‘A title-winning defender joins his boyhood club: it should, in theory, have all worked out’
By Daniel Williams
So, here is the final part of the look back at Aston Villa’s 30+ year-old signings of the Premier League era. The men that immediately preceded John Terry. They’re not quite as exciting as some of the players we signed in the previous decade, Terry signing this summer will certainly boost their ranks in terms of ‘wow’ factor.
This decade, so far, has been a somewhat dark period for the club, with many of these senior players bought in, in the vain hope their experience could avert Villa’s sliding fortunes.
Robert Pires (2010 – 2011) – 37 years old
My only lasting memory of Robert Pires is that he had the look of a man thought every game he played in for us was a charity match. Great goal against Blackburn in the cup, mind.
Like a ghost of his former self.
Shay Given (2011 – 2015) – 35-years-old
Oh, Shay. We thought you were the answer to our Guzan problems, but you never quite were. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about a goalkeeper signing for the club. I was still excited right up until Arsenal bagged their fourth against us in the 2015 FA Cup Final. Oh, Shay.
False hope. He was suddenly half the keeper he was at Newcastle.
Robbie Keane (loan during 2012) – 31 years old
It must have warmed the cockles of Robbie Keane when he signed a loan deal with his boyhood club in January 2012. He may have only made six appearances at Villa, but he looked a cut above everyone else every time he stepped onto the pitch in his claret and blue cameo.
Keane will always be remembered for his single-handed demolition job of Wolves at the Molineux. A 3-1 win there proved to be vital in a season where we only staved off relegation by two points.
Alex McLeish’s finest Villa signing?
Grant Holt (loan during 2014) – 32 years old
Completely forgot this even happened. Repression (and depression) does that.
At least Holt fulfilled his destiny and scored in front of the Holte.
Paul Lambert getting desperate.
Joe Cole (2014 – 2016) – 32 years old
Put in a stormer of a performance up at Burnley before getting injured in the second half. That was very much the story of his Villa career.
Decent when fit, but he was unlikely to ever be fit for long.
Joleon Lescott (2015 – 2016) – 33 years old
Karma: whether you believe in it or not, it’s the kind of thing you hope exists. So when Joleon Lescott dropped down to the Championship for a second time a couple of months ago, there probably weren’t many tears shed in the West Midlands.
A title-winning defender joins his boyhood club: it should, in theory, have all worked out, but it didn’t. From the 6-0 Liverpool battering to the relegation being a “weight off the shoulders”, it was an unmitigated disaster. And that’s not even mentioning his phone that apparently had a mind of its own, when it was in Lescott’s pocket.
Football fans love a trier. We can accept being a bit rubbish if you’re a trier, but what we cannot accept is someone who’s a bit rubbish and who also systematically trashes the club’s reputation.
F. A big, fat F.
Mark Bunn (2015 onwards) – 30 years old
“Man like Mark,” the players say. Bunn was only ever signed as a number two, but has been thrust to the fore on two occasions following the poor performances of Brad Guzan and Pierluigi Gollini. On both occasions, he was pretty much on a hiding to nothing.
Football aside, Bunn is by far the best Villa player to follow on Instagram if photos of takeaway coffees, nice holidays and his best mate, Alan Hutton, are your kind of thing.
A third choice keeper, if we are brutally honest.
Mile Jedinak (2016 onwards) – 32 years old
What a beautiful man, eh? He’s on a ‘B’ already for that alone. You laugh, but can you grow a beard like that? No? Thought not.
Last season, Villa were mercurial at best; you never quite knew what to expect, unless Mile wasn’t playing. If Mile wasn’t playing, you knew exactly what to expect: a draw or a loss and their midfield to walk through ours.
The Australian’s start was a rocky one; a 3-1 loss away to Bristol City and the bedsheets were already on the kitchen table, being daubed with obscenities. As the results began to pile up, a trend started to emerge: we hadn’t won a game without Jedinak in the starting eleven. That became a trend that stuck throughout the season: our moustachioed maestro became an alright luck charm.
Solid and consistent. If he dared venture over the half-way line, he’d probably score higher.
BEST PLAYER OF THE DECADE
So far, I’d probably give it to Mile Jedinak over Robbie Keane, just based on the amount of games he played. Both player’s contributions saved Villa from further humiliation in very poor seasons for the club.
God, it’s been a poor decade for the Villa.
To some, despite not buying him, Jedinak is symbolic of Steve Bruce’s conservative approach – Jedinak shielding a five-man defence?!
How the beard lines up and is utilised next season, may determine if Villa will get promoted next season.
Compiled and written by Dan Williams