went on below.
Christian was welcomed initially to the Twin Cities, before stating that he was grateful, thrilled and honoured that Minnesota United had chosen Aston Villa as a ‘pre-season partner’ and that he was “proud as punch” to be involved in such an affair.
You have a glistening CV with the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool on it – what attracted you to Aston Villa?
“I could have never imagined what a fantastic honour it is to work at Aston Villa Football Club.
In the nine or ten months since I’ve been here, just to experience the depth and profound sense of identity Aston Villa has for all of it’s stakeholders, the players, the management, and most importantly its fans.
We’ve got a lot to do, and it’s going to take a bit of time to do it. But we started the job and we intend to see it through.”
Aston Villa have a staggering worldwide reputation, is that what sets them apart from most, or is there something else?
“I am a fifty-five year old English football nutter.
When you work in the sport it changes, and to have the chance to come here, you know, everybody knows that the club is in a tiny group of legendary, world famous institutions that go to the very heart and history of English football.
I felt that from the outside, but the inside is staggering – how it just seeps through the club.”
The new ownership are committed – what has it been like working with the new ownership group?
“I have experience working for a number of different owners, and have strong opinions on what it means to own English football clubs.
It’s obvious to me that Nassef and Wes have what it takes to be great owners. It’s not just about financial commitment, it’s extends to wanting to it the right way and handling the institution carefully and professionally.
I could not feel in better hands. The level of support at every level. I know Dean would agree with me.
By the way, Nassef and Wes are coming to the game tonight – if you get the chance give them a little thank you!
Last July, our Football Club could not make a £4,100,000 bill to HMRC, we were bankrupt. If these two didn’t put £60,000,000 in very quickly, we would have been liquidated. We’d have been Glasgow Rangers, we’d be starting again.
They funded the whole season when we were losing money throughout. We should be so grateful.
The only way is up from here.
Is there an approach now, are we going to emulate anyone or are we going to be uniquely claret and blue?
“We’re going to copy Birmingham City, actually. (Chorus of laughs and boos from fans)
Seriously though, we don’t have to invent the wheel. There are obvious, sensible plans and policies to follow.
A really coherent, clear player recruitment plan focusing on younger players who can become more valuable either to us, or if they move on, is number one. Lower age, lower wage.
We want players who really want to play for Aston Villa. The glory. Not the money.
Not one person that we’ve reached out to sign since I’ve been here has said no. People want to get on board with what what we’re trying to do here.
Outside of the big six, who have huge financial advantages, if you’re a professional footballer – where else would you rather play, than Villa Park for Aston Villa?
We need to re-establish ourselves as the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th in the Premier League, and then outperform that achievement.
People have said we’re buying a lot of players. We had twelve players – we had to buy some players – we want to have competition in all positions, a lower average age and high potential footballers who have the ability to grow into their careers and Aston Villa. We recognise we can’t build a perfect team in one window – nobody in world football can do that.
By the time I leave, financially, the club will be on a footing so that it can survive another 140 years.
Football is full of bullshitters who say what you want to hear – you know full well, I don’t kick the ball or pick the team. But I can ensure that the club is on a sensible, secure, sustianable footing.
Let’s talk about Dean Smith – what made him the right man?
I get asked this question a lot.
He was the standout candidate for for reasons; we felt strongly that we wanted a coach committed to playing football the right way, a coach that was intimately acquainted with who and what Aston Villa is.
We wanted a coach who had a track record in developing and improving young players, and who had the potential to grow rather than regress.
He said to me that “I bet it didn’t do me any harm to come to an interview at half ten at night” – which is absolutely true.
There was a shortlist of four or five candidates, and he got the call and was asked if he was interested, and he said “yeah, tonight” – he was interviewed between 10:30pm and 4:30am – it was a six hour interview, which was well dodgy as it was in my hotel room.
He had me at hello, I think, is the phrase. The fact he is a Villa fan had nothing to do with it, he had a aura about him that he’d done it the hard way and had done every single job in the backroom of football. He’s steeped in football experience.
It’s a very busy transfer window, what can you tell us right now in terms of potential incomings?
“Absolutely nothing. (Chorus of laughs from the fans)
I can tell you we’ve had a plan for the last six months, under our excellent sporting director Jesus Pitarch. We’ve been monitoring target players, three to four options for each position.
The key was to get as much of the business done as early as we could. We’ve done more business than anyone else in professional football and haven’t slept a lot since Wembley.
We now have the bones of a competitive squad. And probably two or three to do before August 8th. I’m not going to say anything about who.
I want to re-assure people. The team that got promoted, the spine of that team now that we’ve converted some of the loans is in tact. We’re not re-building, we’re adding to a squad that has a very set way of playing.“
People are continually comparing Aston Villa’s return to the Premier League with Fulham – what are the realistic aims and goals for this season?
It’s a lazy and easy comparison to make. When Fulham came up a year ago, there were some parallels with us.
It’s an entirely different level, the Premier League, it’s much higher.
I’m not here to criticise Fulham. They were lucky to have high-ambitious ownership that were willing to invest with their financial resources.
Sport is like that. There are no guarantees, it didn’t work out. It might not work out for us – but there are differences.
The players that are coming in, are known, or have worked with Dean Smith or the club before. We’re being highly strategic – it’s not collect a footballer. I think that will stand us in good stead.
Dean thinks we should win every game of football. He thinks if they score three, we’ll score four.
Be ready guys, he’s not going to go away at Manchester City and try and play for a nil-nil. Every game is play to win. We want to surprise people outside of the club. Nobody at the club believes we’re going to go straight back down – I think we’re going to have a fantastic season.“
Purslow went on to discuss the fans, before stating that the club had sold out 30,000 season tickets and that there was a waiting list of 7,000 – before comparing the club to Chelsea, stating that they’d sold 23,000 when he was there with no waiting list.
The full question and answer interview will be available in podcast form shortly.