Date: 9th July 2007 at 3:37pm
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As Aston Villa rises like a phoenix from the embers of the old regime, the ambitions of fans have shot through the roof and perhaps we need to reassess how we look at our players.

Boss Martin O’Neill is still only starting to rebuild the squad, and the board are only starting to rebuild the club, since the takeover last summer. While that seems like an age away now, perhaps too many of us are still thinking in the same way we did before the Randylution.

In the past we’ve had to make do with players who, quite frankly, were not worthy of the Aston Villa jersey. We should not have to put up with that any more. If a player isn’t good enough, they should be shipped-out as soon as possible. That might seem callous, but if we are going to challenge at the top of the table again, we have to act in that way.

Perhaps legendary manager Jock Stein spoke the perfect words about what players should be a clubs. He famously said: ‘The Celtic jersey does not shrink to fit inferior players.’ Swap Celtic for Aston Villa (as Stiliyan Petrov did, but more on him later) and the words are as appropriate now as they ever have been.

Additionally, it is not a bad thing for players to realise they have to be ‘good enough’ to stay in the team. In the past, with a small squad and a tactically-backward manager, a player could quite easily coast through a run of games and still be guaranteed to start. Now we have a decent regime at the club, that can never be allowed to happen again.

We all want Villa to be challenging for a place in the big-four as soon as possible, and that surely means there will be heartache for some players. If we are to improve dramatically, it seems likely that new players will come in, only to be replaced by new players within six months or a year.

One example would be Stiliyan Petrov. When he was bought from Celtic in the summer, he was bought in a hurry – thanks to the takeover and the transfer window system football now employs. Martin O’Neill understandably turned to someone he had worked with, and someone who was immediately available. It could have worked out brilliantly, but in general it did not.

Over the years I have watched Petrov develop while playing for Celtic. Some who criticise the quality of Celtic and the SPL may suggest that the Bulgarian star was like a rose who grew out of a pot of dirt, and outshone everyone around him. That wouldn’t really be fair, but he was certainly an impressive player.

Since moving to Villa Park – apart from a few exceptions – Petrov has looked woeful. Perhaps we expected too much, but at the moment Stan does not look like a player who can guide us into the top-four. Or even the top-six…

So should he be sold? No, not yet. Players often need a season to settle down, especially if they have been at a club for a long time. However, that doesn’t mean Petrov should be given an open cheque to stink-up Villa Park and collect his wages every week. If he doesn’t show signs of his Celtic form by January, Martin O’Neill will have to give serious consideration to placing him on the transfer market.

To be fair, the same can be said even of players who are performing well – playing well is not enough to help Villa shoot up the league. If we signed a striker better than John Carew, I wouldn’t shed a tear at benching the big Norwegian as needs must, and our need is to play with Europe’s premier clubs, in Europe’s premier club competition as soon as possible.

Because let’s be clear – if we are serious about reclaiming our rightful place among the giants of the game, we will have to put feelings of loyalty towards players to one side. We are Aston Villa, and never again do us fans want to have to mentally shrink our famous jerseys around players who don’t improve our club.


15 Replies to “Not Fit To Wear The Villa Shirt?”

  • Spot on. I get very frustrated at the amount of people who say things like, what do we need so an so for when we already have Moore or Gabby or Cahill. Its all about building a strong squad and competition for places. Our current squad finished 11th after all. Our players need appetite and should earn there place. I think MON is adopting your ideas (hopefully) as the sale of Davis has shown. He admitted that he wanted more or less guarenteed first team football and didn’t want to fight for his place. We don’t want players like that. I always think a decent way to judge our players is to imagine they’re all up for sale, who would come in for them? the Man U’s or Wigan’s?

  • I still do not know why people are focusing no Petrov, even before this season has started he is under the spotlight. I personally think all the players will be under the microscope as Villa attempt to climb out of the alsoran club they have been members of for so very long. To focus on any single player this early in the pre-season can only lead to un-needed pressure.

  • You make some good points but I also disagree to an extent in that you should develop you’re young talent and then have the confidence to give them a go. I am one of the people who champions the cause of Luke, Gabby etc and am against signing someone like Bellamy for example, without first giving them a chance as I don’t necessarily see someone like Bellamy as being any better than what we already have. If we were talking about Kaka or somebody of that calibre then yes, he would definately improve the team and would justify your argument, but we’re not in that ball park just yet.
    Having said that, it doesn’t mean Luke/Gabby/Cahill etc should be guaranteed a starting place, yes it should be earned on merit and players should perform to retain their place in the side.
    I have said before, the most consistently successful side of recent times was Man Utd who dominated the whole of the 90’s and early naughties with a side which predominantly came through their youth set up together with a couple of astute signings to bolster them. Having had a period of sustained success they were able to extend their ground,develop a mega off field marketing empire and develop a turnover to allow them to be able to attract and sign the calibre of player who we can only dream about at his point in time. At the end of the day, how do you know how good a player can be if you don’t let him play?

  • Good Article , totally agree with everything mentioned . I have been one of those fans where i would check to see if a players name was on the teamsheet first . I loved JPA and would always check to see if he was there . I just remember my excitement at seeing him sign for us . 9.5 mil was in my opinion, at the time money to make us great again ! anyway i am still checking him out in MLS ! I am so glad he didn’t sign for an English Club ! ROSE TINTED GLASSES !

  • Lets not get ahead of ourselves, we have only signed NRC so far. Fulham, Newcastle, Tottenham, Bolton and Portsmouth have all done more building than us! Petrov I thought towards the end of the season started to have more influence on the games dropping back and keeping the midfield ticking over. For me, I think he is good enough for us.

  • A lot of players struggle in their first season, and remember he joined up with the squad very late. I think he will justify the hype this season.

  • I personally cant see too much wrong with Stiliyan Petrov. The guy looks quality to me, and like one or two of my fellow posters above, I am sure he will be a major player for us during the upcoming campaign. After having my say on Stan The Man, I’ll turn to the remainder of the article, and admit that I am in agreement with the vast majority of it. We are all always going to have our favourites, players we want to see in the team week in, week out, but if MON decides that they are not doing the business, falling down on the task, then yes, Martin as our manager, the man in who we have to put our trust, needs to move them on, ship them out. Favouritism and misguided loyalty will only hold back the re-emergence of AVFC as a force in the modern day game.

  • I think Petrov can come good. He hasn’t been particularly bad, just not scored as many goals as we’d liked. We will see.

  • Jon, I agree, I’m like the majority who are very proud of the youth system. Although, I’m not so sure you need to sign anyone of the calibre of Kaka to improve on our youth players or the team. SWP, Defoe, Young are players who I think will improve the challenge for places. They have proven there worth in Prem as has Bellamy (even if he is a little ****). I know Man U’s 90’s youth team was able to win european and league honours but they did include Neville, Scholes, Giggs, Beckham. These players where some of the best in world. I think, to a certain extent Man U got lucky with that crop, the fact they were all so good and progressed at the same time. I like most of our youth players (especially Gabby) and am proud to see them play for Villa, but are they really good enough to push us to the top 4? I hope they are.

  • There are statistics and there are damn statistics. Interestingly the official opta stats show that despite a supposedely unremarkable season, Petrov had the biggest pass completion rate in the club. Not a bad feat considering he was the one players who at least tried to make forward and incisive passes while McCann did the supposedly easier stuff. He also had more shots and a higher percentage of on target shots from outside the area. I think we were all hoping that he would bang in about 10 goals +. When this didn’t happen many jumped to the conclusion that he wasn’t good enough for the Premier League. I strongly disagree. If you actually watch his game his workrate is phenomenal. He always seemed to be the covering player and then the person who was making himself available when we were pushing forward. He is a ball player and has a real football mind. He never panicked and forever tried to play football. I personlly think that with NRC doing the donkey work next season, both Barry and Petrov will have a greater atacking license and we will see more goals from midfield.

  • Hi PBAFC, fair points well made. I guess what I am saying though is that unless we give our youth players a run in the side we’ll never know. Take Steve Davis as an example, he was brilliant two seasons ago, started last season reasonably well, had a bad game and then was dropped. Petrov on the other hand, and I am a fan of his, played a few games below par and was kept in the side.
    However seeing VOTH’s post above probably explains why.
    I just wonder if the Man Utd hierarchy sat down and pondered, all those years back, if their young players could carry the club forward?

  • VOTH, I totally agree. I believe (and this is my opinion), that Petrov was the fans scapegoat last year, I thought he did OK but got jaded mid season. He had issues gelling with Maccan (who was very poor). We always have to blame (and even boo!) certain players when we don’t beat teams. It’s a team game and even Gareth Barry has a howler sometimes. Expectations were way too high last season, bearing in ind what had gone before. The fans predictions pre-match we always for a win, even against form teams (we’d have won the the bloody league if the fans results had predicted correctly).

  • I am another fan of Petrov and think he is given a bit of unfair stick, his stats show he is a great passer of the ball and good at making forward penatrive passes, you could clearly see towards the backend of he season he was asked to sit deep. I even saw MON tell him to “get the f*** back” when making a run forward but with him and Barry in the centre I’d still want barry the one making the runs. Now with someone like NRC around him and hopefully more to follow I really think he’ll sign next season.

  • Also i remeber someone making a last minute dash for some twins, so as last minute additions to help the squad go, at least were going in the right direction

  • Very interesting comments by voth, regarding Petrov and the official opta stats. Pleasing to read for us Petrov ‘groupies’.

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