Smith hails Aston Villa heroes after Premier League return


Aston Villa’s owners promised ‘the sky is the limit’ after watching Dean Smith’s side clinch promotion to the Premier League in the £170million match at Wembley.

Billionaire businessmen Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens will back Villa with funds to ensure they can compete on their return to the top flight. Star man Jack Grealish led the celebrations after Villa sealed a 2-1 win over Derby, with goals from Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn, to end a three-season top-flight exile.

“Our ambition was not just to get promoted but to do well in the Premier League,” said Sawiris. “We’ve seen that with great management the sky is the limit, with such a fan base and such a great squad.”

Smith said: “The potential of the football football club is massive. It feels right that Villa are in the Premier League with its history, size, and fan base. And that’s not me being a supporter. Reality has just set in. It all feels a little bit surreal but it’s no more than those lads deserve and no more than this football club deserves.”

“We’ve done some hard years trying to get back into the Premier League. Last season was very tough for everyone that went through defeat here against Fulham.”

That loss pushed Villa close to administration under previous owner Tony Xia before a £60m takeover by Sawiris and Edens transformed the club. Chief executive Christian Purslow sacked Steve Bruce in October and Smith has led the turnaround. But he pointed out that Villa’s scorers at Wembley were signed by his predecessor.

Victory is all the sweeter for Smith because he grew up a fan of the club and his father Ron used to work as a Villa Park steward. Ron suffers from dementia.

“I went to see my old man on Friday and I managed to get his eyes open for two minutes maximum,” Smith said. “I said: ‘Next time I come and see you I’ll be a Premier League manager’. He smiled if not anything more. Hopefully there was an understanding but it’s a terrible illness. For me, that was enough.”

Prince William was in the stands celebrating Villa’s win. “I’d love to meet him and tell him he supports the right club,” said Smith.

Captain Grealish admitted he thought he was leaving the club at the start of the season.

“I thought I was going, 10 months later I’m here now and I’ve led my boyhood club back to the Premier League — perfect season,” he said. “I’m speechless. I can’t explain how happy I am. It means the world, we all know where this club belongs.”

Plans for next season will now begin. Signing Tyrone Mings is a priority after the centre-back delivered another excellent display. Bournemouth are open to selling him for around £15m and Villa have an option to match any bids. Talks will also take place over signing El Ghazi, Tammy Abraham, Axel Tuanzebe, and Kortney Hause.


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