Programme notes: David Pleat
English Barclays Premiership
Welcome back. It seems the summer was more condensed than usual with the European Championships, though disappointing for England, an attractive mid-summer view.
We were busy in the transfer market. After many advanced negotiations following our initial discussions in Kiev we signed Sergei Rebrov and we wish him a long and happy association with our club.
We also had fair and smooth transfer negotiations with the new Wimbledon chairman Mr. Gjelsten to secure Ben Thatcher and Neil Sullivan. Both have good experience in the Premier Division and have established themselves as major Premiership players. We hope their contributions to our club are highly successful and I'm sure they will fit into the manager's plans.
We all wish David Ginola well - he was a charismatic magician and will give Villa supporters some great moments.
Other outgoings included Espen Baardsen, who wanted an opportunity to play first team football and to gain experience. Allan Nielsen also left for Watford as his appearances were limited since he scored that dramatic goal in the League Cup Final against Leicester City.
I hope Watford regain Premiership football - they are well managed and have not succumbed to spending madness.
We also sold our young centre-forward Peter Crouch - to QPR - who with time and good coaching may develop into a regular league player. I feel confident we have enough striking back up at the younger end of the scale for one of French boy Yannick Kamanan, David McEwen who came from Dulwich, Gary Doherty, signed from Luton, or John Piercy to make a challenge for a senior striking role.
John Scales, of course, also left us at the end of last season under Bosman. He has since joined today's visitors Ipswich. This ruling has been a problem for many clubs to cope with. Liverpool lost McManaman, Villa lost Bosnich while Manchester United secured Roy Keane.
There has been much said about Sol Campbell's position but supporters can rest assured we are doing everything possible to convince Sol to stay. The ball is firmly in his court but at the moment he does, like all players, have the rights of the new ruling.
We've also made staff changes which I will refer to in my next programme notes. One member of staff, Academy coach Ricky Hill, has rejoined Luton where he played, as manager.
Football has undergone a traumatic time where everyone is being battered with figures and demands. Money has spoken for many a long season in English football, but now it is starting to scream and stamp its feet. There was a time when even our biggest clubs could boast of their good husbandry; they might have spent x on transfer fees, but they recouped x+y when they sold their surplus players.
No longer. Football clubs, and certainly the more naive football chairmen, now thump their chests, ignore the balance sheet and boast only of how much they have spent. Outlay is everything, income is irrelevant.
And, as fans, we are equally culpable. We scan those half-witted charts which tells us just how much the clubs have handed over. Club 'A' has paid our 30m during the close season, while club 'B' has spent nothing. No matter that 'A' has purchased a job lot of ancient dross, the sum spent suggests ambition and raging desire, and its fans will be duly impressed.
As for club 'B' the least said, the better. The idea that you are what you spend has taken root in our football consciousness. But therein lies the danger.
I am indebted to Patrick Collins, of the Mail on Sunday, for these words. I include them merely to remind our faithful supporters that the club, and the running of the club, is more important than any individual and, as custodians of the club, we must ensure that we have a good future to look forward to.
I am optimistic about this season. We have made several progressive changes and I hope that all our good supporters will get right behind the team and furthermore continue to behave in a respectful manner as football hopes to regain some of its stripes lost by the events in Belgium and the subsequent losing of the ill-fated World Cup bid for 2006.