Date: 15th February 2018 at 8:27am
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Director of Football Steve Round has been discussing the ‘Villa Engine’ and the positive strides forward he believes Aston Villa have made since he came into the club.

With Dr Tony Xia’s takeover complete and Keith Wyness in position, Round was drafted in to create and begin work on a vision for Villa that could be implemented from first team level and then filter down to our youngest age group so our developing youngsters knew what style they were supposed to be playing to help their development further and ease a pathway into the first team.

It’s been a rocky road since as he admits himself in the interview with the Official Site – we had managerial changes and backroom staff moving on, turnover in the first team and for a while, less than confidence boosting performances on the pitch itself.

Thankfully Round was able to sit there this week to reflect on his time with us so far, and having come in when we lurked in the lower reaches of the Championship table and with many talking about a potential double relegation, there has certainly been improvement in the first team under Steve Bruce, and whilst it still may not be pretty on a regular basis, we are harder to beat, our form in terms of results is incredibly good with seven wins on the spin and we do sit in second place in the table.

Whilst Round is quick to share around the praise for our improvement, he obviously takes some of the applause himself as he worked closely with Bruce to implement the ‘incredible standards of excellence’ that he says now form part of our performance culture at Bodymoor Heath and obviously his biggest remit when coming into the job was to end the ‘legacy of failure’ that had got a grip on our training ground.

I would hazard a guess that given recent results and the spirit that seems to exist within the group now – although that job may not be finished – fantastic headway has been made into it.

The interview begins with Round addressing the fact Villa as a club were at ‘rock bottom’ and the first order of business was to ‘re-establish (our) performance culture’ and in his opinion with how the club had struggled for a number of seasons before we finally suffered the drop, any approach taken had to be to shock people out of the doldrums in many ways, and move forward quickly with a far lighter attitude whilst remaining professional and just try and create a new vibrant, focused and driven approach to everyone’s job.

Round admits that part of that was the change in ownership, ‘outstanding Wyness’ who he praises for the support he’s given him, and finally the appointment of Bruce was in many ways the final piece of the puzzle – but it remained a difficult job.

‘That’s not been easy, it’s been difficult quite frankly. There’s been a huge change around in management staff, performance staff and playing staff. We are now at the stage where we’re much more comfortable with the atmosphere, much more comfortable with the Aston Villa philosophy and we’re much more confident we can provide an exciting, vibrant team on the field which can do the fans proud.’

Ultimately that’s what it’s about, the off pitch activities and how Villa handle themselves as a positive influence in the community should be background and a bonus, what happens for 90 minutes on a match day has to be about entertaining the fans and sending them home happy and we’ve finally started doing that – and some games are even entertaining now rather than scrappy and gritty affairs.

Round said he decided to lean on legends for feedback on what they felt Aston Villa should stand for moving forward, but that was an exercise he tapped the staff, the players and ‘star names’ in the game for and in his opinion that certainly aided the strategy he put in place as it built on what he felt the expectations should be.

‘We established really what we felt we needed to get back to – the core values – on top of what I expect from a training ground through the best practice I have witnessed myself over the years.’

Key to that was ‘standards…commitment’ and ‘discipline’ to reestablish a work ethic where everyone pushed in the same direction, given our fragmentation in the past.

With mixed views of our signings in recent years and allowing for the fact the jury in some cases remains out on those on our books whether they are out on loan or not, the following quote should please fans.

‘I only want people here at Aston Villa who will sign up to that. If you’re not prepared to sign up to that and you’re not prepared to put in that work to be part of a team and also have the expertise to take us to the next level, you won’t be working here.’

John Terry is probably a case in point here with his attitude on and off the pitch, I’m sure he’s well rewarded contractually for making the switch to us but he’s most certainly not here for a final pay day is he.

Building on his words about transfers Round said it was imperative that players coming in now understood our culture, understood our standards and would be the right quality to bolster that culture off the pitch but also have the courage to showcase themselves on the pitch.

He rightly points out that despite being pleased with our recent transfer work and the group we have now, undoubtedly we are back on track but ‘there’s still room for improvement’ and that’s evident to every fan and simply put we can’t show improvement, become complacent again or we’ll start treading water once more. Not every decision taken or every signing made moving forward will work out and be the right one, but we can’t stand still.

We stood still before, then started taking leaps backwards so thank the Lord we are finally moving forward once again.

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