The start of the season is always the time for optimism for fans. Having endured three relatively fallow years under Houllier, McLeish and then a difficult first season for Lambert, is it now finally the time to start to wonder how far forward we can reach again?
Aston Villa have been quietly careful, it seems, not to make any specific statements about where they see the club heading in the next few years, compared to the lavish and glossy campaign of yesteryear’s Proud History Bright Future. The fans can see what Lambert is trying to achieve but the question is: how far can we go with his vision for the club? I was thinking about the next 2-3 years: is there a plan for where we are trying to get to or is it a case of not looking too far ahead?
The logic is clearly to try and buy affordable young players and off-load the high earning players who have led to the club making losses year after year. Financially, this makes sense as long as the club remain in the league.
The signs are that Aston Villa are heading in the right direction. The second half of last season saw Benteke come into his own, culminating in a sensational 6-2 hammering of then relegation rivals Sunderland. A victory of that magnitude confirmed Villa were growing as a team. Despite the new arrivals at the club over the summer, the real high point came as Benteke signed a new deal. It was a signal of intent that Villa can progress.
Villa have been starved of European football lately and getting back into Europe has to remain the ultimate ambition. It is obvious Villa can’t currently compete financially with at least four of the league’s sides; add to that Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton and Spurs and you see what a job it is to secure even a UEFA cup spot through the league.
However, Villa have a genuine plan, and it is the most forward-thinking plan they have had in many years. They may not want to state exactly where they hope it takes us but, for now at least, it appears to be forward and, after years of excessive spending, followed by turbulence and chaos, Lambert has united the club in a vision that is still taking shape.
Watching clubs like Spurs spending excessively on aging players, and Arsenal not spending at all, makes me believe that Villa acting prudently could see us one day finish above them again.
It appears, for now at least though, Aston Villa prefer not to nail their colours to the mast. This takes the pressure off any failure to meet expectations but it would be nice to know the private aspirations of Lerner, Faulkner and Lambert. What do the fans think – how far can Lambert take us?