In a wide-ranging interview in The Times, CEO Christian Purslow has spoken of the immediate impact the “fantastic institution” that is Aston Villa Football Club has had on him since he walked through the doors just over a year ago. Prior to their return to the Premier League this season, Villa had competed in the top tier in 105 previous seasons, second only to Everton’s tally of 116.
The 55-year-old spoke of the emotional and all-consuming nature of his job and could barely conceal his pride and excitement for what lies ahead while tipping his hat to Villa’s rich history. On his way into work, he passes the William McGregor statue which stands proudly outside the Trinity Road stand.
“We should rejoice that one of our original directors founded professional football in this country but we shouldn’t be drowned by a retrospective look at our history. We need to look to the future. A year ago this club was facing extinction.”
“Nassef and Wes rescued Villa by injecting a lot of money to clear all the club’s debts. We’ve just spent £131 million in one summer on completely rebuilding… the squad in the transfer window.”
Purslow goes on to express his delight that the club now has a season ticket waiting list of some 7,000, admitting that if demand continues and the club re-establish and stabilise as a Premier League force, they would look to add capacity to Villa Park. But importantly, there are absolutely no plans to knock down the stadium and start again: “No chance! Villa Park is a cathedral to football.”
Bodymoor Heath is undergoing some major changes – HS2 has forced a rethink and the club have bought a sizeable area of wasteland to replace the pitches affected by HS2, and plan to build a “state-of-the-art youth training set-up… the pre-eminent academy in English football.”
Purslow also praised “the heart and soul and face of our club” Jack Grealish, whose form last season would likely have seen him leave under the terms of a £60 million escape clause, had we failed to secure promotion.
“Having the founding father of the game standing outside our stadium when I walk into work shows Villa is a bit special. And it needs to live up to that by living up to some traditional values being lost in modern-day life. I want us to be a bit different as a football club. I want us to shine a light.”
– Villa CEO Christian Purslow
Others in the club’s “experienced leadership group” were also singled out for praise – chief executive Sharon Barnhurst has been with the club for 30 years, while Jesus ‘Suso’ Pitarch has also bought with him 20 years’ experience as the sporting director at Valencia and then Atlético Madrid.
In a blow to JF, ‘fearless’ seems to be Purslow’s watchword – fearless in the way we play football and “fearless in the way we use football and Villa as a force for good.”He has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to anti-social behaviour and is happy to be challenged on this going forward.
Purslow also hailed the head coach Dean Smith and assistant John Terry as positive role models, praising their integrity and ability to command respect from fans wherever they go. Although many of us might suggest Terry is not exactly whiter-than-white, it’s certainly hard to argue the positive impact he has had during his time at Villa, on and off the pitch.
It’s an excellent article and although The Times is behind a paywall, you can register free and get access to two articles per week, so well worth doing for the full piece. Purslow comes across as a highly charismatic individual, and his obvious enthusiasm for the task at hand is unquestionably infectious.
Liverpool fans may point to Purslow’s appointment of Roy Hodgson and the signings of (among others) the likes of a past-his-best Joe Cole, Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen (although the less said about Cole the better – people in glass houses and all that) as being a low watermark during his time on Merseyside. But everything that has happened at Villa since his arrival has been nothing but positive.
Let’s hope he sticks around for the long haul and continues to play an integral part in restoring Villa to their rightful place in the upper reaches of the English game.
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