From a fan, for the fans…

The final whistle blows at the London Stadium, 1-1. VILLA SURVIVE.

That whistle is greeted with a sharp intake of breath, followed by a huge outpouring of relief. Our players initial celebrations were muted, unlike us fans at home, coming together in a group huddle awaiting the conclusion of Arsenal vs Watford, 3-2 to the Arsenal – confirmed, we’re still premier league.

Cue Sweet Caroline and a few sore heads on the Monday morning.

No sooner had the dust settled, Suso is relieved of his duties, Sky and every other media outlet set about selling Jack Grealish for us, even slapping a £80 million pound price tag on his head – well, as I write this today, Jack Grealish has just posted on his twitter account a photo covering his ears, hopefully a shot at the constant media reports regarding his future and more importantly a glimmer of hope that he’ll be staying put, this was sharply followed by the news of the appointment of Johan Lange as our new sporting director.

For me, it’s the statement that gets released with the appointment of Lange’s arrival that’s filling me with a real sense of optimism and excitement for our future under the NSWE ownership. Statements like “building a world-class organisation”, “sustainable success at the top tier of European football”, “investments into our academy programme”, fills me with a sense that this time we’re going to do things right and for the first time in what – a century maybe, we’re not going to be so short-sighted on immediate success but to lay down the foundations and build for that spoken about sustainable future. Too many times in the past this sort of promise has failed to materialise from Hendrik Almstadt and Tom Fox’s attempt at Moneyball, Steve Round’s Villa Engine to whatever the hell was going on in Dr Tony’s head…. this time – I believe we mean business.

1st August, 10am – I like most villa fans have been refreshing twitter every second since 9.55am, then it drops. My first feeling was disappointment and frustration with the reveal video, the shirt is only shown as a graphic flicking through shots way too quickly to register a proper view, compared to last season’s epic joint reveal alongside the signing of Tyrone Mings at Aston Train Station.

Images of John McGinn wearing the shirt then surfaced online and we all have a better view of our new home jersey. I do like this kit, maybe a safe bet but it’s certainly an upgrade from last season, I like how the blue arms travel further from the shoulder to the collar this time round. Cazoo our new sponsor, subtly blends itself into the shirt, unlike the lump of W88 which took over the shirt too much for my liking. Kappa have improved the claret and added pinstripes to the main bulk of the shirt, my only criticism is, I feel the badge and Kappa logo could drop an inch or so, other than that, it’s decent.

Personally, you always get a better feel for it when you try it on, and you get that new kit feeling. On reflection, we’re all just grateful it wasn’t that photoshopped leaked version that done the rounds on the socials the night before, roll on the away reveal. 7.5/10 from me.

Backroom staff recruitment continues, Craig Shakespeare and Rob Mackenzie come on board, Assistant Head Coach and Head of Recruitment respectively, both integral clogs of Leicester City’s famous shock PL title winning campaign.

“I was keen to add some PL know-how and Craig certainly has that in abundance” said Smith.

Smith’s words in our press release of Shakespeare’s appointment. (Also has know-how of avoiding the dreaded second season syndrome, answer – win the league!!)

I’m pleased to see these foundations being laid, from the moment Martin O’Neill walked out 5 days prior to the opening game of the 2010/2011 season, I feel we’ve been making, plan after plan after plan, ripping it up, time and time again, season after season. Basically – repeated failure.

Whichever division we’d of ended up competing in this season, I feel behind the scenes there has been a real statement of intent to rebuild us correctly, re-energising themselves within the youth levels, appointing Mark Harrison to reignite the academy that was producing players capable of providing competition and breaking into the first team, also investing themselves heavily into the women’s team setup and making huge strides of improvement in that department, to the extent that we’re now competing in the Women’s Super League, following an undefeated promotion campaign.

Whisper it quietly, the brand rebuild has already started.

To close this debut blog, I’ll finish with a few words about James Chester – What. A. Man.

Think we can all agree now that his name can nestle nicely in between with the likes of Mellberg, Laursen, Ehigou and Gareth Southgate, some may argue that he never played top level football for us but in our years of need, he set the example and more importantly the attitude that was required to represent Aston Villa.

James Chester went above and beyond for this football club, putting his body and career on the line, changing the culture of the dressing room and more importantly setting the right example of professionalism to those around him – compared to disgusting attitude shown by the majority of the squad that got us relegated prior to his arrival.

£8 million – absolute steal!! Good Luck Chezzy.

As for Chezzy, he’s been superb and is my player of the season. It’s been a real pleasure getting to know him. He’s like a Rolls Royce when you play alongside him – he never gets out of third gear. But he’s always in the right place at the right time. He’s got great feet, is good in the air and has scored goals as well this year.

He’s a great professional off the pitch as well. He trains well, eats well, he’s the all-round package and it’s been a pleasure to play alongside him, I’ve learned a lot from him.

John Terry speaking at the end of the 2017/2018 season – says it all really….