Forgotten Villa Man
Whilst watching television one morning, a segment on J Lloyd Samuel popped up. I confessed that I had long since forgotten all about the the 32 year old ex-Villa and Bolton fullback. On reflection, I'm not sure there was a lot I remember. J Lloyd was being interviewed about playing football abroad. The talk quickly swung round to the fact that he was open to other footballing opportunities; that he'd consider all offers. It is transfer season so I thought no more of it when he assured us that he was equally prepared to stay at his current club. I did have to put my toast down, however, when he informed us that his current club was Esteghlal Tehran FC. In case you are poor on geography, that's in Iran.
I am not big on Iranian Football so I had to look them up. I discovered that Esteghlal are one of the most successful teams in Iranian and Asian football. Since 1970 they have won 7 league titles and 2 AFC Champions League titles. And if you think this is a tin pot club in a tin pot league think again. Games against Tehran city rivals Persepolis FC will fill out there 100,000 capacity stadium no problem. This is a club with millions of fans in and around the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan- and one of there full backs is J Lloyd Samuel.
Political spin aside, Iran is an immense country both in geographical and cultural terms, home to to an incredibly welcoming and hospitable people. Though I have to look at the screen again- Iran, J Lloyd? Really. Could you not give Sheffield United a ring? I hear they have space. I imagine J Lloyd would turn his head and scoff at such a suggestion. He has been to the Iran Pro League and conquered. Language and cultural difficulties? No problem, son.
This led me to think about a more recent forgotten man- Jean Makoun. Remember him? Signed by Houllier in January 2011, the midfielder arrived at Villa as an international class player with UEFA Champions League experience. With over 198 and 105 appearances for Lille and Lyon respectively, we felt were getting a midfielder of some clout. However, after a measly 8 opportunities, talk began to filter out that with Houllier's departure, language and cultural difficulties would be an obstacle for the French speaking player and that he would struggle to settle. Really? Either way, McLeish decided that he was better off somewhere else. Wages would be saved and a better replacement, more suited to the Premier League, could be brought in on the cheap. Jermaine Jenas duly joined Villa in August 2011. In my opinion he did not have anywhere near what Jean Makoun could have offered. Neither was he cheap.
Owing to injury Jenas did not start for us until November of that season, coming on as a sub against Swansea. He had another sub appearance in his second game against Norwich before promptly suffering a ruptured Achilles injury in his first start against Manchester United. I was gutted for the player but I cannot say I was surprised. Rogue cheese rolling at Cooper's Hill would attract less injuries. Though trying telling that to Jean Makoun who was seen as surplus to requirements.
Fortunately, Champions League bound Olympiakos thought differently, taking him on loan. Makoun is probably happier and better for his experience in Greece than he would have been if he'd had have stayed under McLeish. (Indeed, I wish I had been in Greece myself.) Makoun, to his credit, made the most of his time in Athens, despite his injury set backs, returning to us with a Greek League winners medal in his back pocket. He is also reported to have impressed, so much so that Olympiakos would have liked to keep him. Language and cultural problems? Again- No problem at all.
Makoun has been the forgotten man. At 29 years old he is a proven player both at European and International level and we don't have too many of those. We need power, strength and guile in midfield. He may be one of the players to ensure that we get it. Even if his game does need reinvigorating, we know that the ability and the ethic is there; that there is dormant pedigree. It is down to us to ensure he has every opportunity to flourish, imposing himself in Claret and Blue. After that it is down to him to make the most of the opportunities he is given. If not, then as we know, football can be a cruel business. One minute your in the Premier league and the next minute you're in Iran. Forgotten by the fans. Lets hope it isn't so.
Jean Makoun Profile.
Jean Makoun Forum Thread.