Calm Down Dear
After last season it is understandable that the fans are now excited and already emotionally invested in the new season. Lambert's limes will take the pitch at Upton Park on the 18th, the whistle will blow and a new era will begin. Game on, my friends, game on.
Mind you, after the débâcle of 2011/12 a tin of tuna and a bunch of flowers would get me out of my seat. No surprise then that since Paul Lambert took over I have found myself positively floating, having contracted a virulent form of Lambertitus, a neurological condition that leads to football related mania and hyper-manic mood often associated with the wearing of luminous clothing.'You can keep your Oscar's and Hazard's.' I cry. 'We've got Matt Lowton.' Amazingly, my non Villan friends don't share my new found optimism.
Expectations were driven so low with Machiavellian appointment of McLeish that talk of a tenth place finish leaves us all quite giddy though the pundits are undecided. Some have us in a relegation battle, others have us as high as 9th. It is difficult to tell given the thin nature of the squad, the amount of question marks that hang over key players and the fact that some of the younger players are still to prove themselves consistently. It could all come together of course, like a lime coloured dream or alternately we could be pigs in lipstick come the end of the season. The question remains then: should excitement be tempered with some healthy realism given the level of financial austerity and the apparent sell to buy philosophy?
When I look at our dealings in the transfer market it would be fair to say that I am starting to get a little anxious. On one level we have brought in what looks like four top level performers in Vlaar, El Ahmadi, Holman and Lowton for around £9 million. Contractual ends for Beye, Heskey and Cuellar and the end of the loan deal for Jenas have reduced the wage bill significantly though none of these exists resulted in incoming transfer revenue. Only Collins' sale to West Ham has resulted in a saleof £2.5 Million. I estimate that transfer income added to wage reductions have led us to recoup somewhere around £15 million though recent player acquisitions before wages have cost us a rumoured £9 million. In short: lets not dance down to the bank just yet.
The grapevine tells us that we are also looking to offload Dunne, Hutton and Warnock, which will free up further valuable funds and bring in much needed transfer revenue. However, we are still to receive official bids for these players, the season is a few days away and we are still missing a quality left back, a top level ball playing midfielder and a new striker. To say that the squad is in transition and is thin on the ground is an understatement. With our share of the TV money being absorbed by wage and club costs and our finishing position leaving us with around £1.5 million in winnings the climb seems as steep as ever, even if it is taken with renewed excitement, togetherness and hope.
It is worth reminding ourselves that many of the academy graduates, who were drafted in to cover and bolster a depleted and struggling squad, are now regulars. Gardner, Clarke, Baker, Herd, Bannan, Albrighton and Weimann were all bloodied in difficult circumstances and now find themselves either in the first team or on the bench. They are no doubt soon to be joined by Daniel Johnson and Sammy Curruthers. Considering our financial limitations it is essential that these players are able to bridge the gap from being academy stars to elite level footballers in the most competitive league in the world. Paul Lambert, with his mix of inspiring man management and tactical nuance may be the man to do this though not all of them will make it.
I am excited and looking forward to a brand new season under Paul Lambert as are you. However, should we be more realistic and keep our feet on the ground? We will certainly no more by the 1st September with two games under our belt and the transfer window closed. Perhaps we should reserve judgement until then?