Every word as Aston Villa chief Christian Purslow speaks transfers, spending and owners
The 55-year-old spoke candidly about all things Villa – from the summer transfer policy, expectations, scouting, Fulham comparisons and heaped praise on the club’s brilliant owners, Wes Edens and Naseef Sawiris.
Transcript below via Sky Sports News
First day out
“It was a great day. I was incredibly proud of Dean and the players when they walked out. I think it was a really great draw for us to have Tottenham away in their absolutely astonishing new stadium. I feel like the luckiest man in the world. It was a pretty proud moment walking out at Wembley only eight weeks ago and then to have our first game back in the Premier League was great.”
“The club had been taken over last summer by two gentlemen, Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens – hugely experienced businessmen, hugely experienced in the business of sport. It’s well documented that Villa had some terrible financial problems that these two gentleman essentially took it upon themselves to rescue the club from.
“They asked me whether I would be willing to go into the club and run the club on a day-to-day basis for them. I obviously had some prior experience at other great clubs in Engliush football and couldn’t resist the challenge of seeing if I could help.
“I was very impressed by them. I was certain that they were going to be the right owners – patient, sensible, experienced – and had no illusions about the scale of the job we faced.
“I was lucky enough to be asked and I’m so glad I did because I feel very privileged to be at Aston Villa. It’s the most rewarding job you could ever imagine and it’s actually gone well.”
“I remember something Sir Alex Ferguson said that I happen to agree with. And that is the working relationship between the head coach and the CEO is at the heart of a well run football club. That’s fundamental.
“In recent years – and I formed this opinion at my prior jobs in football – it’s become impossible for a CEO to do everything. Most critically, signings and players, that is a very specialist job. The first person I appointed was our sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch. He’s very experienced and had been sporting director at Atletico Madrid for 11 years, prior to that eight years at Valencia. In Europe that’s an accepted and established role – someone whose sole job is looking at the short, medium and long-term of recruitment.
“And working hand in glove with the CEO and the coach to make sure you are anticipating the needs of the club in terms of playing resources.
“That was a really early managerial appointment and then of course we made the managerial change quite quickly in October.”
“On the 12 signings we actually spent £127million of fixed fees. The difference of £127m and £144m I suspect is your estimates of the so-called add-ons or bonuses. What they typically are additional payments that Aston Villa might pay, for example, to Bournemouth if Tyrone Mings makes 100 appearances in the Premier League. They’re a standard feature of most transfers but the idea is that they’re performance-based. But £127m is the figure which is an average of £10m per player.”
“Not at all. That’s very important. It is a lot of money and I’m incredibly grateful to our owners for being able to finance that. But a couple of really important points need to be understood. At the end of last season we had 12 players leave Villa that were out of contract. Very simply we would have been starting the season with 10 players had we not bought players.
“With or without promotion Dean Smith and Jesus Garcia Pitarch were hired with the certain knowledge that in the summer of 2019 we would be rebuilding our club, either in the Premier League or the Championship. It’s a huge amount of money but, thanks to Sky and others, it’s about a year’s worth of television money.
“My board and I feel strongly that in the Premier League we have an obligation to be competitive, not to be promoted, spend no money, take some TV money and say thank you very much and go back down.
“We feel like we’ve invested the additional TV money to try and make our great club competitive in the Premier League. We’ve bought a goalkeeper at 33, Mings at 26, the rest of the 10 are all 24 and under. They’re young players who we hope will establish themselves in the Premier League and grow their value. Far from being a liability, on the contrary, we’re trying to invest in players and grow their value.”
Doing a Fulham?
“I wouldn’t comment on another club’s transfer policy and I’m not particularly briefed on the fine details of Fulham – but I am extremely close to our policy.
“The first thing I would say is that of the 12, four players were with us last season – loans that we converted into permanent transfers. Three players had either played for our coach at Brentford or been about to sign for Brentford so this is not find a footballer, bring him to Birmingham and hope that he works well for Dean Smith. These are players intimately familiar to our coach and our coaching staff.
“We had a scouting department put in place last October and all the players we signed were watched by our head coach, by our sporting director very frequently between October and June when we actually went in and closed those deals.
“And the other thing I’d say is that most of our business was done very early in the window. Those players who hadn’t played for Dean, who weren’t known intimately, were in the building, going on our overseas training camp in America, maximising the time they had to familiarise themselves with our coach, with our systems and with our great club.
“I feel very confident that it was thought through, that it was strategic, that it wasn’t last minute, trolley dash, collect a footballer. I haven’t met a single Villa fan who is worried that our great football club has 12 fantastic new players to go alongside the spine of a team that, between February and April last season, won 10 games in a row for the first time in our history.”
A different approach to Norwich
“We can’t run away from the fact that I am blessed with extremely well resourced new owners, owners who understand the cost of competing in the Premier League. Anyone who has any doubt about that should have been alongside me at Tottenham this weekend, the step up in quality of footballer, coach, every aspect is so large. My owners believed that required a step up in quality of our players and that costs money.
“I can’t speak for the resources or wealth available to other promoted clubs and the willingness of their owners to back the judgement of their head coach, all I can say is that Dean has had quite extraordinary support. I can reassure you that it’s well thought through in terms of where that has been deployed. We will be judged on our results, there are no guarantees in sport, certainly not in the Premier League. If Norwich finish seventh in the league and we’re relegated then we will accept the consequences of that judgement at the end of the season.
“But right now I’m just delighted that with a club that was bankrupt exactly 12 months ago – and with a very ageing squad – we’ve been able to rebuild the club thanks to the resources of our new owners.”