Writer: J P Fear
Date:Thursday September 6 2007
I'm sorry, I'm really not sure I follow this.
We all know that Stiliyan Petrov, to date, has failed to live up to his reputation or his price tag since moving from Celtic to Villa Park last summer.
His debut against West Ham at Upton Park was totally sublime, many of his performances since have been quite the opposite to the point where even Martin O'Neill - who has stuck by the Bulgarian international through thick and thin - had to drop him against Chelsea.
Now, once again, Martin O'Neill has now promised that the player will come good and then says:
'Stiliyan Petrov is going through a tough time at this minute but he'll come back. The crowd have got more than anxious at a time when he maybe needs them behind him, just to settle him down.'
Now I totally agree that heckling a player is wrong. Always has been, always will be. When a player in on the pitch in the mighty claret and blue shirt, they have to have our support. But can the crowd really be blamed for the natural reaction of what becomes a 'collective groan' when a player gives the ball away? Sometimes the players have to stand up and be counted surely? So do managers, I've thought a few times that playing him when so clearly out of form was unfair and confidence shattering, but then I don't suppose I'm allowed to say that am I?
The player should have settled in by now, simple as that. He set the bench mark very high following his debut, I actually thought we'd bought the new magic Merse and there really isn't higher praise than that.
Maybe I'm just a grumpy git, but apart from the boo boys who I have no time for at all, I think the fans ARE there supporting week in week out - and lets face it, times haven't exactly been good for the last five seasons have they? So I'm not sure what more we can do. Should we all stand and cheer next time Petrov makes a half arsed pass or maybe begin a Mexican wave (well, to be fair I do a one man Mexican wave each game, that said, I'm a pratt!). Sometimes do the players not have to give something back? Ok everyone suffers poor form at times (just ask my ex-girlfriends!) but that should never stop 100% commitment EVERY minute on the pitch, that is what the extortionate wages the players get these days demands surely?
O'Neill continued on the official site: 'It's been suggested that I've put Stiliyan in front of some of the other lads simply because I'd bought him. The bottom line is I really couldn't care less who's in the team - if the players are doing it for me, then I couldn't care less whether he cost £6.5m or £200,000.'
The actions don't really follow that through, but then again he is the manager and it is only his decision that ever matters whilst in charge of the team, he see's them training, he knows what he wants and it is his job on the line if the results don't follow, we only see a fraction of what goes on.
O'Neill continued: 'If I think they deserve to go into the side, they will go in the side. That's why I think Craig Gardner was a bit unlucky against Chelsea. He's not a right-back, he's essentially a midfielder. You could turn around and tell me Shaun Maloney, who I paid £1m for, was desperately unlucky not to play against Chelsea. You can go down that road until you're blue in the face. No one has a divine right to be in the team. I'd hope that at some stage the same would apply to Gareth Barry, but he's so good for us at the moment that he's in.
Finishing, 'If I had someone better than Ashley Young - and there's not many better than him anyway up and down the country - then he'd play. We have a squad here and all these boys will play games. I'm not saying we've got the ability to rotate like the top four sides, but we'll need these players. It's got nothing to do with justification - I left Stiliyan Petrov out the team at Celtic and for some European games. But he always came roaring back.'
Come on then Stiliyan, the claret and blue faithful are willing you to come roaring back for us, well to start roaring at any rate. I'd certainly prefer to see Craig Gardner and Shaun Maloney get their chances first though!
Date:Thursday September 6 2007
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