Friday, 2nd January
Wayne Routledge has joined QPR. I wish him all the best. I understood the logic behind signing him and giving it a go but I think ‘Championship level` is his niche.
However, he does need replacing. I dread to think what would have happened if Ashley Young got injured when we had Maloney and/or Routledge in the squad, but now it would be even more terrifying! The Hamburg game also proved that without Young or Milner in the team, options for wide players are horribly limited. I, like many Villa fans, have been calling out for us to sign more attacking players for a while and hopefully we can do it this month.
Saturday, 3rd January
We confirm we`ll be putting out a strong team against Gillingham. So we should, too. The game is definitely a potential banana skin and I for one would love to win the FA Cup. Sadly, I`d rather finish in the top 4, given the choice. Oh how football has been ruined!
The Mail link us with Kenwyne Jones. Funny, at the end of my last column entry, he was the man I suggested. Now we`re being linked with him. Maybe it`s a coincidence, maybe it`s astoundingly lazy journalism!
I really am surprised at some of the negative comments I have seen about the player on this site and others. He gave our defence an absolute torrid time up at their place last season, he is by far the outstanding player in the Sunderland time, is the right age, has more pace and power than Crouch, is more of a goal threat than Heskey and, while I am not trying to make him sound like some sort of superstar signing, I for one would be very happy if we was to bring him in.
Sunday, 4th January
Gillingham 1 – 2 Villa. It wasn`t easy but we got through it and that is what matters. We were already missing Martin Laursen, Carlos Cuellar, John Carew and Wilfred Bouma. On the morning we found out that we were also going to be missing Gareth Barry, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Luke Young.
So we were seven players down – all of which payers that would have a valid argument to be in our ‘strongest eleven`, and Laursen, Agbonlahor and Barry are three that would get in any sane Villa fans strongest eleven, probably Bouma too – making the task even more difficult. The pitch was dire, meaning every time we tried to string a few passes together the ball was bobbling all over the shop. Ashley Young was a particular victim of the dreaded bobble!
With all that in mind, plus the fierce and physical approach from Gillingham, it really was a good result. We needed to stand up and be counted, and that we did. To be honest though, that was never a fear of mine; where some Premiership clubs may have folded under such circumstances, I never feared for us when it came down to that side of the game. Maybe that is one of the benefits of having a predominately British base.
The first goal was a corker, James Milner finishing off a lovely move that punished some sloppy Gillingham play. The second was a superbly-taken penalty. Apparently, the penalty was controversial. I am sorry, but I am really failing to see the fuss. It was a foul. Sure, Young knew what he was doing, but it was a foul, end of discussion. The exact same thing happened in the first half with Nigel Reo-Coker and he got booked for it. Sorry to simplify this for the media and take the drama out of the penalty decision, but the only reason the NRC foul looked any worse was that their player was going at a quicker pace and therefore when he went down he rolled a couple of times. Between that and the Hull incidents (the supposed ‘penalty` and Barmby ‘goal`), it really feels like people (well, the media) need these pathetic dramas in a football match nowadays.
Next up is either Cheltenham or Doncaster. Part of me would really like Doncaster, as it would be nice to go there and get some revenge for that 3-0 defeat in the days of Dolly. Mind you, we could go there and beat them 10-0 and that night would still haunt me!
Monday, 5th January
Various reports link us with Celtic`s Aiden McGeady, as the dust starts to settle on his situation with Gordon Strachan. As I have said before, I would be delighted if he was to join us, and I think he is one of two or three players that we need.
James Milner says he wants to score more goals. Based on his career to date, I think he is half-way through his goals for the season at the most! So hopefully he can buck the trend. I`m a fan of Milner, he can flatter to deceive at times, and there are some games where his crossing and beating of a man are nonexistent. That said if anyone has ever seen Milner play central midfield, they will know that he looks far better there than out wide. He`s a relatively intelligent footballer with an absolutely exceptional work rate, which is why he CAN play that role. However, I feel he is at his best in the middle, and that is probably where his long-term future is if a) we sign somebody of the McGeady/Valencia ilk; and b) we continue to operate with a 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation. Of course, versatility is a necessary strength in the best tea-ms, so I expect to continue seeing Milner popping up all over the pitch. I am sure he`d do a half-decent job at right-back if asked!
Tuesday, 6th January
In the morning, Sky Sports News suggest we bid £11m for Matthew Upson, that the bid was rejected and that we will be going back with a higher offer. Thankfully, by the afternoon, MON had dismissed this as garbage. Good.
Our first signing of the January transfer window does arrive though. 17 year-old Arsenio Halfhuid. No, not someone that will set the pulses racing but buying these type of players is still very much a necessity. Sure, not all of them work out but for all we know he could turn out to be a fixture in our side for a decade! He wont be near the first team anytime soon though, as he will be going straight into the academy.
So as far as the first team goes, we have still not done any business and one player who will not be coming is Jermaine Defoe who signed for Spurs. Can not say I am sorry to see that, and at least it will stop the rumours linking us with him. MON clearly doesn`t see him as someone who can help us, and to be honest neither do I. Yes, he is very good in and around the box but he offers absolutely nothing to the team outside the final 20 yards or so, and that is not good enough for the way we play. Our style requires the forwards to put in a shift and Jermaine Defoe is not someone that does that. In fact, as much as any player I have ever seen, I often forget he is playing when I do see him.
Put it this way; when it comes down to Gabriel Agbonlahor and Jermaine Defoe, it is not even a question in mind which of the two I would rather have at Aston Villa. Thankfully, we have him.
Wednesday, 7th January
Various reports suggest we are looking to sign Sporting Gijon defender Roberto Canella for a fee in the region of £10m. He`s a left-back, and this coincides with various stories that Nicky Shorey is off. Shorey has not impressed me at all since signing, I must say.
Marlon Harewood continues to be linked with a few clubs and Stoke remain the one strong link, although his agent has denied any contact has been made. However, various sources are now suggesting we will only sell him and are not willing to let him go on loan.
The reserves draw 3-3 in a friendly with Crewe at Bodymoor Heath. Sam Williams, who has recently come back from a long-term injury, grabbed two and Dominick Hofbauer scored the other.
Thursday, 8th January
Continuing with the youngsters, the academy lads made it seven wins on the trot with a 3-0 victory over MK Dons. James Collins scored yet again. This lad could be pretty useful from what I am hearing and reading. The other two goals were from Richard Blythe and Andreas Steiber. I wonder if Andreas is related to Zoltan? Strong possibility that he is, I would guess.
The reports regarding Canella are rubbished by MON. The thing is, now he has done that twice this week, people will start to wonder every time he doesn`t deny a rumour if that means there is any truth in it! Still, I appreciate MON rubbishing links personally, and I also like the fact that nearly all our transfer business since he and Randy have arrived has been done on the quiet.
Charles N`Zogbia says that Villa and Spurs have made enquiries about him, but he would prefer a move to Arsenal. What an odd thing to say I gather he believes Arsenal are interested too. But if I was him I would keep my mouth shut about preferences. I actually think from a football point of view he would not be a bad squad player but I am not sure I want him now!
In some good news, MON suggests Gareth Barry, Carlos Cuellar and Martin Laursen could be fit for Saturday. While I think Barry is the only one that will be fit, it is certainly promising to hear Cuellar and Laursen are close to returning.
MON also hopes the crowd are up for it against the Baggies. I think the only problem is the early kick-off time, but then the one plus point is that it`s a Saturday rather than a Sunday so alcohol will be available in pubs and outdoors a lot earlier! 😉
The Week In Villa #20 (02/01/09 – 08/01/09)
Friday, 2nd January