Monday, 31 December 2012

New Year Wish - Leave the Villa Kids Alone.

It’s not been a brilliant festive period for Aston Villa. It’s hard to argue with the last three results, all heavy defeats. However, I am already starting to get tired of the usual negativity from the Villa fans when things start to go a bit wrong. Whilst I’m not excusing the level of performances in conceding 15 goals in 3 games we still need to view the season so far in perspective.


The Villa side named by Paul Lambert for the game against Liverpool was, I understand, the youngest average aged in Premiership history. Following a slow start our young lions produced a cracking performance, worthy of praise from football writers across the media. Several games later and the fans are now deeming these players not good enough. This is utter rubbish. Some Villa fans seem to think that we should still be competing for a top 6 place as we were under Martin O’Neil. Others seem to think that Randy Lerner should be throwing his entire fortune around like an oil Sheik.


After two poor seasons, the reasons for which is a combination of poor luck as well as poor management, the arrival of Paul Lambert has brought with it a cautious optimism for the future. Those who expected an instant return to pushing for the top 6 need to wake up. The word “transition” has been used repeatedly in reference to Villa but for this season in particular it is proving true. We need to remember that. The players that aren’t deemed good enough have actually been playing some decent football in general over the first half of the season. They are a very young team still learning about each other. Performances including the Liverpool win, the first hour against Man Utd, the cup game against Norwich and others show what the boys can do. They will learn from being hammered by Chelsea & Spurs and will become stronger. Getting on their backs is not the answer. I remember a young England Rugby team being hammered by Australia a number of years ago. They went on to do quite well! As Alex Ferguson knows you don’t win anything with kids! Before you start jumping up and down, I’m not comparing Barry Bannan to David Beckham or Paul Scholes.


The media is suggesting that Lambert will have some funds for the January transfer window. I’m not expecting panic buys. In fact I’m not expecting many new faces at all. An influx of new players is often unsettling (See QPR!). I would not be surprised to see Darren Bent leaving however. It would be disappointing to see him go, partly because we are not likely to recoup anywhere near the money we paid for him but also because he is a proven goal scorer and they are hard to come by. I have no idea why he does not fit into Lamberts plans but he clearly doesn’t. His apparent attitude on the pitch when he has come on has not been the display of a player wanting to play for the club or try to regain his place in the team.


My New Year wish is for our fans to let Lambert on the kids to get on with playing football. They have shown they can do it and do it well. They just need to keep believing and show a bit more consistency.


To the Portsmouth fan that messaged me after our 8-0 loss to Chelsea, I’m glad our result gave you so much enjoyment. I just wonder who you will be supporting when Portsmouth go out of business? J



Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Euro 2012: An Opportunity for England to Play Without Pressure?

Given the squad Roy Hodgson is taking to Poland and Ukraine it is perhaps just as well that there does not seem to be much expectation resting on the England Squad as they prepare for the Euro Championship.
Could this be an opportunity for them to eventually play to some of their potential in a major tournament? With some of the usual pressure seemingly off them, I am at least hoping to see some attacking intent and not the usual flat, dull football that is often in evidence when England play in big competitions. Comparisons, rightly-or-wrongly, will be made to the disaster of the World Cup in South Africa. However, with that as a benchmark we couldn’t do much worse!
Roy Hodgson is in a win-win situation as I see it. If we go out in the group stage and are generally rubbish then the argument will be he did not have enough time with the squad to prepare etc. If he gets them performing well then he will be hailed as being the right man for the job all along.

Given this situation I am slightly surprised he has not gone for some bolder selections in his squad. There seem to be too many weak or out-of-form players. Whilst Roy hasn’t had much time to prepare its not as if he is unaware of who is playing well at present and who isn’t. His overriding argument for the inclusion of Andy Carroll was his late season form for Liverpool after all.
There are several players who I would not have included. How Stuart Downing makes the squad when he has not contributed a single Premier League goal or Premier League assist for Liverpool this season is a complete mystery to me. James Milner as been poor for Man City on the rare occasions he has played for them and given the other midfield selections in the squad it is clear he is seen as a wide player by Hodgson. He doesn’t have the pace in my opinion and contributed one cross in the warm-up game against Norway last weekend. A cross that hit the first defender and went out for a throw-in. Theo Walcott is another who has been far to inconsistent for both Arsenal and England and Danny Welbeck is one of the most over-rated players to make the England Squad for some time.
I had hoped Roy would have taken the opportunity to produce more of a blend of young exciting players alongside the more established internationals. His inclusion of the uncapped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suggests he is not totally conservative in his thinking. I appreciate that but for some injuries the squad would likely look quite different, with the likes of Darren Bent, Jack Wilshere and Kyle Walker all strong contenders for starting places.

It is a rare occasion that on the even of a major tournament the English media and public are not building the expectations of the team and the pressure to win. I hope that the players are able to respond to this in the Championship and produce some exciting and attacking football. Whilst I think there are a few weak links in the squad I will be watching with cautious optimism.
Good Luck England!
PS - How many of you would have included Grant Holt as a wildcard???