Writer: Peter Keogh
Date:Wednesday June 24 2009
Peter Keogh asks: Where’s the ambition?
O’Neill has said that we have to sign players just to stand still. That was before Barry and Taylor left and when you consider we’ve already lost Laursen and will no doubt be getting rid of Harewood, that puts us four players down on last years self-confessed small squad. In an interview with a Birmingham paper early in the summer, Randy said we wouldn’t be spending silly amounts this summer and although that we can add £12mil from the Barry sale to the pot (plus the £2 from the Taylor sale), we can’t have more than £40m to spend.
We need a Laursen replacement and a Barry replacement out of that money (Sidwell and Gardner should be fighting it out with Petrov and one more top class midfielder) who you have to expect to cost the best part of £10m each – that would leave us with only around £20m. From that we need (I would argue) a creative midfielder to supplement Milner and Young, a goalscorer (I have faith in Agbonlahor but he needs time), a backup right back and a backup / first choice left back (assuming that either Bouma is (please no) forced to retire or that Shorey doesn’t make the grade). That’s four players minimum just to get the first team up to scratch.
On top of that, the last two years have shown us that we need decent quality back up players. The youth team clearly have some talent and players like Bannan, the Fonz and O’Halloran are bright prospects for the future but it’s too much to rely on them when we’re short in a UEFA Cup game. And we can’t rely on Young, Gabby, Petrov and Milner playing every game without injury. My question is how can we sign the replacements for the two Internationals we’ve lost, the players to bring the first team up to scratch and the numbers to bring our squad in line with those around us with such a tight budget?
I support the sustainable way that we’re building a team and maybe I’m hoping for too much, too soon but without any sniff of a trophy since 1996 and 3 years into the Randy project, I hoped for more. The Mail are reporting that we’ve missed out on Sturridge (who looks a real prospect) and now Hull are talking about speaking with Owen. Surely if we don’t have the funds, these are the types of players we should be looking to sign? My feeling this year is the same as the last few – MON (as great as he is) doesn’t like paying for players and waits for a deal to come. The trouble with this is that by the time it does, somebody else has already stepped in (Bentley, Milner (the first time) and Sturridge would appear to be examples of this).
My message? Show ambition, buy the big player early, give prospective signings the belief that we are the place to be – not Everton, not City, not Spurs. A lack of ambition is something that has been aimed at Villa since Southgate left. In spite of everything, I think it’s a cloud that we’ll struggle to shake until some is shown.
PS – for those who would argue that the c£10m signing of Young was showing ambition, I would counter that one Swallow does not a summer make.
Date:Wednesday June 24 2009
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