Villa sport­ing chief pays price for £140m spree de­spite great es­cape

Pitarch axed but Smith will get funds to bol­ster his squad Hopes of keep­ing Gre­al­ish rise as United in­ter­est cools

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By John Percy

As­ton Villa have sacked sport­ing di­rec­tor Je­sus Gar­cia Pitarch af­ter se­cur­ing Pre­mier League sur­vival only on the fi­nal day of the sea­son.

Pitarch was axed yes­ter­day as the club took ac­tion over the much­ma­ligned £140 mil­lion Villa spent on re­cruit­ment last sum­mer, with the de­ci­sion rub­ber-stamped by own­ers Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens.

Villa avoided the drop on Sun­day and, as re­ported by The Daily Tele­graph last month, are con­duct­ing a full re­view of their foot­ball op­er­a­tions, with the in­quest led by chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris­tian Purslow.

Pitarch has paid the price af­ter a num­ber of sign­ings failed to pay off. It is un­der­stood the Spa­niard was be­hind the re­cruit­ment of record £21 mil­lion sign­ing Wes­ley, plus Trezeguet, Matt Tar­gett, Mb­wana Sa­matta and Marvelous Nakamba, who have all strug­gled to im­press.

Villa will look to re­place Pitarch, known as “Suso”, as a pri­or­ity.

Dean Smith, the head coach, has been as­sured of funds for new sign­ings over the sum­mer and will tar­get play­ers in at­tack­ing ar­eas, plus a cen­tral mid­fielder, a right-back and pos­si­bly an­other cen­tre-back.

John McGinn, the Scot­land in­ter­na­tional, is ex­pect­ing ma­jor changes and has warned that Villa can­not risk an­other sea­son strug­gling near the bot­tom.

“I think ev­ery­one is aware we need qual­ity added. We ob­vi­ously spent a lot of money last sum­mer and we may need to go and do it again,” McGinn said.

“We can’t get com­pla­cent and think ev­ery­thing is all right now. It was a poor sea­son over­all, we know that, us as play­ers, and I am sure ev­ery­one up­stairs is fully aware of that.

“There will be changes, I am sure of that. There is no way we should be cel­e­brat­ing fin­ish­ing 17th with the size and stature of this place and the money we have spent.”

Villa’s sum­mer strat­egy ap­pears likely to be de­fined by the fu­ture of cap­tain Jack Gre­al­ish, who is on the radar of both Manch­ester clubs, although his hopes of a move to Old Traf­ford have been fad­ing for some time. Manch­ester United have lit­tle ap­petite to pay any­where near the £80 mil­lion ask­ing fee and their pri­or­i­ties have changed, with Paul Pogba stay­ing and the im­pact of Bruno Fer­nan­des.

Gre­al­ish scored the goal at West Ham United on Sun­day which ul­ti­mately se­cured Villa’s sur­vival, and he ad­mit­ted last week that he was un­cer­tain where he would be play­ing next sea­son.

McGinn said: “Our fo­cus last sea­son was get­ting the club pro­moted, our fo­cus this year was keep­ing them in the league and we man­aged to do that. What hap­pens now I’m not sure, but Jack is still con­tracted here.”

McGinn has con­firmed he suf­fered a se­cond stress frac­ture in March, af­ter ini­tially break­ing his ankle in De­cem­ber. The 25-year-old ad­mit­ted 2020 had been “hor­ri­ble”, but be­lieved Villa si­lenced their crit­ics by stay­ing up.

“With four games to go we were seven points be­hind and not one per­son out­side the club re­ally be­lieved we could stay up,” he said. “In that sense the to­geth­er­ness and char­ac­ter we showed to keep this club up is un­be­liev­able.

“I’ve never known pres­sure like it be­fore. There is a mas­sive feel­ing of re­lief and ela­tion.”

Smith has re­vealed he slept in his of­fice at the train­ing ground af­ter a night of cel­e­bra­tions on Sun­day. Villa’s play­ers had re­turned to Body­moor Heath af­ter the West Ham game, and the party went on into the early hours.

“I’m not great be­cause it was a heavy night, but I’m OK,” Smith told TalkS­port yes­ter­day morn­ing. “I’m not sure what time it was. I slipped off be­fore the lads could see me.

“I am im­mensely proud of the play­ers and the staff be­cause we had been writ­ten off. We walked off the pitch against Le­ices­ter [a 4-0 de­feat in March] and ev­ery­body was say­ing we had been rel­e­gated.”

Party time: Man­ager Dean Smith em­braces Jack Gre­al­ish dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tions

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.