As a footballer, Richard Sneekes was all about excitement. But the former Albion playmaker is urging a measured approach by the Baggies as they look to end their yo-yo years once and for all.
After watching with joy as Roy Hodgson kept the club in the Premier League this year, Sneekes is optimistic about the prospects for next season.
But the Dutchman, whose junior coaching business has just launched a new course in Brierley Hill, believes Albion must not try to run before they can walk.
“They just have to establish themselves,” said Sneekes. “That’s all we can ask for at the moment.
“You have to establish yourself in the Premier League and build year by year. Every year you have to take a step higher.
“If you try to take big steps forward, throw money at it and think you’re aiming for the top six, it might backfire on you.
“Villa think they are a top-six team and yet they have had one bad season and they are going to overhaul their whole squad.
“I just think we need to take little steps and establish ourselves for two or three years, then we can look at bigger and higher things.
“You have to work your way up the table slowly and let’s see if we can get up to 10th next year and then a little bit higher up.
“There is no point in saying ‘we’re aiming for Europe now’ and then doing what Ipswich did — pushing for it, getting into to Europe and then getting relegated the next season.
“We need to establish ourselves as a Premier League club and next season will be the next step towards that.”
Sneekes, now aged 42, remains a keen onlooker at The Hawthorns, where Hodgson arrived in February and halted a dismal run of results that looked set to dump Albion into the Premier League’s relegation zone.
When Roberto Di Matteo was dismissed just nine months after leading the Baggies to promotion, Sneekes believed the decision was harsh.
But the Dutchman reckons subsequent events have vindicated the change, with the club claiming a best-ever Premier League finish, ending the season 11th in the table with a record haul of 47 points.
“It has been very good and I have been really impressed by what has happened,” said Sneekes.
“I think Roberto did a great job but towards the end it didn’t go to plan, and to be fair to the club they made the right decision at exactly the right time.
“Mr Hodgson came in and did ever so well. He has gone back to what he knows, which is defensive basics, and they got some great results to be free from relegation four or five weeks before the end of the season.
“You have to be happy with that and it’s now about building on it, keeping the players they want to keep hold of and adding in areas where they want to increase strength in depth.” Sneekes, who signed briefly for non-league Dudley Town last season, has now linked up with the club to offer youngsters expert coaching on Fridays at the Dell Stadium in Bryce Road.
He runs his coaching company, Total Football UK, along with former Hawthorns team-mate Daryl Burgess, with the pair running courses throughout the West Midlands.
“We have been going for about three years and we’re trying to expand,” said Sneekes.
“We are working with Dudley Town and have been trying to set this up for a while. The aim is to work with the club and try to feed youngsters into the club and to improve players and work on kids’ development.
“We do what we think is right to bring players on.”
Youngsters can take part in the course at The Dell without pre-booking.
Schoolchildren from reception to year two should attend from 6-7pm and youngsters in years two-six are catered for from 7-8pm.
Each session costs £4 per child.
For details go to www.totalfootballuk.com or call 0844 779 4625.
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