By Daniel Williams
“Football. Bloody hell.”
When Sir Alex Ferguson uttered those immortal words, little did anyone know, but that was the great man pre-empting the signings of John Terry, Sam Johnstone, Chris Samba, Glenn Whelan and Ahmed Elmohamady, all for less than the price of what it cost to sell a supposed ‘rock’ (aka Carlos Sanchez) to Fiorentina.
John Terry aside, there are no marquee signings to get excited about, but let’s remember one important thing: the vast majority of us football fans are morons.
I was more excited by Tim Sherwood’s transfer dealings than I was Martin O’Neill’s. Moron. I got excited about David Ginola but not about Freddy Bouma. Moron.
Though much of this transfer window is still to come, it feels like the final pieces of Steve Bruce’s puzzle are being clicked into place. With the instability and change of the 2016/17 campaign, it’s doubtful that the gaffer will leave it much longer before settling on a first-team squad.
With that in mind, let’s take stock of his dealings so far.
It’s Not Terry’s, it’s Mine
Poor old James Chester. It turns out the captain’s armband is John Terry’s after all. Though I feel for Chester, it’s hard to pin-point a moment last season where you thought to yourself: “He’s a proper leader, he is.”
John Terry, whatever you think of him, is a born leader.
Here, you have a player who’s been touted to join Premier League clubs (and decent ones at that) agreeing to a one-year deal, where he reaps the rewards, if we reap the rewards. It’s either win-win or lose-lose.
He may have lost a yard or two of pace, but they say you can earn those yards back if you keep your footballing brain sharp. If that’s true, Terry will be at Villa Park by the time Gabby’s trying to find his keys at home.
His hunger for the game doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of ageing, and that could be invaluable to the development of any academy players looking to break into the first team.
He’s already picked up a trophy for Villa…if you count the Cup of Traditions.
Calling it: will be the best bit of business we’ve done in years if he stays fit. Don’t even @ me.
Who’s the Daddy? Ahmed Elmohamady
I’m tired of right-backs. I was tired of them when Nigel Reo-Coker slotted in there. I was tired of them when Carlos Cuellar sidled his awkward arse down the right flank every week. I’m tired of them now we have 6 of them.
Elmohamady’s trump card is his promotion experience – something that only Ritchie De Laet can claim to have equalled in the rest of the current crop. The £1m fee is insignificant in the current market, and (on paper) he’s certainly not any worse than anyone else we’ve got.
My only reservations are if a) this doesn’t mean James Bree going out on loan and b) this doesn’t spell the end for Richards and Hutton.
Hutton’s a passionate fella, but so is Doug Ellis: doesn’t mean I fancy his chances man-marking Aiden McGeady for 90 minutes.
From the evidence of Germany though, so far, it looks like Elmohamady will be used as a right-winger, first and foremost. His directness and drive down the flank looked promising.
Bunn in the Oven, Johnstone between the Sticks
This was probably the most logical signing of the transfer window. Sure, fans were clambering for Joe Hart, a man who looks well and truly shot before he’s even hit the supposed prime age for a goalkeeper, but this just makes sense.
Changing goalkeepers every season never fares well for teams. They arrive, they make mistakes and then they leave before they’ve even had chance to settle.
Johnstone looked nervy at best for most of January, but so did the rest of the team. It’s the purple patch of 7 clean-sheets in 8 matches that fans should remember, and that’s hopefully more indicative of the type of player we have on our hands.
A ‘keeper who began to gel with his defence: good business.
He’s Whelan Away in Celebration
Often, the best sign of decent transfer business is how fans of the selling club receive it, so the first positive is that a lot of Stoke fans seem gutted. Proper gutted. Like semi-final-Gazza-at-Italia-90 gutted.
For my money, Glenn Whelan is not another Mile Jedinak. He’s less of a rock in-front of the defence, more a dynamo who keeps things ticking in the middle third. The sort that you rarely notice until he’s missing from the team.
Ball retention continues to be a problem. We’re either not quick enough in transition to attack or we can’t string two passes together. Ignoring a couple of sloppy passes on his Villa debut, there’s where hopefully Whelan will thrive, and that’s where we need him to thrive.
Lads, do you remember? Do you remember a battered and bloodied Tommy Elphick at Hillsborough on the opening game of last season? Do you remember how we all saw shades of Terry Butcher? We got that one a bit wrong, didn’t we?
Then there’s Micah Richards, a man who, while the rest of us have been sunning ourselves in Spain, decided to spend his summer holidays being torn apart by Kidderminster Harriers’ part-plumber-part-left-winger trialist.
The reality is that, after Terry, Chester and Baker, we don’t have a fat lot of options. Suliman’s a lovely prospect, but it looks like he needs another year on-loan under his belt before he’s in first-team contention, so this looks a smart move.
After Chris Samba’s decent preseason showings so far, there only remains one question…
Can he stay free from injury?
What to Expect
This transfer window so far shows a lot more restraint, and after the cash-happy dealings of last season, I think it’s needed for FFP reasons alone, after recent overspending on certain players. But regardless of trying to balance the books, there’s been some smart value obtained by the Villa boss.
Last season, we bought all of the ingredients needed to make a great Championship side: your Lansbury’s, Hourihane’s, Kodjia’s, etc. This season, however, it’s about letting all of those players shine. Steve Bruce is doing that in the way he does best: by building from the back.
Hopefully, as a team, we can go forward now.
Written by Dan Williams, follow him on Twitter here – @WanDilliams