John Townley's notebook: Sawiris summer plan, kit gaffe, wins for Champions League and trio of trials

Unai Emery has agreed a new contract with Aston Villa
Unai Emery has agreed a new contract with Aston Villa -Credit:Matt McNulty - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Unai Emery has extended his contract with Aston Villa until 2027 with further talks over longer terms expected in the summer.

The news comes as a big boost heading into the final weeks of the 2023/24 campaign as the club go in search of silverware and a top four finish. Villa overcame Lille on penalties last Thursday to set up a Europa Conference League semi-final against Olympiacos and are also six points ahead of Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification.

Villa could increase their cushion to Spurs to nine points on Saturday night when they host Chelsea at Villa Park (8pm kick) before Sunday's north London derby. Emery's side have a big opportunity to achieve something special in the coming weeks.

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With a few managerial vacancies coming up, including at Liverpool and Bayern Munich, possibly at Man Utd too, Villa weren't taking any chances. There was absolutely no indication that Emery would have been interested in those posts, in fact he distanced himself from the Bayern role in particular after Villa's win over Bournemouth on Sunday.

"I am focused here, 100 per cent," Emery said in emphatic fashion during his press conference. A key reason why Villa have triggered a one-year option in the head coach's existing deal, despite being just weeks away from the end of the season, is because Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, as well as Emery, want full focus on the final games of the campaign.

Despite talk in the media being of little interest to those inside the club, there is a chance that speculation about interest in Emery from elsewhere could impact fans or players. It could've been an unnecessary distraction.



After Villa's 20th victory of the league season last weekend, Emery's side are in the driving seat for Champions League qualification. Man Utd are out of the picture, leaving Tottenham as Villa's only challengers.

Italy and Germany are set to wrap up extra tickets for UEFA's elite club competition with their clubs performing better than the English sides across the Champions League and Europa League this season. Villa are the only English team remaining in Europe as they go in search of their first piece of silverware since 1996.

With four games left of the season, two more wins for Villa would put them in a very strong position to finish above Spurs. Currently, Villa have a better goal difference by five and have also scored six more goals. Tottenham have two games in hand, but they'd have to win four of their remaining six to reach 72 points, compared to Villa's two wins in four against Chelsea (H), Brighton (A), Liverpool (H) and Crystal Palace (A).

Tottenham are expected to beat both Burnley and Sheffield Utd, which are two of their final three games of the season. But they face tricky matches against Arsenal (H), Chelsea (A), Liverpool (A) and Man City (H) too.

A win for Villa against Chelsea would pile the pressure on Spurs, who then face Arsenal (H) and Chelsea (A) before Emery's side take on Brighton at the Amex (2pm kick-off) on Sunday, May 5. Spurs play at Anfield at 4:30pm on that same day.


Eagle-eyed fans would have noticed a bizarre kit gaffe in at the weekend as Martinez wearing his standard goalkeeper strip, but badge looked different. The lion in the centre of the club crest appeared to be upside down.

The goalkeeper was the only player with the different badge in the game. Villa's round crest will not be used past this season after it was voted in by supporters last summer, but was only used on the kits and training wear.

Meanwhile, Villa are set to confirm a long-term deal with Adidas, who will supply their kits from the start of the 2024/25. The partnership with Castore will be ending early.


Leon Bailey's adoptive father Craig Butler has revealed a trio of his Phoenix Academy players will go on a trial with Villa. According to Butler, Robino Gordon, Dante Peralto and Denzel McKenzie are set to begin training with the club's academy.

“We have developed a cross-Europe reputation of providing quality players," he told The Gleaner. "We therefore have contacts at Chelsea, West Ham, Genk, Aston Villa and more.

"We have constantly been issuing clips of our players and marketing our players properly, and also at the same time, preparing our players for the opportunities when they come. Now that we have performed so well, we have the opportunities through these clubs to give them first chance at these players."

Butler added: "They have always been super professional, always been willing to learn, extremely loyal and very dedicated footballers. This kind of loyalty and this kind of professionalism is what we’re always looking for.

“When you look at these types of players, you can only say congratulations to the management team that worked with them, not just myself.”

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