Tony Xia has continued his seemingly relentless overhaul at Villa with Steve Round coming into post as the clubs new Technical Director.
After a comprehensive transfer window, Round’s appointment adds another piece to a jigsaw that Villa appear to have long been struggling to complete.
At the Villa Trust AGM in January 2016, then CEO Tom Fox, spoke about how Villa had been left behind in it’s structures and ways of working. He cited other football clubs who were both literally and traditionally much smaller than Villa, but had long since bypassed us.
Fox’s view was that this was because they had a clear vision, unaffected by managerial change and which enabled a club to operate to a clear and consistent plan.
Whilst The Villa Underground shares the view that a Technical Director (and associated approach) is a good thing, it is worth pointing out that Fox got his attempts to implement this spectacularly wrong.
Not only was the American seemingly way out of his depth for the task at hand, the appointments that should have aided in Villa instilling the qualities he aspired us to hold fell woefully short.
Indeed, as has been discussed in our recent Podcast, the obvious and glaring deficiencies behind the scenes went broadly unresolved throughout Lerner and Fox’s tenures. This despite lots of talk about change urgently needing to happen.
Tony Xia at least appears proactive and intent upon following through on his words & he’s only really been at the football club for a matter of weeks. The contrast between the owners in terms of urgency is stark.
Round joins Villa having worked at various clubs in a backroom/coaching capacity, whilst he also held the assistant manager’s role at both Everton & Manchester United under David Moyes. Interestingly, the former Derby County player also turned Villa down when approached in late 2015 to assist Remi Garde. A wise rejection in retrospect.
In 2015, and after the Moyes debacle at Man Utd, Round opted to take a year out and also appeared in Dubai doing motivational speaking. This was undertaken whilst also completing a Masters Degree in Sports & Directorship the same year.
There is no doubting his CV and pedigree is impression, comprising of over 20 years experience at the highest level.
After having to retire from professional football due to injury, Round worked initially in youth development before graduating to coaching roles in the Premier League, first team coach and also assisting within the England set-up under Steve McClaren.
The connection to the new regime: Everton was where Round first worked alongside our new chief executive Keith Wyness, and thus marks a reintroduction for the pair.
Round’s role will be over-arching at Villa Park, working to embed a style of play and approach that builds continuous improvement at the football club. As has been discussed in the recent Podcast, this type of thoughtful planning has proven successful at the likes of Swansea, Bournemouth, Stoke etc.
Whilst many a Villa fan may sneer at the names, they have now comfortably overtaken us with lower profiles, smaller fan-bases and limited historical success.
The truth is that many clubs have diligently improved behind the scenes, stuck to a rigid plan and embedded an ethos with which to inspire future success at their respective teams.
By contrast Villa have been rudderless, hampered by frequent managerial change and let down by poor leadership. Round’s role will be to put the strategic and operational tools in place to reverse such fortunes.
Key to this will be to introduce a methodical and revamped approach to transfer dealings. Be this through how we identify our needs as a club, right down to who and how our scouting network operates. Current incumbent Paddy Reilly could therefore finally be on borrowed time.
Round arrives at Villa Park with over twenty years experience, a highly regarded professional acumen and armed with a network of contacts with which to improve Aston Villa.
Whilst not officially announced until the 1st of September, Round has been involved at the club since at least the time of the Rotherham victory. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that he may have already assisted in Villa’s activity in the transfer market as the window drew to a close.
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