By Villa News Speaking to Dan Bardell

7th Jul, 2023 | 7:10am

We’re delighted to welcome Sky Sports journalist Dan Bardell as our exclusive Aston Villa columnist each week he’ll be giving his views on the biggest talking points at the club…

Rico Richards is “no guarantee” for Aston Villa after joining following the expiration of his West Brom contract, but his signing does emphasise Villa’s “opportunistic” academy transfer tactics, claims Dan Bardell.

Richards joins a long list of former Baggies players to make the switch to Villa Park, including Jamaldeen Jimoh, Tim Iroegbunam and Finn Azaz.

The club announced the signing (3 July) of the attacking midfielder earlier this week. He managed four goals and five assists in the Premier League 2 last season and has earned call-ups to the England youth setup.

However, Bardell claims that it is too early to say if Richards will succeed at Villa or how far he can take his career. What this signing does show is Villa’s continued strategy of signing up highly-rated youngsters from unstable local rivals like West Brom.

Speaking exclusively to Villa News, Bardell said: “At the moment, Villa are in a bizarre situation where West Brom’s academy has almost become another academy for them.

“They’ve taken so many players from them now and Villa are just sensing opportunities where they can by taking advantage of the way West Brom have been run.

“West Brom had a thriving academy and a good setup, but over the last few years, the club’s really not been run well. Villa have been quite opportunistic. It’s low-cost to take these players from West Brom, but there’s a high benefit if they progress the way Villa want them to.

“If they manage to progress, they’ve either picked up a good player that could make it in the first team or sell on. Look at Tim Iroegbunam, he’s played for the Villa first-team already and had a decent loan spell at QPR in the Championship.

“He’ll either come into the first team squad and be a regular body next season for Villa or at some point they’ll sell him and make millions.

There’s no guarantee that Richards will make it, but Villa are looking at it as a low-risk high-reward strategy by taking players from West Brom.

In other Aston Villa news, Nottingham Forest’s star winger has peaked Villa’s interest, but the £50million price tag may prove too steep.