Gerard Houllier may not have cast his line into the murky waters of the transfer market for Villa just yet, but he has wasted little time in addressing the club’s deficiencies behind the scenes. It was announced yesterday that 44-year-old Jeff Vetere has been appointed Chief Scout, a position which had been vacant since Ian Storey-Moore joined Martin O’Neiil’s August exodus.
Vetere, A UEFA A-license qualified coach, brings with him a wealth of experience, having been involved with youth football at Charlton Athletic under Alan Curbishley, before turning his attention towards scouting roles at West Ham, Real Madrid and, most recently, Newcastle United.
Though Vetere was seen by some fans as being part of the unpopular ‘Cockney Mafia’ setup at Saint James’ Park, he is nevertheless credited with bringing Sebastien Bassong, later sold to Tottenham for a £7.5 million pound profit, and the hugely under-rated Jose Enrique to Newcastle United during his time in the job.
Born in England to Italian parents, Vetere is fluent in Spanish, French and Italian, and is understood to have a vast range of contacts spanning not just Europe, but the globe. Although his appointment was only announced yesterday, Vetere has already taken office, telling yesterdays press conference: ‘It is fantastic to be at Villa Park and I am very excited about working here. I have been here just over a week and I was at the Birmingham and the Fulham games. We have a good base of young players here through the academy who are pushing into the first team. It is a very good base that we can build on. We are in the process of setting up the overseas scouting system. It is an area that Villa can improve in.’
In those final, brief comments Vetere subtly summarised the limitations of a scouting system that has held Villa back for years. Though O’Neill’s policy of signing predominantly British players was certainly commendable, the reality is that many of his acquisitions were over-priced and over-rated. Indeed, the shortcomings of O’Neill and Storey-Moore’s approach are dramatic. In the four-and-a-half years since Randy Lerner took control of the club, John Carew remains the only regular first team player to have been signed from outside the UK in a spending spree that has totaled close to £100 million.
Though Villa consistently threatened to break into the top four during his reign, O’Neill’s failure to look beyond home shores meant that Villa’s Premier League rivals were able to quietly assemble comparable, or in many cases superior, squads to their own for a fraction of the cost. Now, with Vetere and Houllier leading a new search to previously unexplored lands, the hope is that by turning to the elite of European talent, the club can return to the elite European competition.