Can Aston Villa go forward with Martin O'Neill
The Tottenham game was always going to be the measure of where Villa under MON`s tenure has left us. So it`s to no surprise that anything but a resounding win was going to result in the backlash and calls for the manager`s head that we`re currently facing
It was a question posed by JBerlin in the forums and amongst some of the usual waffle, I`ve been impressed with some of the comments posted.
Murph- "We're now time and time again head-butting the glass ceiling"
Panchovilla - "As soon as they started to pass we were onto a hiding. Huddleston looked a world beater in the second half as could I if I'd has as much time and space, (and I was shot and killed in 1923)."
Witton_Lane - "Anyone that isn't obsessed with wasting tons of money on sh*t British players would be a step forward."
Upthevilla - "He doesn't try anything adventurous in the transfer market, so, just like the football doesn't give many of us anything to get excited about as Villa supporters on or off the pitch. I can't remember a time when I've been this apathetic a supporter."
The last comment is just a snippet of one I couldn`t help but admire. I don`t think I`ve seen such a fair and well rounded argument from the anti-MON brigade. But if Tottenham truly is the measure of MON`s success - which I believe it to be - then all factors must be considered, not just Saturday`s performance.
The obvious thing many are focusing on is that Redknapp has achieved just as much, and arguably more than MON in just half the time as Spur`s boss than MON has as Villa boss. It`s a fair point but barring the season directly before 'Arry`s appointment, Spur`s had already been top four contenders for a good few years. Martin Jol had given them back-to-back 5th place finishes. I still don`t understand why, but the sacking of Jol followed and despite a League Cup win, Spurs plummeted to 11th with the disastrous Juande Ramos in charge. An awful start to the 2008/09 season, with Ramos undeniably the catalyst with his inability to adapt to the English game saw Redknapp take over in October of last season.
We all know what happened next with Harry hitting the ground running, finishing the season in 8th place and a penalty shootout loss to Manchester United in the Carling Cup Final.
In comparison when MON took over Villa had spent the previous years slumming in the Premier League. Despite O`Leary`s 6th place in his first season, Villa had then finished 10th and 16th before MON was appointed. The squad was threadbare and few can argue the gulf in class between the teams MON & Redknapp inherited.
It`s no coincidence that Gabby Agbonlahor is the sole remaining member of the pre-MON days. The fact that MON has had to make major changes to a Villa team long performing under its potential is missed by so many. His transfer dealings raise so many question marks amongst supporters but for the by and large he`s been massively successful in doing so.
Friedel, Guzan, L. Young, Dunne, Collins, Davies, Warnock, Cuellar, A. Young, Milner, Carew, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Sidwell, Downing, Delph, Heskey & Beye. - All MON signings that make up the core of the first team. It`d be a never-ending argument to get into just which ones have been successes and which have been compounding failures. But the key factor is that collectively they have been a huge success.
We have a team capable of mounting a challenge on the top four without a single player costing more than £12m. That to me is astonishing. The fact is Villa have a strict transfer policy in place. We aren`t likely to go and spend £20m on one player and for good reason. If you look at the Leeds policy at the turn of the decade and you can see why. Throwing money at the problem may get some success for the short term but a crippling wage bill is the last thing that the club needs. MON has completely revamped the whole of the team and done so without spending over the odds. James Milner is the club record buy at £12m and is he any worse than his top-four opposites?
Tottenham won`t think twice about paying £20m for a player, Manchester City could buy just about anyone and the top four have the pulling power of the Champions League so it`s no wonder that Villa are 7th choice of England`s finest. The fact that MON has assembled a squad of such promise in such a short amount of time, despite these obvious limitations is a credit to him.
How his transfer policy is so widely criticised is beyond me. We all know that Villa are now in desperate need of a creative midfielder and a top striker - the same way that we all knew about the shortcomings of the defence last season.
We say how can MON not see what we see, but did he not add the fantastic Warnock, Collins & Dunne in the summer? If you`re all honest how many of you were calling for the signings of these players? Many of you, myself included, have stated that you had no idea who Collins even was, yet he`s turned into one of the signings of the summer.
I feel that MON does indeed see what we see. Which is why I can`t wait for the transfer window to open. I`ve given up trying to second guess who MON will be going in for but I`d bet my bottom dollar we`ll see exactly what we need come in, a striker and a creative midfielder. It could well be someone that leaves us up in arms saying "WHO?" much like Collins, but I`m looking forward to smiling to myself when this "WHO" turns out to be the signing of the January transfer window.
Since MON has come in we`ve seen year on year improvement. Not just on the footballing side of things, but with the behind the scenes work done by the likes of Mr Lerner. The Acorns deal, the McGregor statue, the free away coach transport… All make valid reasons as to why it`s a great time to be a Villa fan. Granted the football may not be some of the most attractive compared to the likes of Tottenham, but with the promise of the team I still can`t shake the feeling that he building something for the years to come.
Look at Alex Ferguson`s first years in charge. His first trophy came four years into his reign after many were calling for his head. He gradually prepared the club for what he had planned when dealing with the drinking culture and laid the foundations by signing the backbone of the team and laying the foundations for the future by developing the youth.
To me, that`s much the same as what we`re facing today. The foundations are very much there, the youth has shown so much potential and now I feel we`re only an Eric Cantona and Mark Hughes away from really achieving something.
Would you all be appeased if we won either the cups this year? FACT is that to upset the hierarchy of the top teams is so much harder today thanks to Champions League money, than it was 20+ years ago when Fergie first took over.
I know the sceptics will laugh at the comparison with the great man himself, in reality there are miles between them. The only comparison I am making is the laying of foundations being the main focus of both managers during their maiden years.
When Villa stop making progress under O`Neill I`ll be the first to reassess the situation. Until then I`m forever behind him, and yes… We can go forward under MON.