As soon as the record-breaking signature of Dazza Bent went through last Tuesday, I rejoiced for the acquisition of what we have been missing for so long. I claimed that it had been years since we had a natural goalscorer, a 20-goal-a-season striker, a household name leading the line. I said that you would have to look past Juan Pablo, to the 20th century days of Dwight Yorke to find our last genuine goal-machine… But I was wrong.
(And no, I’m not referring to Lionel Heskey)
You would have to look longer… Because, as big of a hit that the little Columbian was with the Holte End, as great the things that Yorkie went on to, as undeniable the talents of Dean Saunders were, each and every one of these legends failed to hit the net 20 times in one league campaign for Aston Villa (and to think that many supporters chastised Agbonlahor for “only” scoring 13 last year).
Since the inception of the Premier League, Aston Villa Football Club have not had one player capable of scoring over (or equal to) 20 goals in one single campaign.
Sometimes, you don’t have to look for the problem. Sometimes, the problem is so glaringly obviously that it can seem too simple. But as a result, sometimes the solution is never adopted. For 18 and a half Premier League seasons, the Villa directors have either showed blind ignorance to the suffocating reality that the team had no deadly front man, or they have simply failed to demonstrate enough bottle to follow through and address the hindrance that has been holding this “massive club” back for way too long.
Of course, players like Yorke and Angel surely knew where the goals were and had they had better board backing at the time, better managerial guidance, even better players, then they could well have notched up more impressive tallies. However, only 2 and a half seasons lie between now and when a Villa team (largely the same bunch) worse than this current crop of players notched up 71 league goals without the help of even one terroriser up top.
Modern day Aston Villa are dangerous. They are capable of opening the best defences and creating chances. Players like Downing, Young, Albrighton and Gabby know just exactly how to put dents in the opposition shields… but for too long, we were missing the one figure who knows instinctively just how to put the sword in the enemy’s jugular. Darren Bent banged in 24 league goals last term, supported by team-mates less able and more restricted than what he has alongside him at Villa Park right now.
Saturday’s beautiful evening of putting Man Shitty in their place showed just how little Houllier’s outfit has to change in order to succeed. We don’t have to look long term, we don’t have to hope Milosevic or Angel have brought their shooting boots, we don’t have to toss up a Hail Mary with Bosko Balaban, we don’t have to play to suit Carew or Heskey… we simply have to get 10 of our players to work hard and go about their attacking business like they can and when the chances come, like they always do, we now have a sure-fire Royal Flush up top in place of the unpredictability of 2 pairs.
When Randy Lerner courageously doubled our record transfer fee, in what some would call a financial gamble, and signed the former Sunderland man, he did what we have failed to do in the past with our incoming forwards – eliminate the element of on-field risk. And it is this assurance that Bent will deliver and fill the void of over 20 years, that makes it possible for Aston Villa to finally start turning potential into product.