The first part of the season was one to forget for our midfielders. I remember watching ‘Match of the Day’ when Robbie Savage had the table below about our ‘meagre midfield’; I felt it was an embarrassment that one player from Chelsea could beat all of our midfield players in terms of goals, assists and chances created.
Sherwood has, however, given the midfield a spark of life.
Cleverley, Delph and Westwood seem to get on well with each other and have a good understanding of the game. They are all English and two of them have been, or are, in the national team. I think it’s of great importance that we keep Cleverley due to his admiration for Villa at the moment and the two goals he has given us in the last two games show his confidence has returned. Now that he has been on loan with us, I believe his fee will be more reasonable than if we were to attempt to sign him without already having the connection with him that we do. Cleverley has been in the national team before and, aged twenty-five, he is still young enough to work his way back into Hodgson’s plans. His efforts may be helped by the fact that his team-mate Delph is a regular in the England team. There is tough competition for midfield places in the England team but if Cleverley keeps doing what he has to do then I see no reason why he can’t at least make the bench.
The big question mark surrounds Westwood. I have liked Westwood as a player ever since he arrived at Aston Villa Football Club. He has had to grow in confidence and get used to the Premier League but I think he is starting to get to grips with it all and Sherwood feels he is worthy of a place in the starting line-up at the moment. Despite this, I think we may have a better player who could potentially replace him – Gary Gardner. Gardner has had a good season for Nottingham Forest. Eighteen starts and four goals is quietly impressive for any midfielder but the way he plays impresses me more: he looks fantastic now that he is injury-free. Gardner is also an England U21 international. From what I have seen of Sherwood, I would expect him to give Gardner a chance. The manager’s ability to get young players going would benefit Gardner enormously. Aged twenty-two, he has lots of football still to play.
A midfield of Delph, Cleverley and Gardner would intimidate many opposing sides and I see no reason why Sherwood could not put Westwood at the bottom of the diamond. This would not only look good in terms of our football but it would show that a club can use English players to win games, without having to pay millions of pounds for foreign players who would possibly find life in the top division a struggle.
First things first: Sherwood needs to get his players over the line. In the summer, whether or not the club has a new owner, I would like to see Cleverley signing on a dotted line for Aston Villa Football Club. He would be a bargain and, given his recent progression, it would be stupid to let him go.