Disappointed but not surprised…
Disappointed but not surprised…
I was amazed that there were so many Villa fans expressing their surprise on Tuesday morning, that Villa’s prime asset had handed in his anticipated transfer request. It was hardly the best kept secret in the world and not one of the newspaper reports mentioned either Wikileaks or even Edward Snowden. The signals had been pretty clear.
Despite the many reassurances I’d received from the same guy who is always telling me, no matter what I have just bought, that he could have got it cheaper from a bloke he knows, I never really believed that Christian Benteke would stay.
There were just too many hints that he wanted otherwise. There was no badge-kissing, or any BS about fulfilling his childhood dream. And, the club stuck a price-tag on his back within a few months of his arrival, and they have been increasing the price ever since.
It is not even possible for the fans to make a case that he has somehow let them down because it required absolutely no effort to like him. There was absolutely no necessity to cut him any slack or indulge him with any patience. None of those calls to give him time to get up to speed. He just went from fairly good to brilliant in a matter of six-months and was simply awesome by the time he put his hat-trick past Sunderland, when Villa’s turnaround eventually came.
He wasn’t even being paid particularly well when he achieved all this, which made him the best pound-for-pound striker in the country. I can’t see how he could have behaved or performed any better.
It quickly became apparent that Villa had something special on their books and knowing club policy concerning wage-structures, their treatment of high-earners, their history of selling all their best assets in recent years, and the extent of the club’s losses, it didn’t need Bletchley Park to decipher the signals and predict the likely outcome. Once it was understood that to persuade Benteke to stay would require the Lerner-Lambert plan to be scrapped, it seemed pretty obvious.
By the time the nelly from off the telly, had travelled down to the Villa Park car park and was seeking Villanous opinion on the subject, he couldn’t seem to find a single Villa fan who was surprised at all. They all wore a smile of resignation and just said it was what they expected but were nonetheless disappointed because he could have made a big difference come the new season.
The next non-surprise looks likely to be the realisation that no matter what fee Villa get for Benteke, it seems highly unlikely that the money will be spent on a replacement; just as any fee obtained from Darren Bent seems unlikely to be piled into a war chest and placed at Lambert’s feet. So all the braggadocio about Christian not being allowed to leave unless the price is met (set at £40m in June), seems pointless and seems more likely to be part of Faulkner’s exercise in PR to make the claim that the club is totally against the deal, which would be hard to believe.
Bearing in mind the tendency of football owners and administrators to put their own reputation and relationship with the fans before the long-term interests of the club/team, it really is to be hoped that Villa avoid trying to arrange some deal which involves a make-weight exchange where some player is included to disguise the actual size of the fee and appease the fans.
It has happened too often in the past and the most recent example would be the inclusion of Stephen Ireland in the Milner deal, which allowed Villa’s PR department to invent a value for the player which seemed deliberately inflated to make the loss of Milner seem less and to disguise what was eventually understood to be the start of an asset-stripping process. I don’t want to criticise Stephen Ireland but from the get-go it looked like he’d agreed to a fait accompli.
It has to be understood by Villa’s management that losing Benteke will be bad enough and for the deal to include some player, the buying club has long been known to be trying to off-load, would seem like a humiliation too far.
Villa need to have the courage to stick with the plan which took so long for them to admit actually existed and which the fans have so bravely accepted, justified and even backed. A change of direction at this stage, after so much sacrifice, would amount to egregious weakness and incompetence. The fans fully back the plan and the man and it should be allowed to run its course.
Even in the absence of Benteke, should his speculation that another club wants him enough prove correct, Villa seem equipped well enough to do at least as well as last season, if not a little better.
If Villa can sort out the defence, which was last season’s disaster-zone, then the team will more than make up for the absence of Benteke’s goals. No one is expecting anything spectacular but it is going to be interesting in the same way the Chinese mean interesting.
In the meantime as we await Villa events to unfold, I must take consolation in watching the UEFA Women’s European Championships. Unfortunately, so far, it has been very disappointing and after spending so much time telling the sceptics how good the women’s game is these days, the evidence hasn’t been in my favour.
As to date no team has actually won a game and the teams I was expecting so much from have been disappointing. Star-strikers have failed to sparkle and the sceptics have been left unconvinced. The BBC have boasted of fantastic access to England’s camp, which should have provided an opportunity to introduce the public to the players and all that, but there has hardly been much at all.
I am just hoping that England can put things right when they play Spain tonight (Friday) and show the sceptics what they can do. With England’s best player Kelly Smith absent through injury and one of their best centre-backs also out injured, it is going to be tough for England and their supporters. There has been a lot of boasting from the England camp about strength in depth, but I am not sure anyone actually believes it.
I just hope that England’s women can prove the sceptics wrong and I can hold my head up.
Keep the faith!