I didn’t want it to come to this. I hoped it wouldn’t be an issue. I hoped it was just customary end of season suggestions (maybe it is). But the murmurs of Milner’s departure, whilst not exactly spreading like wildfire, are all too apparent in the customary transfer talk and gossip columns and unfortunately, I couldn’t ignore the growing situation and felt as if I should put forth a defence as to why Aston Villa is the right club for Jamesy.
Of course, there would be SOME positives of the potential sale of Milner to United – but even more obviously, these positives would be minimal.
If sold, we know O’Neill won’t back down and our England international would only be offloaded at the right price. Moreover, MON’s inflexible handling of the ‘Barry to Liverpool’ situation should work in his favour and bigger teams have now been warned that Villa is not a selling club. Therefore a healthy transfer sum (which should vastly exceed the £18m forked out by Man U for the capture of Carrick and Anderson) for the sale of Milly could be used by our astute manager to further uncover hidden gems elsewhere and to add essential depth to a lightweight squad. Additionally, a move to the champions is just rewards for the future England captain’s (that’s Milner by the way!) tireless endeavour and not to mention, top-class talent.
But surely an ever-improving Aston Villa side has enough lure to help blossom its developing crop, without the tempting green grass on the other side of the M6.
Critically though, if Milner was to secure a switch to the red half of Manchester, it would undermine everything O’Neill has been working towards and prove that the task of taking Villa to the top is an impossible undertaking. It would suggest that every time we put a team together, our best players can be pinched at the drop of a hat and therefore the elitist divide of “big clubs” and “small clubs” will always exist and can never be penetrated.
However, if the number 8 stayed put, it would set an example to the rest of our stars and help with the push to elite status. So why should he stay?
One of the best managers in the world. MON has not just helped Milner, but a number of other Villains, propel themselves to international level and after putting together a squad of World Cup hopefuls, Fabio Capello confirmed that “Villa are key to my England”. Therefore James’ national aspirations are surely not hindered by playing for Villa. O’Neill is also responsible for the flourishing form Milner has produced this last two years (form which has been a cut above the rest of his career) and is indebted for giving the former Leeds man his break in the centre. To jump a ship so steadily steered by Martin O’Neill, at this stage in a player’s development, would surely be absurd – especially when considering the desired destination of O’Neill’s journey.
The Youth Club:
Aston Villa are an exciting, young outfit with several potential world beaters.
Stewart Downing, the oldest of O’Neill’s offspring at 26, is improving each game he plays since his long layout and is gradually reaching the level which once made him England’s number one left sided prospect. Awaiting his peak, it is thrilling to know that his best days will be in an Aston Villa shirt.
Curtis Davies – 25. Missed out this year with an unfortunate shoulder injury, the former West Brom player demonstrated he is our best defender with classy early season performances and with England’s obvious interest in his younger days, we may just have the next Rio Ferdinand at the club.
Ashley Young – 24. I think the name speaks for itself. Suffered slightly from his sky high standards at the start of the season, the current PFA Young Player of the Year is already a deadly attacker and would be a valuable addition to any squad in the world. Voted the best left winger in the Premier League in the past 2 years, it is frightening to think what a 27 year old Young could produce.
Gabriel Agbonlahor – 23. Each year, we see the local lad get better and better. Strong and bullish (with a bit of pace too), Gabby has also added a more clinical side to his attacking. Of course his finishing could improve, but as his goal tallies get better each year and as the team’s reliance on him gets greater, Villa’s ‘out-man’ is sure to be an England star of the future.
And with Milner himself just a 24 year old, bunched in with a steady influx of the younger promises in Delph, Albrighton and Delfouneso, the prospects of the top 6 club we have created look nothing but optimistic. If we can keep these ever improving players, and attract higher quality, primed footballers then we can do what the modern day Arsenal can’t; and if given a chance by these named individuals, Aston Villa could once again become a football dynasty.
Like any successful club, transfers are crucial. And the chairman’s generosity in the past 2 seasons has been vital in securing the right names at the right time for Villa. Recent signings like Dunne, Warnock and Collins (even Heskey in a way), whilst not world beaters, have instilled both aptitude and experience to a promising outfit and ensured we continued to step forward from previous form. With one of the best owners in the business; these names, along with other buys of the past, will soon need to be replaced with both younger (peaking) and better additions worthy of a Champions League place – and I think in O’Neill and Lerner, we have the capacity to do so.
No one can deny how far we’ve come and I’m not even going to waste time going over it. But critically, we look like we will once again secure a top 6 finish, despite the intrusion of big spenders City and Spurs to the forefront of the league. As the competition gets stronger, MON’s Villa gets more competitive and after last year’s attempt at 4th, we have not only sustained but improved on our efforts which is definitely heartening.
Is the move to the Red Devils the right one for James at this stage in his career? Maybe (just maybe) we can understand Barry’s desire to leave because of his increasing age (still not forgiven though!), but with Man City’s billions he will soon be pushed to the fringes of the squad for extravagant, more luxurious names on the team sheet. Conversely, Milner has plenty of time to give O’Neill’s mission a shot and working so well at the heart of our trustworthy system, would it be wise to jump aboard the limiting seating on the Old Trafford bandwagon? Indeed, with Fletcher and Hargreaves, United already have 2 superior central midfielders with players like Scholes, Giggs, Carrick, Gibson and Anderson left fighting for the scraps of first team football. Everyone does get their chance at United, no doubt, but in such a competitive, must-win environment, a 24 year old England hopeful would surely be best plying his trade as a big fish in the smaller (yet ambitious) pond of the top 6 contingent.
Analyzing fairly the obvious attractions of the 3 times European Champions, I also think that along with their pull, there is overlapping appeal that should keep Milner a Villa player for at least another year or two. With so much promise at Villa, and so much ‘what ifs’ at Man U, it would be very difficult to draw yourself away from the club that gave you a proper crack at the whip and made you the player you were after just two years of service. Yes, Milner is an ambitious lad and is probably destined for the top, but would he want to risk dragging himself from the comfortable surroundings at Villa Park, from the perfected system, from the familiar staff and players and from the Champions League mission in which he is the focal point. I’d like to believe that there is at least enough there to ponder that would stall his decision over the Summer.