Date: 16th July 2013 at 3:38pm
Written by:
By: Chris Heath

Ever since James Milner left Aston Villa in 2010, a void similar to a black hole has emerged over the individuals who’ve been present in that number ten position.

His replacement, Stephen Ireland, a scapegoat in the £26 million pound deal that took Milner to Manchester City has never lived up to the ability and potential that clearly stood out in a star studded City team including Robino, Elano and Craig Bellamy.

His treacherous three year stay at Villa (expected to end soon) included a loan spell at Newcastle United (failing to impress, surprise again) has never lived up to what Villa fans called for. At a time where the utmost effort was needed during Villa’s relegation battle last season, Ireland showed his arrogance and laziness forcing Lambert to make the decision to (since January) leave him out of the match day squad and further humiliate him by making him train with the youth team.

Ever since Ireland made the bizarre decision to retire from a very controversial International career in 2009 at the age of 23, something was clearly wrong. The sooner he is shipped out and the obscene £65,000 a week is off the wage bill the better.

Possible replacements for the plagued number ten position at Villa, someone to sit behind the striker and act as the team’s playmaker, already available to Paul Lambert include Gary Gardner and Charles N’Zogbia, as soon as he is back from injury.

Charles N’Zogbia is currently unavailable for an obscure length of time, thought to be between four to six months with an achillies injury picked up on holiday in Miami, it’s still unclear how the injury was obtained; he was on holiday with his partner mind.

An option, without spending any money available to Paul Lambert is England Under 21 midfielder Gary Gardner. Gardner, 21 has already suffered two long-term injuries (cruciate ACLs) that meant a promising career could have slipped away, but to his credit, the dedication and hard work was present and now he is firmly in Lambert’s plans for the upcoming Premier League season.

Gardner has impressed in Villa’s recent games on the pre season tour of Germany and if influential in Villa’s other pre season games, most notably against Spanish side Malaga at Villa Park, he could be in the manager’s plans to replace the gap left by James Milner.

Considered as a young Frank Lampard, a box to box midfielder with an eye of goal, Gardner could be the answer to the question of the majority of Villa fans are asking; insert question.

If Paul Lambert thinks there is a need for a new number ten, the likes of Darren Bent, Stephen Ireland, Alan Hutton and Shay Given will need to be first moved on. Lambert will again most likely be shopping, like successfully before last season in the foreign and lower league markets.

Villa have been linked to an array of number tens who all plied their trade across Europe, in some leagues where top Premier League teams are looking for the next superstar, a la Benteke.

The first name linked to Villa was Ivelin Popov, a Bulgarian attacking midfielder currently playing for Russian Premier League side Kuban Krasnodar. Popov’s friend and International team mate Aleksander Tonev was signed for Villa and instantly Popov came out expressing a desire to move, without mentioning the words ‘Aston Villa’.

‘These things are usually decided on August 31. I suppose I`ll be in for a difficult summer. I hope everything will be fine, eventually.’

The link never materialised and Villa moved on to other targets.

Next to be strongly linked was Toulouse’s Younes Belhanda, the Moroccan playmaker expressed a desire, unlike Popov, to his next destination, the English Premier League; even his chairman at Toulouse (Louis Nicollin) quoted Villa as being a potential suitor.

Rumours flew through Twitter (mainly from the notorious ITKs) that Villa had sent representatives to Morocco to speak to Belhanda, that contact had been made and he was ready to sign; in the end he signed for Ukranian team Dynamo Kiev.

A waste of a talent in my opinion choosing the Ukrainian league instead of the English Premier League, no disrespect towards the Ukrainian league, but the Premier League is the greatest league in the world.

Japanese free agent Keisuke Honda and R.S.C Anderlecht’s young Belgian playmaker Dennis Praet were the next names to be linked, but like Popov nothing materialised.

The latest solid link was to FC Nuremberg’s Japanese player Hiroshi Kiyotake. An enquiry was made, but Nuremberg’s general manager Martin Bader came out and quote told Villa to ‘forget about signing him’.

So the search continues for a new number ten to finally fill the void James Milner left all the way back to 2010. Paul Lambert has a talent of uncovering gems e.g. Benteke, Lowton and Westwood, so hopefully the same can be done before the season starts against Arsenal away at the Emirates in August.

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