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The Rollercoaster Continues

And so, after 9 conceded goals in just 2 games, after European elimination, after failing to fill 8063 (almost 19%) seats, and lets be honest, after some dreadful, dreadful football, Aston Villa overturned their first big challenge of the season to climb proudly into the last remaining Champions League spot.

Football’s a funny old thing isn’t it?

Because as surely as this high will soon be quashed by a poor result elsewhere in the season, I’m going to once again allow myself to be blinded by the optimism and take a look at how positive things can sometimes be for an Aston Villa fan.

The Challengers

Yes, we are only 3 games into the season, but we are hanging onto the coattails of the Big Three better than anyone else in the league, and last year’s fourth place residents have already proven that they will be unable to cope with both the physical and mental demands of a midweek European match (even at such a premature stage). Tottenham have a good squad full of depth and talent – but the requirement of Champions League teams to peak twice in the one week, and not prioritise competitions, is a whole new experience for Spurs and their potential six more hangovers could prove detrimental in their domestic campaign.

Man City have a better squad full of deeper talent, but are fortunately blessed with an incompetent Premier League manager. After completely outplaying Liverpool, I rated the Sky Blues as a shoe-in for a Top 4 place – only for their overpaid personnel to demonstrate how they are suspect to neglect “lesser” league opponents this year off the back of more glamorous fixtures. And as long as Mancini concerns himself with not losing (rather than trying to win), the players at his disposal will remain restricted and limited and open to defeats by unexpected midtable challengers.

Liverpool are unconvincing as ever. Unlucky to be suffering the frustrations of a transition period, Hodgson could take time to gather momentum for the wounded Reds. But still blessed with Gerrard and Torres, Villa should hope that this progress takes longer than it should.

Obviously it is a massive ask to expect the mess that is Aston Villa to secure a Top 4 spot (particularly this season), but it is extremely heartening to realise that maybe the grass isn’t much greener on the other side after all.

Everton

Okay, we were abysmal at times today. The first half was largely pathetic and the exciting dominance we enjoyed against The Hammers just two weeks ago never seemed so far away. It was like MacDonald was reverting back to the conservative style of Martin O’Neill – except under this manager, we were unable to carve any chances unlike the MON days. We got men behind the ball, sure, and we limited the opposition effectively, but on the ball, the Villains were clueless. Indeed, but for a poor and completely unsuccessful Fellaini clearance, I might not ever have written this piece (The O’Neill team were always outplayed, but never lacked direction or danger). The final 20 minutes of the game: I’d rather not discuss. I never thought it was possible to become short of breath by sitting down – but boy, that was a stressful time.

Unlucky

However, I’ve said it before and I am delighted to say it again: In sport, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you take.

Besides, whatever the caretaker boss said at half time had a temporary effect on the team who were finally standing toe-to-toe with Everton and should have even put them away within that half hour spell. Ashley Young and John Carew had Distin on toast, and when we began to take them on, the Blue backline were struggling to find answers. Phil Jagielka produced a first class, last ditch block from Ashley Young’s rebound after big, bad John’s parried shot meant Tim Howard could only look on in hope. Similarly, Marc Albrighton showed his inexperience by rushing a rebounded shot from the opposite side when he could have firstly taken a touch. Everton never came as close as we did – and after refusing to give in to the pressure, we got out of there alive.

Brad Friedel

Yes, yes, yes. A quality goalkeeper is probably the most underrated, and conversely one of the most important, items within a football team. Producing a terrific reflex save from a Seamus Coleman flick, the American prevented certain heartbreak in the 94th minute to get a single fingertip to a Louis Saha shot which, at first glance, didn’t look threatening – thankfully Brad wasn’t as lax as I and went down, outstretched, to construct the game’s best save. A real relieving influence for a pressurized defence, Friedel’s impact in these 3 points should not be downplayed.

Luke Young

A case of humble pie for yours truly. Criticized on this very blog after his escapades in Newcastle, the number 2 produced his best performance in a long time to remind me why I had called for his selection on a number of occasions last year. Marauding into the penalty area, Young latched onto an inch perfect through ball from his namesake and effortlessly bent the ball into the top corner with his left foot – before completing the rest of the game in a sound manner and confidently making himself available as an attacking option time and time again. Apologies, Luke.

James Collins

Man of the Match contender. The Welsh man lived up to every inch of his beast-like stereotype with a ruthless performance at the heart of our defence in a game where anything less would have been catastrophic. Standing tall and putting league-bully Marouane Fellaini in his place with a commanding role, this match was made for James Collins.

Richard Dunne

I was a bit critical of ‘Dickey’ in the early stages of the game – accusing him of dwelling in possession and being clumsy in the tackle. But in hindsight, our number 5 was simply tactically cynical and tried to help out the midfield with a bit of ball retention in a no-nonsense display which swept the lethargy of St James’ Park under the carpet.

Stephen Warnock

I don’t know a lot, but I know that Stephen Warnock is a much more useful left back than Kieran Gibbs is. Another comforting solid match for the former Liverpool man, Everton’s right side was completely inept until the late introduction of Coleman, and like Luke, Warnock proved an attacking asset at least within our 30 minute spell. The entire defence should be credited with this victory after securing another clean sheet – defying the laws of averages (if you throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick – Everton threw an abundance of mud at the wall today, and none of it stuck).

Marc Albrighton

Another tough game to get through for Marc, I think he just about tipped the scales and won me over throughout the 90 minutes. Early signs of naivety were apparent as Leighton Baines pushed forward, but the 20 year old got to grips and ended up recreating a number of thankful defensive clearances. He had a real bite going into the tackle as well which eliminated my early fears that he wasn’t physically ready just yet. At times, he ran out of steam and got overexcited when he could have held the ball up, but he was certainly our biggest threat from a wide area on Sunday.

Nigel Reo Coker

Take a bow, Nigel. An injury to Stephen Ireland in the warm up meant that a substitute was required, and in our hour of need, Reo Coker stepped up. Going through his usual shift of hard work and commitment, the number 20 was much better suited to this game than our new signing would have been – and I can’t recall one single instance where the lad lost possession. Even pulling the team out of the trenches with a few lung bursting, both solo and supportive, runs, the Londoner is, in my opinion, the unsung hero and another shout for MOTM – and could probably feel hard done by should he lose his place after this performance.

Stiliyan Petrov

Much too quiet today. The skipper failed to ever really impose himself on the game and produce any kind of magic you would hope from your creative centre midfielder. Of course, still worked hard and was maybe a victim of the referee’s harsh away bias, but we needed more from Stan today and we didn’t get it – and had to ride our luck as a result.

Stewart Downing

Probably the weakest of the team today, Stewart hit a couple of notable misplaced passes and didn’t seem too interested in affecting change in the match either defensively or offensively (excuse the Bob Bradley twang). I was angered to see that Agbonlahor was not replacing the left winger. I would have moved Ashley out and played two up top because Downing simply was not on-song today.

Ashley Young

Boy, is he thriving off playing behind the striker. Tireless off-the-ball work, combined with our best avenue of keeping possession, Young added to his delicious assist with 94 minutes of direction for a struggling outfit. If only we could have used his unflappably constant threat more.

John Carew

The big man came through for us today. Again, wasn’t really given a chance with desperate balls being hoofed forward to his isolated positions, but the Norwegian still managed to play a key role in the goal with a nod down for Ashley, and he led the line well enough in difficult conditions. Maybe taken off too early just when he had the clear beating of Distin, Carew was a perfect example of a “good” individual performance in a poor team display, lacking a little direction.

Gabriel Agbonlahor

Good to see him back. He showed glimpses of his use by holding up the ball and running into channels away from defenders. He was used as a bit of relief at times, but in truth, he was involved at a time where the game was being played in our box.

Although the team performance clearly wasn’t up to scratch, a number of individuals still demonstrated their value and showed that we are still a force if they can be moulded together (there was NO cohesion today and we still came away with the points).

Another clean sheet at Villa Park was the key to our 100% league record at home – a place where we failed to win 8 (42%) games last year.

Things were bleak just yesterday, and even throughout the game, alarm bells are clearly ringing. But just one glance at the Premier League table would suggest that we’re reaching any targets we are audacious enough to set in today’s environment, and it would confirm that once again, Aston Villa is overperforming.

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6-0: The Knee-jerk Reaction

So there I was; pen in hand, performance analyses tables drawn up – ready to dissect and detail the strengths and weaknesses of an attacking Aston Villa team at St. James’ Park… But sometimes, we don’t need facts and figures. Sometimes, we don’t need blind spots highlighted and it goes without saying that the pen and paper I was using were fired sorely in the bin quicker than Kevin MacDonald’s hopes of acquiring the permanent position disintegrated before his very eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to heap all the blame on our caretaker boss and he certainly didn’t get the rub of the green as big John still waits for the ball to return from orbit after his penalty shot, and Newcastle’s third goal from the corner curled about 2 feet behind the byline before entering the box (yet went bizarrely unnoticed on ESPN). But on his only test to date, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the Scot failed – failed miserably.

Penalty

What a ball from Stan, by the way, to unleash Ashley Young who rounded the goalkeeper before being swiped to the ground. Young, incidentally, still looked remarkably dangerous and truly thrived playing off the front man despite his team going 6 goals to the worse. But it now begs the answer of what we do with Stephen Ireland – who admittedly, had a very quiet debut, but certainly looks more assured and effortless than anyone playing in claret and blue for a long time.

Now, I don’t know who takes the blame for Carew’s appointment as penalty-taker: manager or player? Because as I seen him lift the ball to place it on the spot, I was immediately vocal and frustrated in my opposition to the Norwegian getting the nod. Yes, he has scored a few in his time – but each have been cowardly blasts down the middle of the goal, and I for one knew what was coming (of course no one could estimate the proportions of failure which we were about to witness). I’ve said it so many times before and I unfortunately have to say it yet again: If you are going to hit a penalty down the middle, don’t hit it at all. A penalty kick should be left to someone who has the confidence to put the ball where the keeper can’t get it, and not left to chance by a bottler looking to hammer it down the goalie’s throat.

I’m not annoyed at the ball being skied, it is the risk the kicker runs when shooting in such a saveable area which really gets my goat. And if I knew, after having zero dialogue with big J.C, that he was going for more of the same – then surely his day-to-day manager, Kevin MacDonald, could have spotted this as well and elected someone different. Similarly, it is also up to the set-piece taker to put his hands up and say that he has no intention of aiming for the ‘unsavable zone’, rather he is going to close his eyes, blast the ball as hard as he can, and leave the outcome to the uncertain hands of a lottery-esc fate. But naturally, a forward wants a chance at another mark in their stats tally so it should be up to the manager to assign the player best prepared to consistently put the ball in the corner of the net.

I’ve probably spoken at great length about one incident which ultimately seems irrelevant in the magnificently grand scheme of things in the Newcastle massacre; but had we converted our 12 yard golden opportunity, we may well have made use of our early dominance and confidence and produced another scintillating display for the second week running to collect 6 points from our opening two games for the first time in 11 years. But now, we will never know.

New era

Instead, we allowed ourselves to be sucker punched just two minutes later and truthfully, we failed to ever really mentally recover from the drain of being one goal behind as opposed to be one up (we crumbled like we did at Stamford Bridge). And on that point: I’m all for the attraction of attacking football and I dream of seeing Villa play the beautiful game the way it should be played, but this should never serve to neglect the fundamental responsibility of defence. Yes, Barton’s goal was a bit of a piledriver but boy, did he have time to tee himself up. In fact, it was embarrassing that a top 6 club afforded an opponent so much time and space 20 yards from goal.

A lot of fans were angered at O’Neill’s uber-defensive mentality of piling 10 men behind the ball and from a football purist’s point of view, maybe we did over-commit to defending our goal throughout the MON era. However, the change in emphasis of our tactics should not grant a licence to our midfield to casually stroll back whenever they please. It should not permit the Villains to maraud forward with reckless abandon however they want. At times last year, it was annoying to see Downing and Young pinned back so far in their own half and the new lease of freedom for the wingers last Saturday at Villa Park was refreshing. But when I see Albrighton fail to track the attacking fullback for the Magpies’ second goal, when I see Dunne and Clark give-and-go as if they’re playing a 5-aside recreational game (leaving the heart of defence wide open for Carroll’s second), and when I consider the pressure mounted on Warnock all afternoon without backup, I was more disappointed thinking of how the players were taking the new regime for granted and that they expected an easy ride for the remaining 37 games.

Interestingly, at 3-0 down after 45 minutes, I wasn’t too downhearted. I recognised how things could have been different and I appreciated that we were still controlling large chunks of the game – unlike the past. And I viewed the half time break as MacDonald’s chance to shine. If he could muster a response from his side, if he could provide direction and concentration into an outfit which had clearly thrown in the towel, then Kevin could surely be the one for us. Unfortunately, the second half performance was much, much worse and the caretaker manager’s half time talked served only to ensure another 3 conceded goals against newly promoted Newcastle.

Nothing changed

As a Villa fan, there is always an unpleasant wake up call around the corner as soon as you even begin to have the audacity to be confident. We were good against The Hammers, but I had questioned the role of MacDonald in that result and I think it’s also time to question the ability of West Ham.

Blinded by a good performance, Villa fans (including myself) had forgotten the drastic necessity of the club to spend in the transfer market this summer.

Just because we acquired Stephen Ireland (at the expense of Milner), it doesn’t excuse the need for a goalscoring forward. Just because we swapped a central midfielder for another, we are not suddenly devoid of the requirement to strengthen our wing options. Albrighton has definitely been a class act in the opening two games, but in matches like today, we can’t be looking to a 20 year old to pull us out of the gutter. And after losing Milner, our midfield was completely dominated by last year’s Championship winners and maybe Ireland should not be confined to the centre afterall – meaning our central midfield problem needs sorting and the decision to move Young to the wing or not is still up in the air. Perhaps against better teams, we will not have the luxury to give Ashley a free role and will need to play him on the flanks to accommodate the new signing but the requirement of a quality number 8 and the bonus of having an extra attacking option are matters in which I hope Randy and the boardroom will not ignore – and appoint a fulltime manager immediately to sort it out.

Finally, I often complained at Cuellar’s selection at right back last season – but my oh my, did Luke Young look lightweight throughout the St James’ drubbing. Too slow and unaware, and bullied too easily, I would deem the signature of a better right back extremely obligatory as well.

So the great ‘Kevolution’ has come to a massively premature, and horrific ending; but instead of dwelling on it and indeed on this disastrous result, Aston Villa needs to act swiftly, very swiftly, to ensure that this mortification will never, ever happen again.

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3-0: If It’s Good Enough For Messi, It’s Good Enough For Me

On the 14th August, at 3pm, Aston Villa were managerless. The boardroom were penniless and the team were pointless.

Hopeless? Not in a month of Sundays.

Because on the 14th August, at 4.50pm, the “club in decline”, the “inharmonious dressing room”, the “shipwrecked” mission ignored all the off-field uncertainty at Villa Park and produced a devastating display which had us believing that MacDonald was Shankly, that new signings were irrelevant and more importantly; a performance which delivered all 3 points.

Of course, the team was set up identically to O’Neill’s preseason campaign so in a way, we are indebted to the Ulster man. However, whatever our newly-beloved caretaker manager said in the dressing room on Saturday, whatever words he advised in his players’ ears during the week, and whichever style he adopted worked terrific wonders as The Villains ran rampant against their claret rivals and secured a minimum winning margin of 3 goals – a feat we could only replicate three times in all last year throughout the entire league crusade.

It’s the cliché of the weekend, but the team were free to express themselves and had a refreshing fearlessness which banished the old policy of over-respect for the opposition – instead, going straight for their jugular with merciless havoc. Again, I wouldn’t downplay our former manager’s involvement in this as Kevin MacDonald has had just 5 days to work with the team – but to be honest, I don’t care who was responsible for Villa’s very own brand of Total Football, I’m just delighted to have witnessed it.

When our 20 year old, mostly untested, winger Marc Albrighton produces two direct assists from each wing (as well as a key-goal-involvement for the other), when 3 midfielders grab all the goals from shots within 18 yards of the nets (when Stan crosses the halfway line for that matter), when Aston Villa and Ashley Young are praised by one of the best footballers ever as playing exciting football and having a blinder ( http://twitter.com/officialmessi ), respectively, the shackles have certainly come off haven’t they?

Maybe it was planned throughout the entire preseason period, maybe it wasn’t. But rarely in the past 4 years have we ever dominated possession against any team and broke opponents down with such ease and assurance. Last year, we were caught out. Teams were ready for our counterattacking prowess and set up to spoil a spoiling team. Our predictability was all too apparent in the bemusing 52 league goals recorded by the biggest club in the Midlands. But we were aided by a mean defence.

This year (so far), we are opening up. Yes, there is a chance that this could prove to be a two-edged-sword and the step away from the old, cautious approach might well prove costly at times – particularly in cup competitions. But last season was the absolute last time we could have continued with our expected humdrum brand of football and the change is very welcome – and necessary.

And now the groans of Villa Park, echoed from uninspiring past results against Wigan, West Ham, Wolves, Sunderland and Blackburn, have all but disintegrated in place of mouthwatering content for the pure attack-minded regeneration.

 Yes, the Hammers were meek opponents but 17 shots (12 on goal) and a hatful of spurned gilt-edged chances (mostly from Big John), speaks volumes for our domination and suggests that nothing would have deterred a hungry Aston Villa outfit from getting the job done on Saturday – no matter who stood in the way.

Manager Debate

After hearing Petrov proclaim his desire to have MacDonald appointed as fulltime manager, I must admit that it got me thinking. I would in no way base this judgement on one fine result but more in the consideration that he has the players playing for him, he has introduced fresh faces to the action and it would be a smooth and simple transition from the MON era. I wanted the big name to take charge and continue to uphold the attraction of the club – but then I realised that this is Aston Villa; and drought or no drought, this speaks for itself. Mr Lerner and his boardroom contingent now have a massive conundrum in their hands: appoint Sven or Jol (which I’m all for) and risk drastic change, jeopardise more days like Saturday this year; or keep the faith with MacDonald and endanger our top 6 status through the guidance of an untried football manager. And the kicker is that this decision must be made immediately before the close of the summer transfer window. But what I will say is that only positive (extremely positive) reports have emerged from the Villa camp regarding the temporary boss.

Thankfully, I have no say in such matters and can simply look forward to Thursday with renewed optimism. Whatever MacDonald does next, he will always be remembered as the man who lifted the blues of last Monday, and allowed us to hope – yet again. He will be associated with the beautiful reminder that managers come and go – but Aston Villa is for life.

And as a supporter of the club first, I can bask in the glory that Marc Albrighton tops the Premier League assists charts; that two further youth team products, Andreas Weimann and Barry Bannan, have been successfully brought through the ranks; that every time Ciaran Clark plays a league match, Villa keep a clean sheet; that Marlon Harewood has finally produced the goods (oh, wait…); and I can be exceptionally proud to say that I am a peer of the thousands of fans who bid the ever-professional James Milner an emotional and deserving potential farewell. I can be proud to say that I am an Aston Villa man (God, the start of the season is magnificent!).

And do you know what else? It’s been a long, long time since a 3-0 home result at Villa Park flattered the opponents. Long may it continue.

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The King is Dead, Long Live the King

As much as it pains me to say, it’s time to move on. Martin O’Neill steered the Villa ship with a pair of undeniably steady hands for 4 years, but he will now embark on pastures new and probably go on to prove his worth elsewhere. It doesn’t matter. Because like him or loathe him, rate him or dismiss him, miss him or rejoice, Martin O’Neill is gone for good – but Aston Villa still remains.

It is now the age of a new leader – a new commander who has been set the task of ending our soon-to-be 15 year drought; a new chief who will guide his warriors with the scent of blood; a new provider who will be asked to deliver the meat in order to end our prolonged starvation of success.

And as a fan, it is my duty to give our next permanent manager my full backing. As players, it is their responsible to give our incoming supremo their full co-operation. And as the club’s board of directors, they are obliged to place their complete trust in Aston Villa’s next boss.

We are not here to prejudge the next man in charge. We are not here hoping for a reason to grumble. I made no secret of my disappointment at the Board’s recent deceit. Widespread Villains made no secret of their split in loyalties over the MON-saga. But what’s done is done. I took a side, and I was unhappy – but my blood is claret and I will continue to support the club. However, I fear that, come Saturday, there may be a lot of red faces around Villa Park as 2 separate protests expose the disharmony at Aston Villa. I hope this isn’t the case. Yes, I hope that there are a lot like me who are sad to see the back of O’Neill – but more importantly, I hope that everyone is like me and are AVFC fans first and foremost, and that they willing to leave the events of Monday and simply get behind their team. We are all here with the ambition that we can restore the spirit of ’82. And with a united front, we could begin to do that. Step by step.

So firstly, it’s time to give the new man in charge a fair chance and let him shape his vision for Aston Villa. And after time (and a lot of scrutiny!), we will begin to understand his methods and patterns and I’m sure that I will be the first in line with a few questions!

Therefore, without further ado, I present to you Aston Villa’s next possible managers:

Sven Goran Eriksson 8/11

 

Strangely, I think Sven’s personal life precedes him. Instantly, when people hear his name, they laugh or sigh and construe him as some sort of performing jester – in the wrong profession.

But as a football manager, I have to admit that the Swede has led an unblemished career and I would find it difficult to hold any objections to his appointment as next Villa manager.

Sven was fast-tracked into national acclaim after a superb one-season-wonder job with Degerfors as a young manager; and unbelievably, right up until his engagement with the English national team, Eriksson only failed to deliver silverware with just one club in those 23 years. His success as a club manager is indisputable. Even very recently, with Man Shitty, the 62 year old sex god mentored the Sky Blues’ best season for decades – dragging an underperforming club, devoid of a trophy in 30 years, into the Premier League top 10, winning two Manchester derbies (first time since 69-70) in the process before being bizarrely axed despite the infamous ‘Save Our Sven’ campaign.

I never understood why he wasn’t appreciated throughout his England tenure either. Imagine the shame of 3 consecutive tournament Quarter Finals (only Brazil matched this), or the embarrassment of being dumped out by Brazil (eventual champions), Portugal (the host country after a penalty shootout after that Urs Meier incident), and another penalty shootout defeat by Portugal in 2006 (with 10 men). In fact, England achieved their highest FIFA ranking of 4th in the world under the guidance of their lambasted manager – and after topping each of his qualifying groups, Eriksson was then succeeded by Steve McClaren who failed to even reach a major tournament.

Surprisingly, the only actual failure of Sven’s career came throughout his time at Mexico. Not bad for 33 years in football management eh? Yes, he had the benefit of a fantastically generous financial backing at Lazio, but after providing a return of 7 trophies in just 4 seasons, Eriksson proved to be sure-fire value for money.

Even his other apparent flops in the transfer market have proved a lot of people wrong. I’m probably Corluka’s biggest critic, but he is the one now starting for a Champions League outfit every week at Spurs. And I’ll put my hands up and admit that I hadn’t heard of Geovanni or Martin Petrov – but both turned out to be real gems. And of course, Elano “The Piledriver” won a place in a Brazilian first XI after being let loose by Eriksson. As a Premier League manager in the transfer market, I believe that Rolando Bianchi was Sven’s only dud (and an expensive mistake at that).

As firm favourite for the vacant position at Villa Park, I had to analyse the former England manager a bit more rigorously, and do you know what? Like Ulrika Jonson, I like what I see.

 Bob Bradley 11/4

Maybe should be the bookies favourite considering his nationality, but I’m not sure if that would be a deciding factor as Randy looks to keep pushing the club forward.

Untested in European football, the American has had unarguable success with his national side – following up a remarkable Confederations campaign (beating Spain and bringing the most successful country ever to its knees in the final) with a very respectable World Cup performance.

I wouldn’t write off Lerner’s compatriot so ignorantly: he converted himself as a renowned MLS manager and I, for one, would love to see the arrival of his son Michael into the Villa squad. But for me, this is a much riskier move than the aforementioned manager would be, and I think the name of Sven Goran Eriksson would be much more attractive for the club than that of Bob Bradley.

I’d be very interested to see him get his deserved chance in Europe or the Premier League, but I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be if it were us who took that punt.

Martin Jol 7/1

 

Why not?

Spurs treated him like dirt and after two consecutive top 5 finishes, the North London contingent were the only losers from his sacking after they wound up with Juande Ramos.

The Dutch man is still a relatively untravelled coach but his early years in the Netherlands saw him deliver a KNVB Cup in his first season as a football boss, before later winning 2 different Manager of the Year awards in 2 different seasons.

Spent big bucks on Darren Bent who let him down – and I am a big Bent critic, but boy he has proven that he will get goals and thus, has in some way justified Jol’s evaluation of him. I also wouldn’t just brandish Danny Murphy a write off. For £2m, Martin was investing in valuable experience for his squad and after leading Fulham to a Europa League Final, the Liverpudlian is still doing it.

What excites me most about Jol is not that he has followed on his Tottenham career with quick success at Hamburger and Ajax. No, it’s that he brought the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale to the Premier League for under £17m. How much would those 3 cost today? (Berbatov already made the club over a £20m profit)

After Eriksson, the 54 year old Dutch man would certainly be my choice to fill the void left by O’Neill.

Paul Lambert 8/1

After studying under our former manager for a number of years, the Scot would certainly prove a smooth transition. He’s doing a good job at Norwich, after that brilliant League Cup campaign with Wycombe in 06/07, but again he is still relatively unproven and much too risqué for my liking at this stage of his career.

Jurgen Klinsmann 8/1

Responsible for the regeneration of the German national team, Klinsmann led his country to a World Cup Semi Finals and I believe that his introduction of updated coaching techniques, playing style and attention to physical detail are pivotal to the onslaught success of Germany in the last 2 international tournaments.

Failed in his only club role to date, it would again be brave to appoint Jurgen but I don’t think I’d be unhappy to see him arrive either. However, constantly linked with every football post, I believe that his short odds are unfounded.

Alan Curbishley 10/1

I’m a fan of Alan, however I know some will say that his consideration would be a question of ambition. Unquestionably a safe option, ‘Curbs’ is still to bring success to a Premier League side and I have a feeling that his appointment would be met with unenthused groans by hardcore Villains.

But I look at it differently.

After overseeing 2 promotions and top flight consolidation with Charlton Athletic, Curbishley remarkably (and famously) saved newly promoted West Ham’s season from certain relegation with just 5 months to work with – and later turning them into a top ten outfit the year after.

Although it might not get me jumping from my seat, I would support the acquisition of Curbs, the former Villain, and would remember that everyone deserves their chance once they’ve earned it.

If football was so elitist and managers could not climb available ladders of opportunity, we would not currently be treated by the work of David Moyes, the beauty of Wenger football – and dare I say it, we would have no Alex Ferguson.

 Gareth Southgate 10/1

A Villa legend, surely.

But relegation and Alfonso Alves speak volumes for his current ability as a manager.

Scone’s Shortlist:

1)      Sven Goran Eriksson

2)      Martin Jol

3)      Alan Curbishley

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2010 A.D. The Year They Killed The Messiah

On the 15th of October 1973, Brian Clough and Peter Taylor tendered their resignation to the Derby County Board of Directors – who, in an unprecedented move, accepted their departure rather than bow to the demands of 2 of the most astute managers in world football. Today, Martin O’Neill left Aston Villa Football Club after seemingly reaching the end of his tether with the increasing chains of the powers-that-be. Today, the sleeping giant that is Aston Villa has now surely slipped into a deep, deep coma – and will never be woken.

As I was writing a new blog post on my season predictions, I explained,

“When I look at the personnel and depth of the 7 other teams in the Premier League top 8, and when I consider some of their spending power and growth, I see no reason why Aston Villa shouldn’t finish 8th this coming season. However, when I see images of Bodymoor Heath training, when I look at the excitement of some of our top-class players, when I hear O’Neill speak and when I consider his vision, I have every confidence that we will once again be in the shake-up come May…”

Unfortunately, as I was writing a new blog post on my season predictions, I read,

“It’s obviously a wrench to be leaving such a magnificent club…”

And at once, I had to stop writing. At once, the overly-optimistic Villain in me had been crushed, my rose tinted glasses shattered, and all at once, I could see only rubble before me on the plains of the 2010/11 season.

Romanticists are urging us to look at the positives, but some things in life just aren’t that simple, are they? Yes, I’ve criticised some of our players, I’ve overanalyzed some of our policies, and I beg for a sense of realism, but readers of this blog will know that, deep down, I am nothing more than a hopelessly hopeful Villa-addict. I will, when others won’t; I cheer when others frown; I believe when others doubt – but on the 9th of August 2010, this supporter fell from grace, cracked his head, and begrudgingly remembered that he is an Aston Villa fan; and with that, comes great misery.

Is it really that bad?

You bet. Because as I was riding high on the MON Express (I didn’t realise how high until now), I had forgotten the sickening feeling of having to turn off Match of the Day on a Saturday evening. I had blanked out all those cruel years of midtable apathy and I had elapsed the memory of when we were looking to Darius Vassell for goals, to Joey Gudjonsson for inspiration, to Alpay Ozalan for heart.

And now, regrettably, I see no way forward. I fear that Aston Villa will never be blessed with a manager of the calibre of Martin O’Neill again. The club has lost its entire pull-factor. James Milner is a goner; will we be so surprised to see Ashley Young follow him out the doorstep? Is a MONless AVFC appealing enough to attract the likes of Stephen Ireland (a player who we were on the brink of welcoming) or Robbie Keane? His achievements aside, the name alone of Martin O’Neill was working wonders for our club – and I can’t see any possible candidates having big enough metaphorical feet to fill his giant shoes.

In a way, the Ulster man has left us high and dry. 5 days before the new season begins, 22 days before the transfer window closes, we are managerless and still to make our first signing. But in another way, I don’t blame him. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if a board is going to hire a manager to oversee team affairs, they should put complete faith in that manager and his policies and allow him to shape his vision how he wants, with zero interference. If they feel that they cannot trust the man they have appointed and the directors feel that they know best, he shouldn’t be there in the first place – otherwise, let it be and give him a fair crack at the whip. And up until the past few months, I thought this mutual respect and communication was what we had at Aston Villa – and so did O’Neill. But how could MON take this club forward if we are constantly selling our best players? How could he take us anywhere if he isn’t being allowed to spend even the money that he raises himself? What would be the point in remaining with a project devoid of ambition, expecting failure?

The FA rejected MON’s application for the national job because he wanted to make sure that he had complete control of all team and academy matters (like it should be). (Similar unnecessary power-trips was why England missed out on having Brian Clough in charge all those years ago) Instead, the country was treated to the appointment of Steve McClaren who did his utmost to bring shame and disrepute to the 3 Lions crest. I say, “Back the manager; or sack the manager”… worryingly, our chairman chose the wrong option.

Irreplaceable?

Yes, I am a massive O’Neill supporter (although I can’t see any reason why everyone isn’t), but I do not want to become like that infamous blog which spouts out nothing but uninterested, uninspiring, pessimistic garbage each week about all-things-Villa. I’m an AVFC supporter first and foremost who simply recognised that MON was one of the best things in a long, long time that ever happened to this club – and I will back his successor (granted it’s not David O’Leary). I’m just having difficulty seeing how these clouds can be moved from Villa Park. I’m having difficulty considering life after O’Neill.

Martin gave us 4 spectacular years (I’ve discussed this in-depth in previous posts), and I, for one, am extremely thankful. Some say he was just there for the money (although he admirably walked out on his contract for footballing reasons); others say he had taken us as far as he could (even if he had, which he hadn’t, he had already taken us quite a distance). But O’Neill had us believing again – he had us hoping. And in the face of our 6 year despair, we couldn’t ask for any more.

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, I don’t believe in fate. I maintain that we are placed in situations, faced with opportunities and we need to make the most of them, we have to try and make the right decision.

The term “Messiah” refers to the redeemer figure, the leader, the saviour – the one who will show His people the way. I can’t help but think that after dragging us from the dark ages, after prophesising greatness for this club, after restoring pride in our people, that Martin O’Neill was The Chosen One. And I dread to accept that we turned our back on his teachings, that we rejected his way, and that we, Aston Villa, banished The Messiah.

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Thanks For The Memories, James – But Good Riddance

Time to move on

Last season’s best player wants to leave and our transfer dealings are restricted within the confines of a sell-to-buy policy. Grim? Maybe, but this is the situation and we have to get on with it.

Yes, James Milner was superb at times over the last 12 months; he scored 7 league goals from midfield and contributed to our cause with 12 assists. He showed glimpses of brilliance on the world stage in June and ultimately made the loss of our 12 year stalwart (who will remain nameless) a smooth, if not improved, transition. “Irreplaceable” you might say. However, I wouldn’t.

Of course, when I first heard Martin O’Neill’s admission that our number 8’s head was turned, I was gutted. It couldn’t be that, for a second year, my favourite footballer would sell his soul for the devil’s riches. Thankfully, however, I had already grieved this hurt and I soon realised that the loss of Milly wouldn’t compare to the aftermath of Man City’s first summer signing last year. And then it hit me: James Milner was just a rebound. All along, I had been using him to sooth the scar left by our former number 6 – he had his uses, don’t get me wrong; but now that he’s going, Villa will have no problem moving on, and do you know what? We’ll be okay.

Although it will be extremely difficult to find an established, and effective, central midfielder within our miniscule £12m transfer cap, the perceived “disastrous” sale of James Milner is now actually very “necessary”. Because, as our overly generous American owner has, for once, decided to tighten his purse strings, Villa would have been in big trouble this coming year – but for the gluttonous naivety of Manchester City. The uncontrollable spending which is destroying football as we know it over at Eastlands is, without doubt, making progression harder; but by exploiting the Citizens’ reckless attitude, the claret side of Birmingham is offered a lifeline which could continue to kickstart our climb to the top – at a time when Aston Villa should be stalled on a hill without the assurance of a handbrake.

For me, City can become that ally you have when playing Monopoly whose fortunes will never be surpassed, and who has no problem paying over the odds for your hot property. They will never be caught, but they can help carry you to the top with them.

As the club prepares to enter the transfer market with an empty bank account, it is an ironic saving grace that Man Shitty have declared an interest in our most valuable player. I’ve argued that we have to keep the likes of Milner at Trinity Road if we are to remain an attractive habitat; but should the Villains desperately hang on to the want-away England star for another season, the potential kitty from the sale of our fringe players will not be sufficient to even change, never mind improve, on last year. And let’s be honest: as much as we stepped on last year (in the cup runs and increased points tally), we were caught out.

Opposition sides were all too prepared for the approach of a Martin O’Neill team in its fourth season, and a lot of the times we were thwarted. Teams were willing to treat our deep-lying outfit with caution and often refused to over-commit – and thus, suffocating the potential of our counterattacking prowess in which Downing, Young, Gabby, Carew and, of course, Milner were pivotal. Failing to win 11 of our 19 games at Villa Park last year was testament to our inability to break teams down; and indeed to our vulnerability at coping with sides who were as equally prepared to hit teams on the break. On top of this, a meek total of 52 league goals banged in last term (the 8th most in the league), shows just how far we really are from Champions League football. Defensively we were water tight; but our inability to put weaker opponents to the sword ultimately created the failure to acquire that elusive 6 more points.

In conclusion, we have become much too predictable as an attacking force and the variation of talent which could be welcomed aboard for the same valuation as an overpriced James Milner is essential.

Stephen Ireland

Graceful

So, he didn’t have the best of seasons. But the 23 year old suffered the most from Manchester City’s ridiculous spending. Making room for more “household names”, the Sky Blues unfairly asked Stephen Ireland to ply his trade from wide areas (and I’m talking out-and-out winger positions), and of course from a deeper midfield role under the new defence-minded Italian regime.

But if we rewind to the 08/09 season, the Irish man was Mark Hughes’ main threat, cutting teams open with his creative instincts and death touch when allowed to roam through the centre and off the front man. It’s a cliché, I know, but his 9 goals and 9 assists that year were so efficiently devastating that it was, at times, reminiscent of a hot knife cutting through melting butter – at the tender age of 22.

And as a supporter of his native country: yes, I’ll admit, he has caused his fair share of trouble; but when Stephen lines out in a green shirt, the Republic then have at least one dimension to their boring, unimaginative play – I mean, boy is he crucial. Scoring 4, largely individual, goals in just 6 appearances playing in an already below-par team furthered hindered by the misguidance of Steve Staunton, Ireland banished any perception that he couldn’t play in a 4-4-2 formation. Starring in the centre for his country, Stephen didn’t shirk his defensive or tactical duties, and his 4 goals from this position were all four match-winners as an uninspired outfit took 12 Qualifying points, each through the minimum winning margin.

No other club on the planet would deem such a gem surplus to requirements – particularly if he was nurtured through their underage system. Fortunately for Villa, however, “Citeh” are a brainless club. Having already pawned off Daniel Sturridge, Mancini is doing his best to have Onouha and Richards frozen out; and valuing a raw James Milner almost £20m more than the effortless Stephen Ireland, any work completed within the Man City academy (as good as it has been) is deemed a pointless waste of time in the shambolic rigmarole that is the MCFC boardroom.

Not only would I actually prefer a Stephen Ireland to a James Milner, but to have that swap with an extra £20m thrown into the bargain would be daylight robbery – and exactly the sort of steal we need in today’s sell-to-buy climate. City are surely buying their way to the title; but last summer, we acquired PFA Team of the Year member Richard Dunne for £18m less than the clumsy Joleon Lescott; and this summer we could be obtaining the improved services of Stephen Ireland for £20m less than workhorse James Milner – therefore, as a Villa fan I say, “Long live the Sheikh”.

Opportunity

If the part exchange deal did take place involving either Ireland or Bellamy, we would be left with a more talented alternative – perfect for the necessary change the AVFC attack needs for the coming season. Moreover, the extra cash obtained will be used effectively to add extra dimensions to a thin squad.

I’m not saying that they are targets or that they are even interested, but the rumoured links with Aiden McGeady and Robbie Keane are heart-warming. Whilst I don’t think that McGeady is better than Young or Downing, I’ve witnessed his 2nd half introductions for the Republic of Ireland on numerous occasions and I’m convinced that his ability to lift the crowd and spark a game into life can be just the tonic our poor home win ratio needs.

Robbie Keane (or a similar player), in my opinion, will be a steal at £10m. Yes, he’s ageing, but he is good. Overflowing with flair, the Irish captain is the perfect man to get in between the customary positional lines of football and bring other players into the game. Feeding off target men for his entire international career, Keane is also one of the best forwards in the world at anticipating flick-ons and getting in behind the opposition defence.

The possibility of Aston Villa acquiring Ireland’s 3 most exciting players at the expense of the ever-willing, but limited talent of, James Milner is too good a chance to miss. Jimmy was great for two years, but was there ever a sense of emotional attachment with the wanderlust professional? He did his job, he did it well, but Milner was never Aston Villa.

Now, by replacing him, we can bring in critical firepower which will deal with the onset predictability of the club – without spending a single penny. And after overseeing 71 league goals (the 3rd most) in just his second year in charge, with a less able outfit, Martin O’Neill has the capability to get the Villains firing again – he just needs different ammunition to wear down the bullet proof vests some teams have adapted to wear against us.

Therefore, strangely, I’m hoping to see the back of James Milner sooner rather than later. Clearly, he didn’t appreciate the punt MON took on him as he looked for the exit doors at St. James’ Park. He doesn’t acknowledge the work undergone to turn him into an international standard player (quite similar to another particular Man City footballer). And he is so inpatient at the age of 24 that he couldn’t wait one more season to see if the Villa project comes together.

Not only don’t I want that type of personnel infecting the changing rooms at Bodymoor Heath, but I think that we can do a lot better than James Milner. So I say, “Thanks for the memories, James – but good riddance” because we don’t need you. What we do need is to cash his price tag and get to work bringing in the different types of ability which our team so badly needs. James Milner was crucial to an outfit who were capable of scoring just 52 league goals. Now, Aston Villa needs 3 or 4 variable elements who are crucial to an outfit who can once again score 70+ goals. But this time, we will be supported by a mean defence. And this time, we could go that one step further – without the services of one, James Milner.

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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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