This summer we have lost three of our most experienced players.
In fact, other than Gabby Agbonlahor they were the ones with the most league appearances for the club.
Petrov, with 185 league appearances, was of course a special case. His inspirational return to the fold, however brief, was a great boost and I hope he can maintain some kind of involvement with the club.
After that, Brad Guzan (144) and Ciaran Clark (134) had the most appearances in the league for Villa. They have now gone to Middlesbrough and Newcastle United respectively.
Who knows if Gabby will feature much this year? I would like to think he will and his 322 appearances could well be unassailable: after him there is a massive leap to Ashley Westwood with 123 appearances and Alan Hutton with 89. Bacuna is next with 84. That says it all.
I am not kidding myself. This is not unusual in today’s game: players come and go very regularly and to have at least one player who has made more than 300 appearances for the club is actually very rare.
The point is now that we are starting from scratch.
There are very few players in that dressing room who have had much of the real Villa experience. Many of them don’t really understand what it means to play for such a great team with such a fantastic fan base in such a brilliant stadium. Even if they have been playing over the last year, the experience has not exactly been a typical one.
So these players have a chance to cement themselves in Villa history and become an integral part of a legendary team. If they can contribute to our best season in years and bring us back to the Premier League they will not be forgotten any time soon.
I am not saying that we are lacking in experience. Indeed, in Elphick, Richards, Lescott, Hutton, Westwood and Gestede, not to mention Agbonlahor, there are players who have racked up a lot of league appearances. There are players there who know what they are doing. The challenge now is to do it together and start their journey to 100 appearances in claret and blue – and hopefully many more.
It would be great if the new talent could galvanise behind the badge like a Villa team hasn’t done for a long time, setting out their stalls as proud Villa players and not players using our club a stepping stone. Their commitment and loyalty will be paid back. We have bought too many mercenaries over the last few summers; it’s time to shake them off and see our players fight like lions.