If there is a club that knows how Southampton fans must be feeling at the moment then surely it is Aston Villa.
After a successful season, it looks like the Premier League’s elite are set to swoop for the stars of the Saints’ 2013-14 campaign. Rickie Lambert has gone to his boyhood team Liverpool, Adam Lallana has reportedly stated he wants to follow him and Luke Shaw looks set for a big money move to Manchester United. Southampton fans will probably be quite pleased that Jay Rodriguez is injured, as that should prevent anyone from attempting to sign him as well. To add insult to injury, they have lost their young and talented manager. To call it a “bad summer so far” for Southampton is an understatement.
Aston Villa fans found themselves in a similar position five years ago. Gareth Barry was allowed to join Manchester City, James Milner followed a year later and two years later we lost both Ashley Young and Stewart Downing to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively. We also had to deal with the loss of Stan Petrov from our midfield in April 2012 due to illness. That’s five very good players gone.
We received good money for all of them but they haven’t really ever been replaced. Milner in particular was a loss that we have never really recovered from. We suffered from not quite making the Champions League despite our best efforts and, one by one, our better players were picked off. We managed to hang on to Gareth Barry for an extra season, which was commendable. Ashley Young probably could have been sold earlier too. Milner and Downing both stated that they wanted to leave and we didn’t have much choice in the matter, which is what Southampton are now finding. If a player wants to go there is not much you can do.
Southampton have built a good young British team, one to be proud of. We tried to do the same, albeit with less reliance on our academy at that stage, and the reward for doing that was to lose your best players. It’s a real shame but one that is unfortunately a fact of life in the Premier League now. The big five or six have the power and the clout to get who they want.
Were it not for injury I have no doubt we would be battling to hold on to Benteke again this summer and, unfortunately, I don’t think we would’ve been able to talk him round again, especially if he had taken the World Cup by storm.
If I were a Southampton fan, I would be annoyed at the moment. Fans of Aston Villa were the victims before them and there will be another club after them. The key is how you react to the loss of key players: we tried to replace Milner with Ireland, for example, and that didn’t go as planned.
I’ll be interested to see how Southampton react and how the team does next season. The Saints will no doubt spend some money but can’t guarantee that signings are going to work out as replacements, as Ireland showed at Villa. They have a thriving academy but we went down that route and have not yet adequately replaced many of those who departed. Albrighton didn’t quite manage to fill Downing’s or Young’s shoes but when playing with them he reached a higher level.
Southampton may well have a successful season next term, as Villa may, but we are an example of a team that was dismantled and that hasn’t yet got back to the same level. Aston Villa Football Club should serve as a warning to Southampton.