Martin O’Neill: A Panic Buyer?

Personally, it has been a stressful week. Having been out of touch with Aston Villa news for the past 10 days, I took a quick check online this evening and was planning on heading straight to bed. Unfortunately, however, some of the AVFC posts and tweets that caught my eye within my short surf have ensured that tonight will be a sleepless venture unless I add my tuppence worth.

Firstly, I have seen a laughable suggestion,

whenever Villa played their best football it was with Emile Heskey”…

But I hold much too strong an opinion on this viewpoint to even begin to discuss tonight. So watch this space…

More prominently, I’m growing increasingly frustrated at the irritation building up at the lack of transfer activity at Villa Park so far this summer. Every time I click on a new page, there are complaints from fans aimed at O’Neill for not acquiring any new faces as of yet – or at least for not telling us his targets.

At the time of writing, it is the 1st of July! The first day of the summer transfer market. There are still 10 days of World Cup action remaining and 6 and a half weeks before the new season kicks off. Yet, how dare Martin O’Neill go on holiday last month. Imagine his audacity for not spouting his mouth off in Harry Redknapp style and blabbering to every media corner about who he’d like to sign and why – and in doing so, losing a touch of class and risking upsetting the rest of the squad.

To date, 11 Premier League clubs have made a move; 9 haven’t. Amongst these: Man City, Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea – our biggest competitors (I’m being generous saying we’re competing with Chelski, but we’re trying to catch the champions). Only 17 new faces have arrived to a different club so far this summer – 3 of these have dawned the doorstep of St. Andrews and I think that is what all the fuss is about. Villains have been alarmed by the premature transfer activity in the blue half of Birmingham, but we must not let our inferior city rivals scare us into making a rash move. We must not even contemplate Alex McLeish’s actions because when the dust settles; Jo Hart has been replaced by a less competent goalkeeper, Enric Valles is an unproven 20 year old signed for nothing, and Nikola Zigic will prove he is not worthy of a place amongst Villa’s 4 strikers – and once again, The Clowns will be living in our shadow with preseason hype rapidly disintegrating into mulch.

But why haven’t Villa signed anyone yet?

Apparently, there is no stopping O’Neill leaving transfer signings until it’s too late to make a good deal, and subsequently we have to settle for second best.

Like Birmingham City FC, this belief doesn’t deserve consideration and should be swept off the doorstep with the rest of the miniature refuse. Because, for one, MON rarely “settles”. Even the likes of Marlon Harewood and Emile Heskey have proven to be adequate aerial backup for our system as we journeyed from 16th to 6th place. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that Habib Beye has been the only wasted signing. Nigel Reo Coker was signed for all of £8.5m and has fallen out of first team favour – however, he has still provided 3 seasons of service with many, including myself, agreeing that he has more to offer the squad.

Bargains

Indeed, all of O’Neill’s £6m+ signings have been excellent additions. With Downing and Milner sharing the record club transfer signing at £12m, and the reluctant surrender of MON to dish out £9.65m for the “world class” Ashley Young, Martin’s perceived hesitation in the transfer market is simply calculated estimations – ones which always pay off; and ones which, as a fan, make me feel extremely relaxed about the club’s finances. But beyond the security of Villa’s money matters, the players acquired for more than £6m is testament to the manager’s ability to find the right footballers, who more often than not, turn out to be bargains: Richard Dunne (signed for almost £20m cheaper than Lescott), Stiliyan Petrov (club captain), Carlos Cuellar, Stephen Warnock and the potential of rising star Fabian Delph have proven to be money well spent – and players who certainly weren’t second choice transfer targets.

With regards to these supposed last day panic buys; in each of the transfer markets since August 2006, O’Neill has made 7 signings in the last day or penultimate date of the windows. Okay, one of these was Mustapha Salifou – a strange signing, but hardly worth talking about at £50K. One was the erratic Shaun Maloney: a tried and trusted player of the O’Neill regime who showed real glimpses of flair but simply struggled to settle (and sold for a £1.5m profit). Another was the bemusing Wayne Routledge: who provides probably the only argument of a last minute panic buy – but even so, was a huge letdown because a lot of people expected him to come good and fit into our pacy British attack (sold on for profit). The other 4: James Milner (PFA Young Player of the Year), Richard Dunne (Club Player of the Year & PFA Team of the Year), James Collins and Stiliyan Petrov. Do I really need to put forth an argument as to why these players are so much more than “panic buys”? Would it not be worth waiting until the 31st August again if we knew we would be joined with similarly effective signings? Not that we have had to wait for the rest of O’Neill’s 21 signings anyway.

The myth that Martin is sleeping throughout the transfer window is horrendously flawed. With 10 of our regular starting team all recruitments of the Northern Ireland man, MON has had more work to do than any other manager within the summer and January periods – and he has performed shrewdly each year.

Because he hasn’t spoken of his wish-list, why should we all of a sudden doubt his ability to uncover another Ashley Young; to find a John Carew at the expense of a Milan Baros; to persuade a Brad Friedel, a Richard Dunne or a James Milner that Aston Villa is the club for them? About to embark on his 5th season in charge, why should we let our impatience and fickleness mask the trust we have in a manager who has demonstrated admirable progression both on the field and off it, in the transfer market? Why are we helping spread the vicious and unfounded misconceptions that O’Neill can’t keep up with today’s transfer demands; the sheer lies that he is a last minute panic buyer; when, in fact, the supporters are the only faction which is panicking?

Once again this summer, the England World Cup campaign was marred with embarrassing intrusions. Media reports and over-expecting fans allowed their premature, untimely fears interfere with the task at hand and before we knew it, players were speaking out, the rumour mill was powering and reciprocal faith between the manager and players descended into chaos – and England were headed home. A lesson is there to be learned.

It’s time to stop these fictional “stats” getting in the way of the club’s progress. It’s time to stop these frustrated outbursts undermining an omnipotent manager – when every other club are laughing at us for not realising what we have. It’s time to stop and just embrace another summer of fresh additions fuelling the fires of our dreams of the season ahead.

West Ham on the 14th August. Numerous signings or not, we will be prepared. No matter how long it takes, come the first day of September, we will have acquired enough ammunition to carry out an assault on a 50 game season – O’Neill wouldn’t be here, Lerner wouldn’t want 4th, if we weren’t going to push on.

On the brink of success, we are between a rock and a hard place. Ready to jump from our current platform, we need the firepower to reach the next step – otherwise we will fall from grace. We need to strike whilst the iron is still hot.

The signings will come.

In MON We Trust.

Transfers

(table compiled by Dan at www.astonvillacentral.com)

Player transfers since Martin O’Neill joined Aston Villa on 4th August 2006.

Date Player                        Xfr Fee Out
                          Xfr Fee In   To/From Club
22/08/06 Kevin Phillips   700,000   West Brom
25/08/06 Ulises De la Cruz   Free   Reading
30/08/06 Stilian Petrov 6,500,000     Celtic
12/09/06 Didier Agathe ?     Celtic
03/10/06 Chris Sutton Free     Birmingham
11/01/07 Didier Agathe   Released   N/A
11/01/07 Peter Wittingham   350,000   Cardiff
22/01/07 Milan Baros   Swap   Lyon
22/01/07 John Carew Swap     Lyon
23/01/07 Ashley Young 9,650,000     Watford
25/01/07 Paul Green   Free   Lincoln
31/01/07 Shaun Maloney 1,000,000     Celtic
17/04/07 Juan Pablo Angel   Free   New York Red Bulls
25/05/07 Jlloyd Samuel   Free   Bolton
30/05/07 Stephen Henderson   Free   Bristol City
31/05/07 Mark Delaney   Released   N/A
31/05/07 Chris Sutton   Released   N/A
08/06/07 Gavin McCann   1,000,000   Bolton
27/06/07 Aaron Hughes   1,000,000   Fulham
01/07/07 Robert Olejnik   Free   Falkirk
05/07/07 Nigel Reo-Coker 8,500,000     West Ham
05/07/07 Steven Davis   4,000,000   Fulham
17/07/07 Marlon Harewood 4,000,000     West Ham
19/07/07 Lee Hendrie   Free   Sheffield Utd
01/08/07 Eric Djemba-Djemba   Released   N/A
01/08/07 Sam Williams   Released   N/A
29/08/07 Zat Knight 3,500,000     Fulham
30/08/07 Liam Ridgewell   2,000,000   Birmingham
31/08/07 Moustapha Salifou 50,000     FC Wil
30/01/08 Gary Cahill   5,000,000   Bolton
30/01/08 Wayne Routledge 1,250,000     Tottenham
28/05/08 Luke Moore   3,000,000   West Brom
01/06/08 Patrik Berger   Released   N/A
01/06/08 Thomas Sorensen   Released   N/A
03/07/08 Curtis Davies 8,000,000     West Brom
04/07/08 Damian Bellon   Free   FC Vaduz
04/07/08 Eric Lund   Free   IFK Gothenborg
10/07/08 Steve Sidwell 5,000,000     Chelsea
26/07/08 Brad Friedel 2,000,000     Blackburn
01/08/08 Brad Guzan 600,000     Chivas USA
01/07/08 Olof Mellberg   Free   Juventus
07/08/08 Nicky Shorey 4,000,000     Reading
08/08/08 Luke Young 5,000,000     Middlesbrough
12/08/08 Carlos Cuellar 7,800,000     Rangers
22/08/08 Shaun Maloney   2,500,000   Celtic
30/08/08 James Milner 12,000,000     Newcastle
03/01/09 Wayne Routledge   600,000   QPR
23/01/09 Emile Heskey 3,500,000     Wigan
01/06/09 Martin Laursen   Retired   N/A
02/06/09 Gareth Barry   12,000,000   Man City
23/06/09 Stuart Taylor   Free   Man City
16/07/09 Stuart Downing 12,000,000     Middlesbrough
21/07/09 Sam Williams   Free   Yeovil Town
25/07/09 Zat Knight   4,000,000   Bolton
04/08/09 Fabian Delph 8,000,000     Leeds Utd
07/08/09 Habib Beye 2,500,000     Newcastle
12/08/09 Andy Marshall Free     N/A
27/08/09 Stephen Warnock 8,000,000     Blackburn
01/09/09 Richard Dunne 6,000,000     Man City
01/09/09 James Collins 5,000,000     West Ham
26/01/10 Craig Gardner   3,500,000   Birmingham
06/06/10 Andy Marshall   Released   N/A
TBC Stephen O’Halloran   Free   Coventry City
Totals   123,850,000 39,650,000   84,200,000
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Filed under 10/11 Season, Martin O'Neill, Transfer Talk, Uncategorized

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