Roy Keane, our new assistant manager, told us in his press conference that he cannot wait for pre-season and I have to admit I share his feelings. Just like Keane said, let’s get the “nonsense” out of the way and get going.
We could go on discussing the takeover that was supposed to happen quite some time ago. We could continue speculating about the big money signings we are supposedly going to make with money we don’t have. We could consider some wild theories as to why the Villans will be relegated at the end of next season. We could also throw a die to figure out who is to blame for the predicament Aston Villa Football Club is in.
However, I suggest that we forget about all that and do what Roy Keane told us to in his unique way – focus on pre-season!
This is when truths are told, when the work is done and when development is seen. Pre-season performances will offer us a base for discussions and early conclusions, not wild and unfounded speculation around news based on the boredom levels of some people involved in generating it. I do not want any more fabricated stories. It’s time for the club and its players to write their own.
Next Monday, players and staff return to Bodymoor Heath, just over a week before the first pre-season match against Mansfield takes place. This means that Paul Lambert and his new assistant will only have a few days in which to work with the squad before fielding their first team of the season.
Of course, it is always interesting to speculate but at the moment I think we should focus on what we have – and that’s quite a lot. We have a squad that, with players returning from injuries or joining Villa as transfers, is stronger than last season’s average one and the coaching team will welcome Keane to replace the unpopular Culverhouse and Karsa.
It will be every member of staff’s job to get everything possible out of our squad. With the recent set-backs, mostly due to injuries, for many of them this will be a real challenge and I am very eager to see how our new managerial duo will go about it. A lot of players will be hoping to prove themselves and, if given the chance, pre-season could become even more exciting and could also muffle the calls for new signings. We have a lot of unseen talent in our own squad that needs to be unearthed. This will be priority number one and, depending on how successful that process is, it could shape any remaining transfer dealings. As we are currently looking for a left-back and a defensive midfielder, this will be the time for players like Enda Stevens and Chris Herd to step up. I am convinced that they have more to show Villa fans and if they impress maybe they are just what we have been looking for.
Pre-season is an opportunity and in our situation it is important not to waste such valuable time. Every player can put himself in the spotlight, push further up the pecking-order, strengthen his position and, ultimately, strengthen the club as a whole. It doesn’t cost any money but takes energy, which we have in abundance and need to channel. If we succeed, the foundations for a satisfactory season will have been built.