The game has changed since the 1970s, when players would break into a first team and generally stay at that club for the rest of their careers. However, as time has passed, there are not so many one club players around. Contracts tend not to mean anything in the modern era; they only increase the value of the player. Players may not see out contracts and now they have more power, so if they want moves they will get them.
In recent seasons, Aston Villa has become more of a feeder club for the bigger teams. When players have left, the club hasn’t really replaced them with players of a good enough standard, which hasn’t gave the fans much optimism or seen the promised “bright future” materialise.
It’s no secret that Fabian Delph and Ron Vlaar are both out of contract at the end of the season. The club seems to have offered the two key players new and improved contracts. However, the players have been reluctant to sign on the dotted line. What do the club officials do now?
Delph came in for a large sum from Leeds and was plagued with injuries, including a ruptured cruciate ligament in his knee that ruled him out of action for eight months. The club, especially Randy Lerner, remained ‘loyal’ to the player when many chairmen may have cut their losses. The club stuck by Delph and staff were there to support the now England international. Now he has had an England call up, it seems to have turned his head. After being in the England dressing room, with players from the big teams talking ambitiously about their respective clubs, what does Delph have to say about Villa?
In October last year Fabian Delph was quoted as saying “I’d love to be here for the rest of my career”, which raised the fans’ hopes that the player would remain loyal. Recent reports have squashed these hopes and left Villa fans wondering how likely it is that we will find a player who will be able to fill the void left by Delph.
Ron Vlaar is another player who has been linked with numerous teams. After a summer of speculation following a good World Cup with Holland, it seems that the links will not go away. The player’s agent has added fuel to the fire by confirming that it is likely that the Dutch defender will leave the club:
“It is obvious that for Ron, now is the moment to make a nice big move in his career. Ron is very ambitious.
The situation is ideal for Ron right now. You can imagine that we are not in a hurry. I don’t want to react to the rumour that he will move to either Arsenal or Man United, but Ron is very ambitious.”
It doesn’t bode well that the captain of the club may be allowed to leave on a free. On the other hand, I feel that he can be replaced and if we get a good offer in January the club should take it and invest the money from a sale back in the team. While Delph is a vital member of the squad, Vlaar is not someone we can rely on to play week in, week out.
When players have left in the past, it has caused uproar and it is never nice to see key players move on. This was the case for several players including Gareth Barry, Stewart Downing and Ashley Young: the first time big clubs came sniffing around them, they jumped at the chance to leave Villa Park. With the exception of Gareth Barry, the key players who have left in recent seasons have not been able to replicate the form they showed while playing for Aston Villa. Ashley Young has won trophies and may have fulfilled his dreams but he played a bit-part role and has lost his place in the England squad.
Gabriel Agbonlahor is a player who has stuck with the Villans through the good times and the bad, which has been respected by the Villa faithful. Has he ever been genuinely linked with a big team? Gabby had the potential to be a top player but that hasn’t really worked out and now the only thing I feel makes him a threat is his pace. Without this, I doubt he’d be in the Villa team. The former England international does have games when he is unplayable but they don’t come around frequently enough. If he were a more consistent player, he would have had the top teams looking at him much more closely and, in turn, Villa fans would have seen his supposed loyalty really put to the test.
Matt Le Tissier is a prime example of a player who was capable of leading the line for a number of top teams but he remained at Southampton for the rest of his league career, having very nearly joined Tottenham in 1990 after originally agreeing to join them. That sort of loyalty is sadly lacking nowadays and we should expect very little loyalty from members of our current squad.