Brian Little’s return to Aston Villa in an advisory role has been well received by Aston Villa supporters .The legend’s arrival back at B6 has been considered, by many, to be the highlight of a rather bleak season to date. Here are the five things that Brian Little will bring to Aston Villa.
- Real football experience
Unlike many of Aston Villa’s board member appointments in recent years, Brian Little has a lifetime of experience within the game. After being a household name at Villa Park as a player, Little then went on to carve out a successful managerial career before most recently holding a Director’s role with the Jersey FA. Whilst his playing career was curtailed by injury, Little had taken his coaching badges from an early age and enjoyed his first foray into football management as boss of Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1986. This amount of experience will be invaluable to an Aston Villa board that has predominantly cut its teeth in the business world.
- A proper understanding of the club
Little’s association with the club began in 1970 when upon leaving school as a promising 15-year-old from Gateshead, signed for the then Third Division club. Over the next decade, Little would score 60 league goals, help the club climb back into the Old First Division and win two League Cups. Little’s most famous moment as a player came in the 1977 League cup final second replay victory over Everton where Little would score two goals. His partnership with Andy Gray was prolific and despite retiring at the age of 26, had cemented his place in Aston Villa history.
The love affair with Aston Villa and the League Cup would not end there however as in 1994, Little was to be appointed Aston Villa Manager. The 1995-96 season would be Little’s most successful campaign as the club finished 5th in the premier league, reach an FA Cup Semi Final and win the League Cup at Wembley.
These exploits were enough to see Little inducted into the Aston Villa hall of fame. Little will be more than aware of the fabric of the club. Having witnessed some of the clubs’ finest hours, Little will be well equipped to pass judgement on what Villa require in order to return to past glories. Without question, Little will have the clubs best interests at heart. This will be refreshing for the supporters who have become disillusioned with the current ownership of the club. The supporters are first and foremost concerned with matters on the pitch but having a proper villa man in such an important position will undoubtedly be of great benefit in the long run.
Little still remains the last Aston Villa manager to win major silverware and it has been almost two decades since his departure. The club has been starved of success for some time and Little will serve as a stark reminder of where Aston Villa once belonged and should aim to return.
- Better player scouting
Little inherited an ageing side at Aston Villa and showed a good eye for talent as he completely overhauled the side. Mark Bosnich and Ugo Ehiogu established themselves in the first team, Mark Draper and Ian Taylor formed part of a new midfield and Savo Milosevic joined for a then club record fee, playing alongside Dwight Yorke who was Villa’s stand-out talent.
It was a bold and ambitious change to the side but it brought with it relative success. The club won major silverware and with that continued to play in European Cup competitions in the shape of the Uefa Cup.
Villa Park was a formidable venue for sides to travel to, both domestically and in Europe. Towards the end of his reign, Little broke the club record transfer fee once more with the purchase of Stan Collymore.
Despite glimpses of brilliance this move proved unsuccessful and Collymore’s inconsistency in front of goal was a big factor behind Little eventually being replaced as manager by John Gregory.
Villa now face a similar squad overhaul requirement. Whilst the club are in a far worse situation with relegation looming, Villa need to be smart with the purchases that they make.
Little, by in large signed a number of players who performed well for the club. His involvement in the game has continued and with the contacts he has undoubtedly built up, should be able to advise the club on future purchases. The club’s youth system will be of vital importance in the coming seasons as the club will undoubtedly aim to implement a number of players into the first team.
- Experience of working for a difficult owner
Who would have believed that many fans would be longing for a return to the days of Sir Doug Ellis’ ownership?
Ellis was a controversial owner of the club who was regularly criticised for his reluctance to invest in the club and an apparent lack of ambition.
Known for his ruthless manner and dismissal of a number of managers, Ellis was repeatedly a target of Villa fans’ frustration throughout his time as owner. In total, Ellis had 13 managers during his time as owner, 8 of whom Ellis fired.
Little did not fall into this category and Ellis reluctantly accepted Little’s resignation in 1998.
The experience of working under a difficult regime will be invaluable to the new board.
Chairman Steve Hollis has been installed with the task of rectifying the errors of the last five years. A new system was put in place before the start of this season with the introduction of a sporting director.
Hendrink Almstadt was heavily criticised for the summer purchases made at the start of the current campaign and furthermore for the club’s decision to make no further additions in the January transfer window.
Almstadt is the first key figure to be relieved of his duties by the new board.
Little can offer advice to not only the board members but also to current manager Remi Garde. It is clear that Garde was given assurances that he would be backed in the transfer window. Those promises were not met and the club have suffered as a consequence.
Little’s appointment is a sign that the club have acknowledged that the sporting director system has failed. Little may end up in the role itself at a later date but for now he can serve as the bridge between the board room and the changing room.
Ellis would always take some convincing to part with his cash for players and the current board will need more of the same.
Player recruitment will be difficult next season but Little could be what is required to ensure that money is spent correctly on the players that will give Aston Villa the best chance of a return to the premier league.