By Chris Kemps
Pessimists wouldn’t see too much to shout about after the 0-0 at West Ham, but optimists could point to a few things that Villa fans can learn from and take into the international break with a bit less doom-and-gloom.
If Paul Lambert’s legacy means he ends up being known the man who signed Christian Benteke and re-signing Brad Guzan after he was released by Villa at the end of his contract, that would be just fine. Guzan’s contract had expired under Alex McLeish’s tenure but one of the first things Lambert did was to offer him a new deal and and take him on the pre-season tour to the USA at the start of his reign in 2012. By the end of 2012-13, he was named player of the year, signed a new four-year deal and had cemented his place as Villa’s number one.
Blamed by some for the deluge of goals Villa have been conceding, those fans who take a longer view would remember the games he has single-handedly (literally in the case of the ridiculous save at the death from Andy Carroll’s header which he can’t have even seen until it was almost past him) kept Villa alive.
Certainly Guzan’s not as flamboyant as Bosnich, nor as loud as Schmeichel, as hirstute as David James or infallible as Spinksy. But if this Aston Villa squad is going anywhere, this last display surely shows fans he as important to keep around as Delph or Benteke and probably more important than Vlaar.
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 – that phenomenon 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.
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. Full Story here
NATE THE GREAT
Nathan Baker’s transformation from rash, second-choice defender, to bearded, physical brick wall (as seen against West Ham) will remind older fans of the transformation of Ugo Ehiogu in the ’90s. Ugo was signed by Ron Atkinson for just £40,000 from the Baggies (who wisely put in a hefty sell-on percentage fee which Villa tried to buy out… no dice). When he broke into the first team, Villa fans would hold their breath as he lunged in and whumped the ball high into the top tier of the Trinity Road stand, fearing he would make a costly mistake given the impudence of youth (he was just 19 when he signed) and raw ability.
Ehiogu would go on to partner Paul McGrath and Gareth Southgate in the heart of a successful Villa defense in the mid-90s, make 300 appearances over nine years, win the League Cup and eventually move to Middlesbrough for £8m. He also played four times for England.
If you had asked those fans in 1991 whether he was going to make it, not many would have seen the terrific career he had in front of him. But we’ve since learned that with the right attitude, some good luck, and the right players around him, Ugo would end up as a big player in Villa’s history. Who’s to say Nathan Baker won’t have a similar career ahead of him? And we were there to witness it from the very start.
VILLA MANAGERIAL REMINDERS
25 years ago Graham Taylor’s Aston Villa hammered Everton 6-2 to announce themselves as title contenders. It was Taylor’s third season in charge and in his first he had to get Villa promoted (Full story here) This week, 20 years ago Ron Atkinson was sacked as Villa boss, a mere seven months after winning the League Cup with Villa and only six weeks after beating Inter Milan on that epic UEFA Cup night.
Paul Lambert is also in his third season…and still has a job. UTV
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