This week, the players went back to work. I hope the summer has been a cleansing experience for all involved with Aston Villa Football Club.
Speaking for myself, I am starting to get those irrational trembles of excitement at the prospect of a new season.
Last season was awful for Villa fans, England lost to Iceland and bowed out of Euro 2016 so, at present, it just feels like it can’t get any worse. I know that is a dangerous thing to say but it has allowed me to adopt a positive attitude, believing that the only way is up. Until we lose on the first day of the 2016-17 season, I will remain optimistic.
Why can we afford to be optimistic?
Dr Tony Xia is full of ambition and he is saying many of the right things. If he supplements his enthusiasm with real money for players then there is plenty of room for excitement.
For the first few years of his ownership, Randy Lerner backed Martin O’Neill and the club moved in the right direction. Let’s hope Dr Xia’s support of the manager lasts longer than Lerner’s did. If he does support Di Matteo, financially and otherwise, who knows what could happen?
New managerial staff
Roberto Di Matteo, Steve Clarke and Kevin Bond are all experienced men who have enjoyed various forms of success. The recent managers we have had seemed to be lacking something, whether that was tactical sense, the ability to galvanise the players or a knowledge of the English game. Thankfully, our new managerial team ticks all those boxes and there is no reason to think they won’t be successful at Aston Villa Football Club and take the Villans straight back up.
I think the signing of Tommy Elphick is a good one: he is a solid British centre back who is proven at this level and is exactly what we needed. The squad is carrying too many egos, with players who are not appreciative of the fact they are past it or just not good enough. Elphick is also a leader so here’s hoping he can be an experienced head in our dressing room.
Then there is the return of Stiliyan Petrov. I don’t expect him to get much playing time this season. However, I think his impact may be just as valuable off the pitch. To have someone in the dressing room of his experience and quality to mentor some of the younger players could be gold dust. In addition, having someone around who has gone through what Petrov has means it’ll be difficult not to be inspired by the man. Welcome back, Stan. I hope you can experience success once more at a club whose fans love you!
There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic as we wait for the pre-season campaign to get under way. We have a lot of work to do but we can succeed if we apply ourselves. The best part of last season is that it is now over and can no longer hurt us. It is time to move onwards and upwards.