By Graham Hill
VILLA boss Dean Smith admits he was surprised to sign Tom Heaton from Burnley.
The England keeper joined Villa in an £8million deal last week – but Smith had been on his trail since the previous January.
Yet the Villa head coach did not expect the deal to go thorough when it did.
Villa had previous approaches rejected – but Smith was able to make Heaton, 33, one of 12 signings this summer.
And he says he wants more signings in before Thursday’s deadline.
Smith told the club’s official TV channel: “I’m very surprised we manage to get Tom.
“He played the final 19 games of last season and played a part in Burnley’s resurgence.
“You could see by the reaction of the Burnley fans that they were very disappointed to lose him.
“That tells me we’ve got a very good signing. Tom gives us that experience as well, but personality wise, he’s also a leader. He’s the one I thought would do well for us in the dressing room.
“We’ve many meetings, with Suso and Christian Purslow. We met the owners two or three days after winning promotion and they backed us, we’re thankful for that backing.
“We implemented a plan that’s been in place with the full backing of everyone.
“We’re still looking and we’re always open, there are players we’d like, but things have to align for that to happen. But there’s a competitive edge to training at the moment and, as a coach, that’s what you want.
“One of the key points was to keep together the core of the team that got us promoted. We’d built up a real good spirit in the dressing room, and also with the staff and fans. Whatever organisation you’re in, that can move things forwards very quickly and give you momentum.
“We wanted to keep the spine of the team together and add to it.”
Tellingly, Smith included Ahmed Elmohamady in among the players he wants to stay at Villa – despite suggestions that former boss Steve Bruce wants to take the Egypt captain to Newcastle United.