Birmingham Live’s Aston Villa podcast Claret & Blue celebrated Unai Emery’s first year in charge of the football club and correspondent John Townley sung his praises.
You can watch the full podcast here, or by clicking play on the video below as John and Dan Rolinson also touched on the 4-1 win over West Ham and the upcoming Europa Conference League group stage clash against AZ Alkmaar. Here’s a section of the podcast when John spoke about the impact Emery has made over the past 12 months.
“Emery said that it has gone fast, and I agree, I think the last 12 months have gone really fast because of the success he has had. For this period to count in Villa’s history, we need to win silverware and mark it. Qualifying for Champions League, for some people, won’t be that. I’m in the camp of winning a trophy to mark it.
“I wouldn’t say he’s necessarily united a fanbase, but what he has done is brought everyone together to now knowing how Aston Villa have and are going to progress as a football club. Whereas, previously, I think there was always questions over ‘is this striker good enough, is this midfielder good enough’, even before that we asked ‘are we too reliant on Grealish’?
“Emery has just strolled into the football club and brought some pals with him and the transformation is just incredible. I’m only 23, but I bet a lot of fans don’t remember a manager that they are so confident in, that they can and will deliver success.
“I have absolutely no doubts Emery can win silverware with Villa. His dreams are to win trophies and to qualify for the Champions League. He genuinely means that and I have absolutely no reason to doubt it. That’s incredible! I’ve never seen Villa win a trophy, I’ve never seen Villa compete as well as they are now.
“Yes, there were the Martin O’Neill years, but this is different. It’s different because Villa had a very good squad capable of getting into the top four, and they were one of the top six teams in the division. But in the Premier League nowadays, there are so many good teams.
“That West Ham team is top quality and we’re blowing them away 4-1. Newcastle are there, some clubs are state-linked, it’s so competitive. Here we are and we are all confident we can get top four or top five considering the depth of competition. You’ve got Man Utd, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Newcastle, West Ham are good, Brighton are excellent, Brentford are hard to play against and Crystal Palace have been in the league for years now.
“We got promoted four years ago and the ascent has been remarkable. I hear people say, ‘but Villa spent this amount of money’, but we had to spend that amount of money in our first year back to try and be competitive. We lost all of our players returning to their parent clubs. We then sold Grealish because of a release clause and building from that is never easy.
“From the three players we bought to replace him, one of whom is already gone and two didn’t play together. That isn’t an issue anymore. Emery has found the right way to play Bailey, Buendia was playing well last season before his injury. It’s like every issue or question we had before Emery’s arrival, he’s just rubbed out.
“There are so many positives. It’s so exciting and you really feel like Villa are more than back. I haven’t experienced this Villa before. I haven’t had this enthusiasm. Last year we were thinking about which manager can finally get us back in the top ten – that was just a year ago! We’re so far past that now.
“We’re five years into the ownership of Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens. Their backing has been fantastic. They’re building infrastructure and not just buying players. In terms of Emery, he’s everything you want from a manager.
“On a side note, how he carries himself as well. It’s something that might be neglected in some circles, but Villa fans will be aware of it. He’ll always say hello, good evening, good afternoon. In press conferences he is always so polite. When I was out in the States covering the Summer Series tour, he was so open and really warm, as were the rest of his team, Damian and Monchi. They are the perfect band of people that you want driving this club forward. They’re doing it as well. We’re heading into a really exciting era.”