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 We must not even contemplate Alex McLeish’s actions because when the dust settles; Jo Hart has been replaced by a less competent goalkeeper, Enric Valles is an unproven 20 year old signed for nothing, and Nikola Zigic will prove he is not worthy of a place amongst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.
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.
(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|
|17/04/07||Juan Pablo Angel||Free||New York Red Bulls|
|30/05/07||Stephen Henderson||Free||Bristol City|
|05/07/07||Nigel Reo-Coker||8,500,000||West Ham|
|17/07/07||Marlon Harewood||4,000,000||West Ham|
|19/07/07||Lee Hendrie||Free||Sheffield Utd|
|31/08/07||Moustapha Salifou||50,000||FC Wil|
|28/05/08||Luke Moore||3,000,000||West Brom|
|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|
|01/08/08||Brad Guzan||600,000||Chivas USA|
|02/06/09||Gareth Barry||12,000,000||Man City|
|23/06/09||Stuart Taylor||Free||Man City|
|21/07/09||Sam Williams||Free||Yeovil Town|
|04/08/09||Fabian Delph||8,000,000||Leeds Utd|
|01/09/09||Richard Dunne||6,000,000||Man City|
|01/09/09||James Collins||5,000,000||West Ham|
|TBC||Stephen O’Halloran||Free||Coventry City|