As the players prepare to leave for Austria in July, what can Aston Villa fans learn from a week which saw the new manager’s first signing?
The release of the Premiership fixture lists was the first punch in the gut for Villa fans: no Villa. The second was a blow to the kidneys – Aston Villa will start their campaign at Villa Park against Rotherham (after a more prestigious game at fellow former-Premiershippers Sheffield Wednesday).
Then: the EFL cup draw away – away to Luton Town in the 1st round. This situation isn’t going to go away.
At least, not yet. Season ticket sales sound healthy and there will be demand for the new kit when it’s released on July 1. Let’s hope the unusual situation the club finds itself in is a temporary one.
A lot depends more on the players the club keeps than the ones it brings in. Many have called for a clean sweep, and certainly some players have made their positions pretty unattainable after their behaviour, attitude or performances. If the players bought on the cheap that couldn’t perform in the top flight are still around this coming season, and still can’t do it (or are dumped for free) it could be the difference between going straight up and hanging around the Sky Bet Championship for a while longer.
Don’t forget nobody was sold in January, in what could have been a chance to grab a bargain for a team needing something to bolster the squad. Reports on bids turned down for Sinclair (who this column believes was one of the biggest victims of poor management) come with mixed feelings – as one of the potentially better players in the squad, he could be sold for money – or is he kept in the hopes he finds his form with a regular spot in the team and a new manager? Same goes for the sometimes stroppy Ayew.
Either way, with just Elphick signed so far the way the assumed (and implied by Di Matteo) clean out is carried out is going to be key…
… along with the U21s who spent last year on loan.
Were the likes of Gardner, Baker and Bennett sent out to get some experience ahead of a return to challenge for a starting place? Or just sent off to temporarily cut the wage bill because they wouldn’t have commanded a transfer fee and they might yet make the cut?
Along with Toner, Traore and Grealish the spine of the new team could be young, hungry and pis*ed off, which could be the best possible thing to fire everyone up. With wage-stealers Richardson and N’Zogbia gone, their places should be filled with the cream of the youth team and those with Championship experience heading the charge.
Wouldn’t it be magnificent to have Stiliyan Petrov leading out the teams at Hillsborough on opening day? Of course, it’s a far-fetched notion considering his age and the 36-year-old still has a long way to go but, as you would expect, he’s gone about things the right way since his “retirement” and if he can still contribute – in whatever capacity – he could be the role model other pros that have come to the club have miserably failed to be.
If he makes the cut and is named in the squad for the season, his is the one name any fan could get on the back of their new Villa shirt without any fear of being let down. His return would be the stuff of legends.
Follow Adam Keeble on Twitter @keebo00
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