Being called up into Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad for the 2014 World Cup would have been the icing on the cake for Fabian Delph who has been the shining light in an Aston Villa side that once again diced with danger at the wrong end of the table.
Delph has really come into his own over the past two seasons, although two serious long-term injuries threatened to destroy the undoubted potential he brought to the club as a Martin O’Neill signing back in the summer of 2009.
After picking up several Villa player of the year awards, he unfortunately missed out on a place on the England squad. Earlier on in the season, Villa supporters had voiced their concern over the top four bias shown to Manchester United’s Tom Cleverley. who was being picked ahead of more deserving players like Delph because of the club he played for.
Some Villa fans still believe their young midfield dynamo, should have been included alongside Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw in a 23-man squad packed with vibrancy and youth. While Delph will no doubt join millions of loyal fans backing England at the World Cup, it’s questionable whether the Villa starlet’s undoubtedly ability would have made a difference in Brazil.
Shining star in a disappointing season
The 2013/2014 season was meant to signal a progression for Aston Villa’s young squad who had appeared to learn the harsh lessons of being in a relegation fight the previous year, with Paul Lambert also wiser for the experience.
Despite starting the season in wonderful fashion with a shock 3-1 victory at Arsenal, Villa have barely scraped through the season without any consistency or form. Beating Norwich and Manchester City in September was the one and only occasion when Aston Villa won consecutive games, and awful late season form saw them plummet down the table towards the relegation dogfight.
Eight defeats in the final ten games of the season illustrated just how poor the performances had become, with a 3-1 victory against Hull in their final home game saving Villa from real danger. The alarming slump has not only put Paul Lambert’s position as manager under serious question, but also certainly contributed to Randy Lerner’s decision to sell the club to a new owner.
Although the club’s future off the pitch is uncertain, Aston Villa must do everything in their power to keep Fabian Delph who has undoubtedly been the shining light for the past two seasons. Delph has come on leaps and bounds from the rough diamond that arrived at the club from Leeds United, displaying an array of skill and ability that surpass what his fellow team-mates can provide.
The 24-year-old has the quality to be a driving force in midfield, whilst also helping the defence through breaking down attacks and working hard to win the ball back. His fantastic back heel goal against Chelsea illustrates his wonderful talent, although Villa may have a fight on their hands to keep him at the club if their limbo-like state rumbles on.
Delph will no doubt have ambitions to play for the national team and a struggling Villa may hamper that.
Rumours like Newcastle’s swoop for Delph, may become more common place in the summer transfer window. The Geordies are still after a top quality midfield replacement for Yohan Cabaye and despite their recent struggles, Newcastle still remain a top half outfit.
Although Fabian Delph was seen as having an outside chance of being on the plane to Brazil, many believe that his talent and ability should have been utilised by Roy Hodgson in a midfield area that has often been criticised for lacking creativity and fresh ideas.
It is irrelevant that Delph plays for a Premier League club that have seriously struggled over the past two seasons, as anyone who plays for England should be picked on their own personal form over the club they turn out for. While Hodgson claims that this philosophy is currently used in the England squad, it does not explain why certain players were picked ahead of Delph.
Delph’s superb form arguably puts him ahead of Frank Lampard who has only been a bit-part player for Chelsea and has not hit the same heights as previous seasons. Lampard may remain a fine midfielder with an excellent scoring record at club level and brings many years of international experience to the table, but the veteran midfielder only started 20 games this season and came off the bench just 6 times.
James Milner and Raheem Sterling are amongst the other midfielders who Roy Hodgson has picked ahead of Delph, with their inclusion justified for contrasting reasons in an area which will be crucial for England at Brazil 2014. Both players offer a little bit more proven quality than Delph, but the Villa man has shown over the last two seasons that his game is progressing to the extent that he could be among those put forward to replace Lampard or Steven Gerrard as the midfield lynchpin when they retire.
Milner may not be blessed with samba skills and flamboyancy, but offers a wonderful work ethic, determination and versatility that sets him apart from any other English midfielder to be effective at both ends of the pitch. Sterling has come on leaps and bounds at Liverpool, with electric pace coming from out wide or through the centre offering a much-needed spark and creativity. Jack Wilshere is another highly talented midfielder in the England squad who has a range of passing, vision and creativity well beyond his years, although there are concerns whether the Arsenal star will be fully fit to make a real impact following yet another injury.
Ross Barkley may have ultimately got the most likely spot in the squad available to Delph, but after an excellent season, few could refute his inclusion. Also, with both players unlikely to be England starters, in terms of gaining experience for future tournaments, the 20-year-old Everton midfielder may have an extra World Cup in him than Delph (24), so it’s ultimately better giving the opportunity to the younger player.
Delph could have offered new ideas and fresh impetus from midfield that would be in-line with Roy Hodgson’s preference for youth at the World Cup, although his omission was not considered a surprise by Villa fans who are more relieved they survived relegation following another difficult season. Calls for his inclusion began to wane as Villa slid alarmingly down the table, and Cleverley’s fall from grace meant that even playing for Manchester United is not good enough to make it into the England squad if they are playing poorly.
If Aston Villa can get their act together and also bring in a quality midfielder to supplement Delph in midfield, the young Villa midfielder’s time for England will surely come.