This week I have been studying Aston Villa league stats from ten years ago. As we are now in the transition between the 2016/7 and the 2017/8 seasons I have had a look at how we finished in 2006/7 and then how we went on to do the following season.
The progress from one season to another was certainly positive and something it would be wonderful to replicate by performing well in the upcoming campaign.
Ten years is, of course, an incredibly long time in football. At the end of the 06/7 campaign which was the first under manager Martin O’Neill, we finished a steady 11th. A good deal better than the few years proceeding in which we had flirted with relegation under David O’Leary.
O’Neill’s first campaign was, of course, a settler. He needed time to create his own squad and implement his ideas the results of which was evident. The next season was the first of three successive sixth-place finishes in the top flight. A height which really has not been replicated since.
In that summer O’Neill really did put his stamp on the club and success was the result.
A similar task is facing Steve Bruce this summer.
He has already made a swathe of acquisitions meaning the match day squads are looking much more like his but there is still plenty to do.
Among many tasks facing Bruce this summer is to shift some of the dead weight at the club. As has been extensively blogged about the last few years has seen a vast amount of money wasted on players who really did not perform. Shedding them is crucial.
Replacing them effectively is then the crucial next step. I still think we are at the very least a goalkeeper and a forward short but there are legitimate claims that other positions could be strengthened.
Of course, O’Neill did waste money. There were a lot of players that did not cut the mustard but I think, if we look back, on the whole, his business was pretty good.
Those years which we now mostly look back on with fondness, particularly when compared with what came next, involved some really exciting and entertaining players with whom the fans had a real connection.
There are already a few players at the club who are making a name for themselves and it would be brilliant if Bruce could continue to build that bridge next season.
Since the O’Neill years, there has been much hurt and a lot of making up needs to happen. A lot of that has now happened so this summer can be one to replicate that of ten years ago.
It was a time where a newish team solidified and was successful. We must do it again if we want to get back to that top league.