By Chris Kemps
SHOULDERING THE BLAME
Fabian Delph, in some fans eyes, has already gone and is being labelled “disloyal” after the club has stuck by him through his injuries. They blame the “curse” of the England call-up that may well have played a part in the transfers of Barry, Downing, Milner and Young.
The ‘heading turning’ phenomenon dictates that once surrounded by their peers at international level, somehow they are convinced by the sirens already established in the squad that they deserve to be playing for England regularly, and their short careers should involve Champions League football every season, and that will take a move away from unfashionable Villa to one of the “big” clubs.
With Delph recently breaking into the England squad and with Spurs the latest club to be linked to the Villa midfielder in the press, despite earlier assurances (pre-England debut) that he would be keen to stay at Villa, Delph appears to be holding out on signing a new Villa contract.
Despite getting a new contract himself, Villa boss Paul Lambert has seemingly failed to land the main two contract renewals that the Villa fans were crying out for – Delph and Villa captain Ron Vlaar.
It was Martin O’Neill who brought Delph to the club in 2009, beating off stiff competition from other Premiership clubs. His first serious injury to his cruciate ligament came at the end of his first season and he was out for eight months. Delph has come into his own in Paul Lambert’s squad and despite his reputation for picking up some needless yellow cards, his goals against Southampton and Chelsea especially, plus the impression he could be part of a really good midfield with a little more investment, have made him a firm favorite. He is the current Supporters Player Of The Year.
Injury Thinking Time
His latest injury is a blow, especially if the press are to be believed that he was on the verge of signing a new deal before his shoulder surgery. This was very much a key season in terms of Delph maturing into a serious leader for Villa on the pitch. His best years are in front of them and fans were hoping to at least get a couple of those years at Villa Park.
Regardless of his contract status, he’s been missed in a more adventurous-looking midfield in the last few games where he would have flourished. But if worst comes to worst, he has been a good servant to the club for years. Losing him for £15m to say PSG would be a blow but losing him for free on a Bosman to a team in England already in better shape than Villa are would be a kick in the teeth and a real morale-sapping punch in the gut to the fans and the rest of the squad.
But it’s happened before. When the news broke about Mark Bosnich leaving for free (after the club had reportedly offered him to Liverpool for a cut-price £1m as his contract expired) it was bad enough, but to have him go to Manchester United was very hard to swallow. But that was after more than seven years of service and I’m sure fans weren’t too upset to see the move eventually turn into a nightmare for the (now-forgiven) Australian goalkeeper.
More recently, and just as critically, Juan Pablo Angel was allowed to leave for free to join the NY Red Bulls in MLS. He is the third-top scorer in the Premiership era for Villa after Dwight Yorke and Gabby Agbonlahor. While their reasons for wanting to leave were different (Bosnich wanted to win championships, Angel wanted to move closer to home) the effect on Villa’s finances was similar. Olof Mellberg was given nothing but well-wishes when he left on a free to Juventus and he left a big hole in the defense in his wake.
All of those three players it could be argued moved at the right time having proved themselves at Villa, yet with Delph there’s the feeling he’s only just finding his feet and living up to his potential.
If Delph stays, great. He’s a good player on the cusp of even better things. But if he goes, as some Villa fans have already decided he will (remember the shock when we saw that photo of Benteke and Lambert shaking hands over his new contract?) life will go on and another new star will be along before long. Of course, we will deride the state of modern football, but you can’t blame Delph for Villa’s current plight.
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