The Week In Villa #1 (22/8/08 - 28/8/08)
Friday, 22nd August
Shaun Maloney makes his long-awaited return to Celtic. The wee lad never really settled at Villa Par and this move is probably best for all concerned. To be honest, I never had a problem with him and would have been glad to see him stay, but wasn`t sorry to see him go either.
Rumours occur that Roque Santa Cruz or Kevin Doyle will be adding to our strike force. Rumours also occur that neither man is available.
In a not-very-exciting twist in the on-going snooze-fest of the summer, Arsene Wenger makes noises that he is interested in signing Gareth Barry. By noises, I mean that he sort of makes a comment that he thinks Barry is a good player, would buy him, but he will not buy him because of the fee for a player at Barry`s age.
Wait, Santa Cruz is definitely not available. He`s signed a new contract.
Finally, lots of people within the club make noises about not taking Stoke lightly. We shall see how that pans out tomorrow…
Saturday, 23rd August
Not very well, as it turns out. Your writer made the trip to the Britannia Stadium. Unfortunately, for the first 45 minutes, the Aston Villa team that scored 8 goals in the previous week didn`t bother. I don`t think we DID take Stoke lately, I will put it down to a bad day at the office. Personally I felt MO`N made some tactical errors, but again, I will put him in the same 'bad day` bracket.
The positives, in my opinion, were that Stilian Petrov was excellent, Curtis Davies continues to look like a top-class defender and we showed from last season that our ability to fight back is still very much there.
The negatives were an all-round lack of creativity in the first-half, some worrying defensive frailties and how absent a couple of people on the pitch were - Agbonlahor and Reo-Coker spring to mind in particular.
Still, we can`t dwell on it, must move on and all that…
Sunday, 24th August
The aftershock of the Stoke defeat generally dominates our press talk. Which is not great really, when you consider that Sunday is usually the main press day. Various reports are lingering about but nothing new… Milner, Doyle etc.
I think most of us accept that we need two signings - a right/creative midfielder and a striker. Anything else on top is great, but they are the two signings we ideally NEED, so hopefully that will be sorted by the trip to Liverpool this time next week.
Monday, 25th August
Depending on what website/paper you read, Kevin Doyle is/is not leaving Reading. Likewise, James Milner is still apparently not for sale, but that does not stop the links.
One player we are not linked with is Shaun Wright-Phillips, who seems destined to join Everton, with former club Manchester City sniffing around.
Finally, Nikola Zigic (Valencia) is also being linked with us, Everton & Fulham. It feels this is more the work of his agent than anything actually substantial.
Tuesday, 26th August
No real transfer activity to report on. Reading are continuing to tell us that Kevin Doyle is not for sale. Which is not the end of the world, but it does make you wonder… if not him, and it is not Santa Cruz, then where do we go from here…?
In some good news; the reserves beat Hereford 7-1 in a friendly. Impressively, Zoltan Steiber managed to score a hat-trick from left-back. I`ve been a fan of this lad for a couple of years now and really hope he makes the grade. Like Barry Bannan - who also got on the score sheet - size may be an issue but I have faith in both of them. But then, I see the world through Claret & Blue specs! Anyhoo, the remaining goals were scored by Marc Albrighton (2) and Adam McGurk. Particularly pleased for the latter, as he has had some horrendous injury issues over the past 18 months or so and must have thought at various times that his career was over. It would be great if he manages to forge a good career for himself from here on in.
Wednesday, 27th August
WHAM! 1 - James Milner has handed in a transfer request.
WHAM! 2 - Gareth Barry commits to Villa.
Both items of good news, and later it would come out that both decisions had been made prior to this day. Now, why the Barry thing was not revealed earlier I don`t know, and it also makes you slightly sceptical that Barry DID make his mind up a fortnight earlier. But whatever, the situation is what it is, and thankfully we can draw a line under the situation (even if it is for now) and move on.
The Milner situation sums up Newcastle. He handed the request in roughly a week earlier and asked for it to remain private, but they decide to release the information anyway. The only motivation I can assume they had was to start a bidding war. However the media seem to think he will come to us, and we remain hopeful.
Thursday, 28th August
There are very strong rumours that James Milner is ready to sign. I daresay we will find out on Friday… My crystal ball tells me to be very positive about this ;-)
Another link is Henrik Larsson, who is also predictably linked with a return to Celtic. I can not believe it took until August 28th for this to happen! Personally, I would be delighted if we signed him. He proved at Euro 2008 that he still has class, and as we are unlikely to sign a 'marquee` striker then, looking at the market, I really can not think of a better option. The likes of Agbonlahor and Delfounso could learn a lot from him, and a strike-force of Carew, Agbonlahor, Larsson, Harewood and Delfounso, plus Young and Milner (whoops, if he signs, that is!) should be enough to take us forward this season.
Oh yeah….. we had a game as well. 4-1 up from the first leg in Iceland against FH Hafnarfjordur (easier to type than say, eh) it was always going to be a bit of a 'cruise-control` kind of game. We drew 1-1 and although it was dull, there were positives to take; the performances of Salifou, Routledge and Gardner were all quite pleasing, in my opinion.
Anyway, we are through to the first round proper and that is the important thing. The impending signing of Milner and hopefully a front man, Cuellar and Sidwell heading to full fitness and a few good youngsters in reserves all add up to reasons to be grateful. Next up, the RedScouseScum, and Steven Gerrard is definitely out. It`s all good news!