At the recent Villa Fans Consultation Group (FCG) meeting Villa CEO Keith Wyness had laid down his concerns about how the play-offs would extend what has been a two-fold approach to recruitment for next season – preparing for both the Championship and Premier League.
Automatic promotion would obviously help sharpen the focus of Villa’s scouting and recruitment drive, and allow the club to get to work quicker in preparing for next season.
At last week’s Aston Villa Supporter’s Trust meeting, Keith Wyness and Villa’s Director of Football, Steve Round, provided more of an insight into how Villa have worked recently in terms of their forward-planning for player recruitment.
While future player targets are obviously confidential, it was stated that the two-prong approach has been on-going for the past three months, as Villa continue to be uncertain of which division the team will be in next season.
Round stated at the AVST AGM, that if Villa remain in the Championship, then the squad would have to be good enough to challenge, yet be within FFP (a much more pressing concern next season, if Villa stay in the division). In the terms of the Premier League, incoming players “would be needed to keep us up”.
Wyness had said in the FCG meeting Villa would be targeting around six players, although at this stage it can only be a ball park figure, until Villa know their destiny.
Round bemoaned how bad the youth and scouting system had become when he came in 18 months ago.
The constant switching of managers and lack of cohesive football structure behind-the-scenes in recent years, obviously was a big cause of this.
Ironically though, Villa’s previous scouting set up was good enough to conclude in scouting reports that Villa shouldn’t sign Pierluigi Gollini, advice that Roberto Di Matteo and the present board neglected to take.
According to Round, the club has been scouting Europe, America and domestic markets, amongst others (the specific examples of Panama and Uruguay were mentioned), and the focus is getting a good database together. While there is still the need to build and expand it, “it’s getting there”.
As mentioned in the recent Fan Consultation Group meeting, the potential link up with Danish club Lyngby Boldklub and another possible unnamed European club is also part of building up Villa’s scouting and youth infrastructure.
Villa’s Director of Football informed the gathered supporters at the AVST AGM that the club have a pyramid structure to the process of scouting:
1st tier – scout identifies two to three players
2nd tier – Steve Round sees them
3rd tier – Steve Bruce goes to see narrowed down list.
Round confirmed that Steve Bruce has final say on recruitment and that not one player has been signed so far that he didn’t want.
In the chase of a some of the youth signings, like Jacob Bedeau from Bury, Bruce trusted the judgement of Round and co. While in the case of James Bree, Bruce went to see the ex-Barnsley youngster play three times.
Round also added that at times they will go together to see players. Some times they’ll be disagreements, but they talk through their issues and respect each other’s opinions.
The Robert Snodgrass loan was a put forward as an example of a mutual decision.
“That was an easy decision, as we both knew him and Bruce worked with him, so we knew his ability and that he’s good in the dressing room,” said Round.
Once a player has been identified and decided on, then they look at finance to see if the club can afford them.
Obviously part and parcel of the finance is the agent’s fees, which Round and Wyness said that Villa have taken the approach of keeping to a minimum. It was stressed that they haven’t broken the limit for anyone, so far.
The Villa directors admitted the principled approach did cost them one signing though, but added, “where he ended up, he’s been useless!”.