Aston Villa have made great strides since Dean Smith took over from Steve Bruce in October, putting together an impressive run of results while playing the kind of free-flowing attacking football that the fans have been crying out for.
But Smith is not finished there. The former Brentford boss will still want to build a side in his own image and should perhaps look to rectify the mistakes of his predecessors by bringing these three former Villa players back to the Second City.
A quick glimpse of Crowley’s diminutive frame and quick feet will remind you of Jack Wilshere in his galloping heyday. And, like Wilshere, Crowley made his name in the Arsenal academy, although he was an Aston Villa player until 2014.
Now, the 21-year-old is yet to live up to his dazzling potential but he’s been thriving in the Eredivisie this season with Willem II, showcasing his skill and creative talents in the famously attack-minded Dutch division.
Under Dean Smith, Crowley could go to another level entirely.
Johnson has blossomed into one of the Championship’s most underrated midfielders in during his time at Preston North End and continues to show what Villa are missing.
Languid and dread-locked, the Jamaican-born playmaker stands out on the pitch and continues to make a mockery of the fact Villa let him go for just £50,000, according to The Mirror.
Johnson could be exactly the kind of deep-lying creative talent Villa need to enable Smith’s passing style.
Like Johnson, Robinson has shone at Preston and is apparently worth £7 million now after a fine 2018 (The Sun, 2 December, page 52).
The 23-year-old has scored eight goals already this season, inducing headaches in opposition full-backs and forcing his way into the Republic of Ireland squad too.
A versatile forward who thrives when cutting inside onto his favoured right foot, Smith would love to get his teeth into such a raw talent, having worked wonders with fellow winger Ollie Watkins at Brentford.
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