I don’t think even the most wishful Aston Villa supporter would be surprised to see the back of Ashley Young this summer. We’ve all come to terms that, after 4 and half wonderful seasons, our £9.75m bargain will take his thrills – both on the webcam and on the pitch – on to pastures new for the beginning of the 2011-2012 season. After O’Neill’s departure and a relegation scrap, there is no question of why. With one year left on his contract, there is no real question of when. The only unresolved mystery, if you like, is who – Liverpool, Spurs or United? (I hear Chelsea are interested in a part exchange deal but I don’t think they have enough cash to throw our way on top of a Torres swap)
However, I don’t buy into this way of thinking (shock horror?). He is our player, whether he likes it or not, for another season after this. Yes, we will lose him eventually – but why shouldn’t we hang on to him and drain every last ounce of juice from him that we possibly can?
Don’t worry, I can already hear the bemused sighs of disagreement – but bear with me.
Okay, we shouldn’t hold a player against his will. Someone, who doesn’t want to be there is “not fit to wear the shirt”. Maybe. But despite his well documented itchy feet over the past 18 months, Ashley has put in shift after shift, performance after performance, poistion after position for the Aston Villa cause without fail. The former Watford man will also just be a mere 26 years old at the beginning of the new term – that’s more enough time for him to enjoy his peak form with a, dare I say it, bigger club. His international form and stock has never been so valuable. And let’s face it, one more small season with a recent top 6 club in the presence of top country men is not so bad is it? I’m sure he’d quickly get over it and go about making sure the likes of Manchester United are still interested in him the following season.
We’d also of course miss out on a nice transfer fee for the departure of our most prized asset. But was it just me, or was anyone else not a bit ticked off 2 years ago that we lost our best player at the time, our captain, our 12 year stalwart for just £12m? Almost half the price that MON had rated him the previous year. This will no doubt happen again. With just 12 months legally remaining at the club, Young will be shipped off for much less than we deserve. And I’ve got a better idea…
What if we were to keep Ashley Young? Yes, the massive chances are that he will go for free 12 months later. But this, in my opinion, is the risk we have to take – and one which could pay dividends in another way. Mr Houllier will be given another crack at the whip and I’d like to see what he has got with our best team. I’d like to see what he can do with a full pre-season behind him both on the training ground and in the transfer market. So we can keep Ashley, because it is our perogative to do so, and, in doing so, we keep a hold of three of England’s most potent attackers in himself, Bent and Downing. Add to that the bonus of Mr Villa, Gabby Agbonlahor. Add to that, the further blossoming of Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan. Add to that, other ideas Houllier might have. Be it for a sturdier defence, a deeper squad, a permanent capture (and actual use) of an injury-free Michael Bradley. Young might choose to go at a later date anyway despite our best efforts. But surely our best chance of keeping him is off the back of a truly remarkable season – something that might make him think twice, and something which is only possible with our best players still at the club.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still be 100% resigned that he would go anyway, but before he does, he could leave a legacy behind. He could push us back up the table and make us more attractive for future signings. He, along with our current quality in the squad, could once again re-ignite the Villa so that we are actually prepared for his leaving – and, for me, this is something which will be much more useful, much more valuable, and much more meaningful than an undervalued transfer fee into our kitty.
A great quote by Seth Godin in his business book The Purple Cow sums this way of thinking up perfectly, “it’s safer to be risky – to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things. Once you see that the old ways have nowhere to go but down, it becomes even more imperative to create things worth talking about.”
Randy Lerner has already stated his intent in the Houllier-era by smashing our transfer record. But if we prematurely accept the exit of our best player, we might find it extremely hard to recover from. We might find our selling-club status further copper fastened, we might find other top players looking elsewhere. We’ve been down this road before. But should we keep Ashley for one more year and miss out on the miserly incoming transfer price that’s sure to come our way, it could be the best signing of any this summer. It will restore our position as a club who does as they please and not how others dictate and, with such a quality crop of players already here and coming through, one more year of ‘The Young Effect’ could prove massively benificial in taking us back on the road that we belong. It will prove absolutely crucial in, not only our ability to create things, but in our ability to create things worth talking about.