Friday, 30th January
Martin O`Neill says we are looking at bringing in reinforcements (mostly in the defensive area) but acknowledges it will be difficult. He also says, probably from a slightly psychological standpoint, that the big four do not see us as a threat, but more as an ‘annoying wasp that will not go away`.
Arsene Wenger seems to agree with this theory, stating his belief that Arsenal will finish above us and in the Champions League places. Well more to the point, he virtually dismissed us as a threat entirely. It almost makes me get into Kevin Keegan ‘I`ll love it if we beat them` mode!
Finally, Sam Williams joins Walsall on loan for a month. I am always happy to see young lads go out on loan, it can be a decent indication of whether they will sink or swim.
Saturday, 31st January
Villa 0 – 0 Wigan. Well for all the people who were saying we were lucky recently, I hope they say we were unlucky today! Me, I dismissed the luck thing and I stand by it. It was frustrating and we deserved to win in the big scheme of things but Wigan defended valiantly and we could have done better with a couple of chances to score and to create openings. I`m not one generally to question MON but I will say that I am not a fan of emptying the midfield to knock it long which is what we were doing towards the end. That said, without Ashley Young we do lack a bit of creativity and this is one of the reasons I have been calling for us to sign another creative midfielder. Gareth Barry did his best to help in that department though, and I thought he was superb on the day.
Sunday, 1st February
We are largely linked with Micah Richards, and a few reports come out suggesting we will sign Chris Hutching from Shrewsbury and loan him straight back out.
We will see what tomorrow brings!
Monday, 2nd February
It brings nothing! A few rumours first thing about Richards soon fade away, and Hutching says he is flattered to be linked with us but has no idea where the link comes from. Nothing else happens and we go into the rest of the season with what we`ve got. It will be a test, but unless we signed quality there was little point in signing anyone. We strengthened in the area we needed to strengthen the most, and hopefully we will do as well as we can injury and suspension wise.
Of course, that pales into comparison to the news that Paul Birch passed away aged a meagre 46 years old. I started going the Villa in 1988 and never really got to see Birchy as a regular fixture in the first team, but I will always love him for a) never giving less than 100%, and; b) giving one of the best individual performances I have EVER seen at Villa Park. When Inter Milan rolled into Town in 1990, Lothar Mattheus was undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the world, but Birchy marked him out the game. It stands up there with many great performances I have witnessed down the years.
In the same week that two absolute legends of Aston Villa`s history pass away, this is once again some very sad news, and once again I am sure everyone joins me in wishing all the best to his friends and family.
Tuesday, 3rd February
Stilyian Petrov is now pretty much the ‘top priority` of MON, and after his performances this season (and towards the end of last season) I will be delighted when he signs his new contract.
Also, 23 year-old James Milner is called into the England U-21 squad… he is the record holder for caps at that level but then it is not surprising with the extra time he has had! Of course it is good news though. If he plays central midfield for them then I would encourage any Villa fan to watch, as he usually looks very good there.
Wednesday, 4th February
Villa 3 – 1 Doncaster. A fairly routine win without a few first-team players, it was pleasing that we did not go the same route as Leicester/QPR in the last 18 months or so,
Nobody let themselves down. Out of the players that come in, Brad Guzan further cemented my belief that in one way or another we will have an American called Brad keeping goal for many years; Nicky Shorey looked a bit more like the player I thought we`d signed; Salifou did a decent job in what is essentially Petrov`s role; and Nathan Delfounso made up for his earlier error with a nicely taken goal that sealed the win.
I am a fan of Delfounso and have a lot of faith in his ability. He learnt a lesson tonight though. One of the things I like about him is he has a good brain for a player of that age and looks up rather than going at it head down, but sometimes it`s best to just ‘get rid` and that is what he should have done for the goal. He more than made up for it though with a decent performance and a very well taken goal. When he has started he has scored more often than not, and long may that continue! Depending on who we sign in the summer, it may be that a season-long loan at a Championship club could do him the world of good. Hmmm, Doncaster play nice stuff but lack a bit of a cutting edge !
Of course it was nice to see John Carew and Ashley Young return to the team. Both of them will no doubt feel a bit better for the tune-up, and although I don`t expect the big man to start against Blackburn, hopefully it got rid of any rust in Ashley Young and he`ll be back to his best on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, the OS reported on a 3-1 win for the Academy lads against Watford. Goals come from Will Grocott, Daniel Bradley and yet again, James Collins. I tell you what, if this lad makes the grade and scores half as many goals for the first team as he`s doing at Academy level, he is going to be a legend! Plus after what I said about Delfounso and how young Agbonlahor still is, we could have the makings of a great home-grown strike force! Of course it may not work out like that at all, but it is a nice thought, isn`t it?
Thursday, 5th February
Thursday AM – We`re very angry about Arshavin and his late signing for Arsenal.
Thursday PM – Oh no we`re not!
That is about it. A sad week in terms of yet ANOTHER death of an ex-Villa player, one frustrating result followed by a good one, and no further activity in the transfer market.
Looking ahead, for a variety of reasons I have not been to an away game since Wigan in October, so I am very excited to be going to Blackburn on Saturday! I am concerned though, as a mate of mine, Matthew Joyner, is also going. He has been to four away games since last season:
Hamburg – lost
Stoke – lost
Lincoln (pre-season) – lost
Walsall (pre-season) – won, but was losing at half-time, which is when he left!
So, while I avoided the temptation to push him down the stairs today, I may be giving out his address and photo if to you all if we lose on Saturday 😉
Anyhoo . have a good weekend all. Up the Villa!
The Week In Villa #24 (30/01/09 – 5/2/09)
Friday, 30th January