If you asked Villa fans from around the world where they would like the club to be, many would say competing with the big boys once again.
I accept the fact that Villa were in and around mid-table while Doug Ellis was in charge of the club. When Randy Lerner bought the club, I think every Villa fan’s Christmases all came at once. A rich chairman who was willing to spend big to get Villa back amongst the elite of the league was a dream come true.
O’Neill gave me some very fond memories, including the League Cup final and that wonderful night against Ajax, which proved safe standing does work – but that’s another matter for another day.
Yes, I loved the O’Neill era at the club. Who didn’t? When you look back at it, O’Neill has to be at fault for spending big on the mediocre talent he brought to the club. Yes, he found some gems in Young and Carew but paying £10 million for Davies, £7.8 million for Cuéllar and £3.5 million for Heskey is laughable. Knowing that we could have signed Falcao instead of Heskey still makes my blood boil. The fact that he put many players, including Beye and Heskey, on ridiculous wages still blows my mind and I am angry that we are still paying for O’Neill’s mistakes three years after he left the club.
Two managers down the line, Paul Lambert was given a bite of the Villa cherry but he has a different idea of how the club should be run to Martin O’Neill and has taken the club into unfamiliar territory. Releasing a large number of high-earning players and replacing them with young hungry players seems to have gone down well with everyone involved with the club – except, perhaps, those high-earners. Lambert has released some big wages off the bill and more players are set to be released in the next transfer windows. The likes of Bent, Given and Ireland will soon just be distant memories to a large proportion of the Villa faithful.
Lambert’s business model has been a carbon copy of what is happening at clubs all over Germany, where clubs produce or invest in talented, young, hungry players, get them playing for the club rather than a wage packet and, if push comes to shove, selling them on for decent profits which are then reinvested in the squad.
Let’s take the example of former FC Groningen winger, Leandro Bacuna. Leandro Bacuna joined Villa back in the summer of 2013 for a fee rumoured to be around £800,000 on a three year deal. Bacuna has been one of Villa’s in-form players so far this season. He has performed brilliantly, keeping Matthew Lowton on the bench and scoring a world-class free kick against Manchester City.
His current value, according to TransferMarkt, is around £1.8 million. That’s means we’ve made a profit of one million pounds already. FC Groningen do have a 20% sell on clause in his Villa contract according to the club’s chairman, meaning if Bacuna left Villa for a fee of £5 million, FC Groningen would receive £1 million of that fee. Therefore, Villa would get £4 million for the sale of that player, which would ensure a profit of £3.2 million.
Lambert deserves a lot of credit indeed. There is no doubt in my mind that Lambert is here for the long haul unless his beloved Dortmund come calling.
Ably assisted by Paul Faulkner, Lambert has much to offer Villa and I will be most interested to see how well he fares in transforming the fortunes of the famous Aston Villa Football Club.