It has been a good couple of weeks for the club. We have won three out of our last four games, are out of the relegation zone and of course our youth team are European Champions. It sounds great, doesn’t it? But what does it actually mean for the club in reality?
I had a look at our Youth FA Cup winning team of 2002. The team was made up of:
1: Wayne Henderson
2: Andrew Wells
3: Peter Whittingham
4: Colin Marshall
5: James O’Connor
6: Liam Ridgewell
7: Steven Davis
8: Peter Hynes
9: Stefan Moore
10: Steven Foley
11: Luke Moore
From that list there are four players who are still at a reasonable level, either in the Premiership or Championship. The rest never really made the grade. I was always especially disappointed that Stefan Moore didn’t get more of a chance (pun unintended). I always thought he had great potential but it didn’t really work for him and I think this was even more the case with Luke, although he still pops up for Swansea from time to time.
How do we stop our current crop of players from suffering a similar fate? Well, first of all I am not going to name individuals in the current team as I would like all of them to succeed but there are obviously some players who are more talented than others. One of the biggest factors in favour of this current crop of players is that the club is now far more receptive to blooding and integrating younger players into the squad. There are a number of ex-academy players who are now flourishing in the team, although I expect some of them to move on in the next couple of years. Villa are finally getting recognition for bringing through players but it has to be done in the right way unless we want another Chelsea style mauling. At the moment, Villa needs to be realistic as to where it sits and it is very much a club in transition.
The battle is still not over and we really need to beat Fulham this weekend to give us an excellent chance of staying up. However, there are more and more stories coming from the media stating that they like the club and they deserve to stay up for having the balls to play the youngsters. As long as we survive this season I am genuinely going to be excited for next season. It is great to hear (if true) that Benteke wants to stay another season and I think Weimann will also stay. We need some older heads to temper youth and hopefully the likes of Ireland will off to pastures new.
For me I would like us to get someone like Lescott who has the experience and would really help to support our young defenders improve their game. At international level, we are seeing countries like Germany bringing through young hungry players and I think there will be a backlash against multi-millionaire football. We need players who want to do well for the club and who will give 100%.
That is the new face of football and I think if we hold our nerve we will start to move up the table. Keep faith with Lambert: it hasn’t always been easy but he IS the right man for the job.