The fall and rise of Brett Holman
"It's a bit of a shame that we have gone for him when there are better players out there we could have gone for on a Bosman."
"Hmmm. clearly didn't cut it at Feyenoord and got farmed to two bollocks Dutch teams before going to AZ where they don't seem to arsed about keeping him even though they are on for the champions league this year."
"We are signing Bosmans who no one has heard of. Life is great."
The above are all posts that appeared on another Villa forum, on March 12, the day that it was announced that Brett Holman had signed for the club.
Most of them centred around the belief that that it meant that He Who Shall Not Be Named would still be in charge for this season - how wrong we were - but still represent fairly substantial write offs of a player that most Villa fans had never seen play before on TV, never mind live.
Indeed, based on that criteria, the only reasonable critiques came from the club`s Aussie contingent, who, despite being honest about his apparent technical shortcomings, assured us that we were getting a player who had developed into a popular and important member of the national team, winning more than 50 caps in the process.
Fast forward to pre-season then, under Paul Lambert, and the wave of optimism that brought, what with him not being a defensive, long-ball merchant and relegation specialist, and things started to change. Holman displayed a work-rate akin to what was shown by the lawyers of the News of the World in its final days.
He scored two goals in the first two domestic warm-ups too, with a curling cracker that was slotted home against Burton Albion supplemented with another strike against Peterborough.
Things then went a little quiet for Holman, with plenty of appreciation shown for his work-rate, but it`s fair to say that most supporters were more concerned with the development of a young, inexperienced team, Lerner giving Lambert more money to spend, and Villa`s worst start since the first recorded instance of Harry Redknapp winding his car window down to give Sky Sports News an interview.
But there have been signs that the Lambert plan is starting to come together now, with the period since October 20 one in which the claret and blues have only lost to the Manchester oil billionaires and the Manchester cockneys.
One of those games, at the hallowed turf against that chef`s club, provided another major first for Holman: an assist. A powerful albeit accurate daisy cutter of a cross might not be most supporters` idea of a perfect set up, but that one brilliant piece of passing football produced our only goal of the game.
A sign of Holman`s importance I believe is that, with a manager who loves to rotate formations and personnel, in an attempt to drag Villa into 21st Century football after last season, he has made 16 appearances in all competitions. That`s the highest total of all our midfielders; with his closest rivals being Wee Barry on 15 and fellow summer signing El Ahmadi on 14.
Regarding those stats above, I`m led to believe that they are correct as of the QPR game, but I`m at the mercy of pesky website editors on that one!
Did I just mention QPR? Ah yes, in a tragic attempt to prove that this article wasn`t just a hastily thrown together yet topical feature, I did, and we all know what happened there.
Yes, we managed to get a draw in Candle Wax face`s first home game for them, thus preventing the painfully inevitable London press love-in for 'Arry "the cockney wide boy" and his easy first home win against some little Brummie club. But Brett Holman also got his first goal for the club.
Some were less than complimentary about USA goalkeeper Rob Green`s handling, but no one wearing a claret and blue shirt cared. For all intents and purposes, it was a decent finish, and was in some ways similar to the two goals he scored during pre-season. In his interview with the official site yesterday he had the tone of a man who wanted to start contributing even more. Good on you Brett, the better you do the more games we`ll win!
I should probably begin to wrap this up now. In what has been an up and down season so far, there have been a number of positives. Christian Benteke has, rightly I should add, been getting a hell of a lot of praise for his performances and the way he`s adapted to the Premier League, as has Brad Guzan for his goalkeeping masterclasses since he surpassed Shay Given in the pecking order.
But I think Holman should be in that list too. This is a player who had been unfairly criticised before he`d even kicked a ball for the club, and was, with hindsight, wrongly tarred with the brush of being a sign that He Who Shall Not Be Named would be continuing his reign of terror. He also cost this club sweet FA in transfer fees. He might not have Benteke`s attacking ability, but his hard work has already proved invaluable to the first 11. Here`s to the next 16 games Brett, if you carry on as you are we`ll win a lot more games than we have in your first 16!