Date:Saturday July 14 2007
I want to see more signings at Villa before the season starts. Let's get that out of the way first. I want to see at least 3 or 4 players come in, better quality than the players who have left. Players younger and hungrier than those that have left.
But at the same time, there's a crop of hungry, talented young players coming through the ranks at Villa Park that I want to see just as much.
For most of last season, the majority of us here were hollering at Martin O'Neill to move Gabriel Agbonlahor up front as an out and out striker. Now the transfer window is here, his promise appears to have been put to one side - we all want a big name striker in to partner and back up John Carew instead. I'm as guilty as anyone - my eyes fix on the name Defoe everytime I see a headline. I can't help it. But does our leading scorer for last season deserve a chance to prove himself up front?
Luke Moore as well - he chipped in with a couple of classy goals in the games he played last season - with him, Angel and Gabby playing together we looked threatening at the start of last season. With Young taking his place in the three, any new signings would push him further down the pecking order as well. No one can question this lad's heart - he played through and played down a horrific shoulder injury because he wanted to prove he was worthy of a spot in the team. With his injury nightmare behind him, could this be his season?
Craig Gardner made us forget about McCann in the last few months of the season - keeping Smiler out of the team, helping Villa on their unbeaten run and scoring two blinding goals in the process, one of which was a goal of the season candidate on Match of the Day to rival Barry's cracker against Spurs. With the signing of Reo-Coker, he looks to be back on the bench, but for how long?
Gary 'Airstike' Cahill came on in leaps and bounds as well - after bursting onto the scene with THAT goal, he had a solid season, displacing Ridgewell and seeming to improve every time he took to the field. He lost his place towards the end of the season, but I doubt anyone could keep Laursen out of the team the way he was playing when he came back from injury. But his chance will come again, and this time round he could prove harder to displace.
We're almost in a unique position here - we have a fantastic crop of young, British players coming through the ranks, pushing hard for first team places - something that used to be the prerogative of teams like Liverpool and Man United. They were expected to breed the new generation of England players. Now, with foreign owners and big money signings, their academy players struggle to get a run out in the reserves.
I want to see these kids kick on. I want them to become more than back-up, bit part players. I want to see them make the first team spots their own. I want to see them score goals, win matches, pick up England U-21 honours. All the more so because it's something that the clubs mentioned above apparently no longer care about.
With the money spent by the 'Big Four' - mostly on foreigners - this summer, when other second tier teams throw questionable amounts of money at anything that moves, I'm proud that the Villa Academy is capable of churning out players that can not only break through the ranks and into the Premiership, but really make their presence felt when they do.
So, bring on the signings, bring on the new season.. and bring on the kids. A wise man once said you never win anything with kids. Wouldn't it be great if our young guns proved him wrong again?
Date:Saturday July 14 2007
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