Date: 1st February 2008 at 9:08am
Written by:

Since the arrival of Martin O’Neill and then Randy Lerner, expectation levels amongst Villa fans have soared…and right fully so! After years of the Ellis era this was a new dawn, no-more penny pitching, no-more politics, no-more lack of ambition. We had a man who’s reputation has had him linked with jobs at Newcastle, Man Utd and even England! A well respected man amongst players and other managers, surely the time for Villa to ‘re-born’ was among us?

So what has MON brought to the club? Stability, structure? One thing he has done is brought back is ‘team spirit’ and we now have a team that will fight till the death and work for each other instead of on their own. Which moves us onto the transfer windows, hmmm….questionable to say the least, think its fair to say his best window thus far has January last year with the signings on Carew, Young and Maloney. Its clear to see that MON wants players who are hungry and are team players which is evident by his signings, mite not always be the best technically, but will work for the team! Its my belief that he has a list of players and that are the only ones he wants and will push & push until he can get them, sees them as the right player for the team which could be classed as admirable or daft! Admirable as he sticks to his principles and does want he feels is the best, daft as it could leave us a bit low on numbers like we kind of are now. The Wayne Routledge signing is classic MON, I feel he was on the list but not necessarily near the top.

His work with some of the players already here could be classed as hit and miss, as well as his own signings….hits being gabby, Laursen, young, Davies, Barry misses being Petrov, Sorenson, Cahill, Moore and the ‘jury still outers’ NRC, Maloney and at times, Carson.

He’s come here with a 5 year plan, about the 4th in the last 10 years so its no wonder we’re all frustrated! 1st season’s finish there was progress, going into last summer was an exciting time to be a Villa fan with the expectation as well as other things done by the owner (who ill come onto in a minute, no not that way!) such as Bodymoor Heath and the re-branding of the club. The rumour mill was going top speed too which, as it turns out, hasn’t helped one bit.

I refuse to believe that MON is an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing and seriously thinks our current squad is anywhere near good enough to mount a serious title or champions league challenge and will address this soon, that being said this transfer window just gone and to an extent the summer, have been disappointments. The signings of NRC and Knight, two whole hearted players who match the kind MON likes, one of them actually being a Villa fan! The signing of Routledge was, at first, seen as a ‘he will or he won’t’ signing, on the cheap short contract, our way of saying ‘its up to you now’ if he wants to kick-start his career. A player who a couple or so years ago was put in the same bracket as Wayne Rooney as far as potential goes, the move to Spurs was his chance, a bad injury later and things didn’t go to plan! Spells at Portsmouth and Fulham were, it seems, more reasonable than a success, MON has the knack of waking players up, this will either turn out to be excellent business or a waste of money and time. What you have to ask yourself is how far up the list was Routledge that took nearly the whole month to make a deal? Was it the fee? Was it the availability of money? Was it MON being…well…MON and leaving it late? Or did other options not work out so we had to go down the list a bit? The feeling now is that we don’t have the money we thought we had! It’s possible I suppose, very possible, however we’ve been told by a member of the board on our own forums that the money is there, so I take his word for that and say the manager is responsible for it, once again I feel the players he wants aren’t now available, he might not like it but sometimes plan b’s aren’t a bad thing to have!

Waking up this morning at 2am & checking the official site was a let down as no-one else come in, apart from the ‘keeper’s permit not going through, seems these were the only two players on the radar! Talk of a new right back in the summer who ‘is worth the wait’ fell flat on its arse, its my belief that there was a right-back lined up but has since been made unavailable by their club. The sale of Gary Cahill has been met with mixed reactions, good price for someone who wasn’t playing? Or a waste of a young talent who will ‘make it’ in the premiership? I’m undecided, think its a bit of both……time will tell of course, the last young talent MON sold (Steve Davis) turned out to the right move, think Cahill has a better chance though.

So where we are now, 5th in the league and a good chance of staying there ‘if’ we’d gone out and bought the right players to not only make the squad better, but the team! Will Routledge do this? Who knows, but if I were a betting man…….

The five year plan, I’m sure, didn’t see us challenging for a champ’s league place or possibly uefa at this stage, even the ex CEO said we were 2 years ahead of schedule! So if we don’t make it and finish 7th 8th or 9th, technically this is still progress (compared to last season). The rebuilding of AVFC is sure taking its time though, I still have faith in MON and the board that they are taking us to the right places, one things for sure, if last summer was important….this coming one is Vital! (did you see what I did there?)

Onto the owner and board, Randy Lerner’s take-over was THE reason why I renewed my season ticket for what’s about the 12th year running. I can say now that if Ellis was still the owner, MON or not, I wouldn’t have renewed, I could no longer stand to put my money is his pension and watch him run my club like a corner shop. In my eyes the new owner has been outstanding, the training ground is amazing, the new crest/rebranding (albeit thought it was crap at first) is excellent and we have at last a decent kit manufacturer in Nike! I’ll be honest and say that I was close to doing a Tubbz (message board member who got fed up with the moaning. ed) the other day and not posting for a while as some of the remarks aimed at the board has been short of disgraceful and out of order IMO. The recent frustrations have all been born from the transfer window and the manager’s actions, or lack of…..so to criticise the board, Randy Lerner especially, isn’t on in my eyes. We’re all entitled to our own opinions of course, but to have a go at the man is shocking, again IMO. No other clubs have a director who goes on fan’s forums or a chairman that doesn’t live in the limelight ala Doug Ellis, seems some have a lack of trust in them now for some reason?

The rest of the season could be a long one, some players aren’t producing the goods and some need a rest, but with no-one really able to come in and make that difference (bar Maloney) it wont make much difference. I said a few weeks ago that this was such an important window which will make or break our chances of Europe that if we got the right players in we could do it, unfortunately that isn’t the case, I just hope this doesn’t bite us on the arse.

In summary we’re on course and nearly there, I have faith in MON and the board especially, will be interesting to see what the General has to say about the recent resignation of Richard FitzGerald and the feelings of the transfer window though I think we all know the answer to that one! As well as any comments by MON and the lack of activity to strengthen this ‘small squad’. If this is said again in the summer I have to say my confidence will be a bit lower.

Anyway, I’ll shut up now.

benham