There’s no doubting that the last couple of months have been among the best in Aston Villa’s recent history.
Dean Smith’s side first survived relegation from the Premier League on the final day of last season, before embarking on a stunning spending spree that has seen them start the new campaign like a house on fire.
Liverpool suffered the wrath of an in-form and confident Villa side brimming at the seams with attacking talent, and much of that has to go down to the work sporting director Johan Lange has done.
Lange managed to secure the signings of highly-coveted players like Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traore, whilst Emiliano Martinez’s arrival from Arsenal has given them one of the stars of the Gunners’ FA Cup and Community Shield successes.
But whilst he’s done a sterling job with bringing players in from other clubs, there’s surely no questioning that the biggest decision he made was to ensure Villa talisman Jack Grealish put pen to paper on a new contract with the club.
After an impressive campaign back in the top-flight – the England international managed eight goals and six assists – it was no surprise that clubs like Manchester United were rumoured to be interested in a big-money swoop. There were even claims that Villa had given him an £80m asking price.
Villa fans surely would have been nervous at the prospect at seeing their hero leave for pastures new, but in the end, Lange and co. managed to convince him that his best days remain at Villa Park.
Speaking after signing a new five-year contract, Grealish said: “I am delighted to make this commitment to Villa. It is my club, my home and I am very happy here. The owners have made it very clear to me how ambitious they are and how they want to build Aston Villa. There are exciting times ahead and I am very glad to be part of it.”
Make no mistake about it, a Grealish exit would have off-set any high-profile signings the club could have made. Keeping him, and sprinkling the squad with quality players around him, has arguably ensured Villa can fight for bigger and better things than just trying to avoid relegation.
It’s a moment that fans may look back on in a few years as a real turning point.
And in other news, this is how Dean Smith could unleash Aston Villa’s new look attack.