Christian Purslow: Aston Villa recruited poorly prior to promotion season, says CEO

Published on: 28 May 2019

Villa chief executive Christian Purslow can count Scottish midfielder John McGinn - ultimately Monday's Wembley match-winner - as this term's best signing

Chief executive Christian Purslow says promoted Aston Villa are ahead of schedule after "a period of poor management" by previous regimes.

Following Villa's return to the Premier League three years on from being relegated, Purslow told BBC Radio 4: "We must make sure we do things right.

"I am pleasantly surprised. We are a little bit ahead of target in terms of getting promotion.

"We've had a period of poor management at the club," he continued.

"On the recruitment side in particular, things have not been handled as I think they should be in the way our fans expect, which is for us to be a young exciting team and a team that over time establishes itself back in the Premier League.

"That will be our goal. We have a core of a good team but we need to recruit well this summer and make sure that when we arrive in the Premier League we do our great club justice."

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The first job for the Villa hierarchy, while taking heed of clubs who have overspent upon rising to the top level in the past, will be to address the make-up of a squad bolstered by loan players.

Top scorer Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), midfielder Anwar El Ghazi (Lille) and defenders Axel Tuanzebe (Manchester United), the highly influential Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth) and Kortney Hause (Wolves), for whom they have an option to sign more permanently, are all due to return to their respective clubs at the end of the campaign.

And, aside from the players who won promotion under Dean Smith at Wembley, they have several players brought in by previous managers under previous regimes who simply have not figured, but are still contracted to the club.

Still on the Villa payroll...

Ross McCormack: The Scottish striker still has one more season to run on the four-year deal he signed when he was signed for £12m from Fulham in August 2016. He is reportedly in line for a rise to £70,000 a week as a result of Villa's promotion.

He has not played in the Championship for Villa since January 2017 - just days before the infamous story broke that he had not turned up for training as the electronic gates outside of his house would not open. He went out on loan to Nottingham Forest for the rest of that season.

Then in 2017-18, after two early-season Carabao Cup appearances off the bench for Villa, he spent a prolific three months in the Australian A League, scoring 14 goals in as many starts for Melbourne City.

In 2018-19, he returned down under to play for Central Coast Mariners, but played just five times before returning to the UK to join Scottish Premiership side Motherwell, for whom he made four appearances.

Henri Lansbury: The former Arsenal and Nottingham Forest midfielder still has a further two seasons to run on the four-and-a-half-year contract he signed when bought from Forest for a reported £2.75m in January 2017.

Not helped by injury problems, he has made 35 Villa appearances in his two and a half seasons. He started just six league games in 2017-18 and just one in 2018-19, on the final day of the Championship season against another of his former clubs, Norwich City.

Micah Richards: The England international signed a four-year deal in June 2015 following the expiry of his contract with Manchester City.

He made the last of his 31 Villa appearances in October 2016, Steve Bruce's first game in charge, and he has not figured at all under Smith. His contract is due to expire at the end of June, when it is expected that he will leave the club.

Scott Hogan: After being signed from Brentford in the January 2017 transfer window, like Lansbury, he too still has two years left on his contract.

Injuries have restricted him to just 10 goals in 60 appearances, almost half of which have been as sub.

He failed to score in seven appearances for Smith before his old Bees boss allowed him to join Sheffield United in January, with whom he won promotion. scoring twice in eight games.

Contracts up this summer: Goalkeepers Jed Steer and Mark Bunn, defenders Tommy Elphick and Alan Hutton, midfielders Mile Jedinak and Glenn Whelan, plus winger Andre Green.

Play-offs not good for the blood pressure

Villa owners Wes Edens (left) and owner Nassef Sawiris (centre) were alongside chief executive Christian Purslow at Wembley

Villa's promotion seemed a long shot last summer when, after a period of serious financial uncertainty, they were taken over just a fortnight before the new season started by billionaire businessmen Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris.

It seemed even less likely when they were 15th before Smith took charge in October following the sacking of Bruce.

But there was a late-season transformation in performances and results, once prize asset Jack Grealish returned from his three-month injury lay-off, and Villa went on their club-record 10-match winning run.

"Quite quickly we were able to establish a new team at the club," said Purslow, who was appointed on the final day of the August transfer window. "Certainly after Christmas, it became clear that the team were really gelling.

"We won 10 games in a row and during that run I started to believe we had a really good chance.

"The knockout play-off format is not one for keeping the blood pressure low, but we came through in the end."

How will Villa spend the money?

Villa, founder members of the Premier League, came second in its first season in 1992-93, genuine title challengers until they fell away late on to finish 10 points behind inaugural champions Manchester United.

In the 23 seasons that followed before relegation in 2016, they never finished higher than fourth (under Brian Little in 1995-96), although they made the top six on seven occasions, most recently under Martin O'Neill in three successive seasons between 2007 and 2010.

They will go back up in the knowledge that, of the past five Championship play-off final winners, four have come straight back down again - and the exception, Huddersfield Town, lasted only a year longer in the top flight.

The estimated increase in revenue that promotion to English football's top flight is worth has now risen to £170m - and Villa are keen to cement their place back in the big time, where the seven-time league champions and 1982 European Cup winners feel they belong.

But the one thing that former Liverpool managing director and Chelsea head of global commercial activities Purslow guarantees is that they will not be spending it all at once.

"That figure that gets bandied about is really the cumulative revenues over three or four years, even if a team only manages to stay up for one year," he said.

"Yes, the television money from the Premier League which is phenomenally successful at selling rights around the world to broadcasters means we means we have more income.

"But as in any walk of life you have to spend your income well and sensibly.

"It doesn't guarantee anything and I can assure Villa fans we will try to do it the right way."