Aston Villa capped a magnificent upturn in form from March onwards by winning the Championship play-offs and reaching the Premier League.
It ensured a fairytale ending to the campaign for lifelong Villa fan Dean Smith; who ended the club’s three-year Premier League exile.
The challenge now is to build a squad capable of being competitive in the top-flight and avoiding an instant return to the second tier.
Early speculation indicates that Smith is keen to strengthen from the back. The Express and Star are reporting that Cardiff City goalkeeper Neil Etheridge has been the subject of a bid from Villa.
The Bluebirds have already rejected an £8 million bid and it is thought, as per the report, that Neil Warnock wants to recoup in excess of £10 million.
If Etheridge is going to cost that much, Villa would be better served looking a little closer to home for a new custodian.
Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland recently claimed in an interview with Talk Sport that he needs to leave the Potters for the sake of his England career.
If Etheridge is to prove unobtainable, then Villa should look towards Butland instead.
Point to prove
The Daily Star recently claimed that it might take £30 million to prise him away from Stoke; although it seems unlikely they will receive such a valuation.
Butland is three years Etheridge’s junior at 26 and would prove a better addition than the Philippines international.
Etheridge had a solid season for Cardiff last season despite the Bluebirds’ relegation, but there is nothing to suggest that it won’t prove a flash in the pan.
The Stoke man has already got 77 Premier League appearances under his belt and given his England ambitions he will be desperate to re-establish himself in the top-flight.
If Villa can tempt Stoke into loosening their desire to receive £30 million for Butland then he would definitely represent better value for money than Etheridge.