Dave Woodhall talks about Villa’s new signing.
Well, after all the fuss, drama, gossip and media speculation, Christian Benteke finally signed on Friday afternoon for … Aston Villa.
It’s been fun watching the events of the summer unfold as the national media have done their best to sell the player to just about any club they consider to be bigger than the Villa. After all, how can the hottest goalscoring prospect in Europe be playing for such an unfashionable club? Surely his future must lie elsewhere? We can’t have those Brummie upstarts getting above themselves.
He put in a transfer request that the club seemed to take in their stride, commenting that he could go, but on their terms. How the affair was handled would be seen as a test of the Villa’s ability to handle their affairs properly, but surely nobody expected such a quick and painless ending. Especially the clown who wrote two weeks ago that “it’s difficult to see him remaining with so much ill-feeling on both sides.” Do yourself a favour and never trust a world he says again, ever.
Anyway, last Friday came the surprise, but none the less welcome for that, news that Benteke had come off the transfer list and signed a one-year extension to his contract, presumably with a whacking great pay rise. I might think footballers get too much money as it is, but there’s one inflation-busting increase I’m happy to help finance.
Well done to Randy and Paul Faulkner, who have gone about keeping Benteke with the calm assurance that we’ve come to expect from the Villa’s transfer dealings. And especially well done to Paul Lambert, who has manage to persuade one of the most promising players in the world that his immediate future lies with the Villa. I doubt he’ll still be with us when his four year contract is due to end. In fact, I doubt he’ll be a Villa player this time next year. But for the moment, enjoy the fact that for all the alleged tapping up, all the press talk and the sneers that Villa wouldn’t be able to keep him, Christian Benteke wants to play for the Villa.
The news certainly changed the mood at the first English pre-season friendly, away at Wycombe. Whereas 24 hours earlier he could have been hung in effigy, Benteke was once more the idol of the Villa fans at Adams Park, where two completely different teams yet again failed to keep a clean sheet in a 2-2 draw. A fluke deflection and another piece of cataclysmically bad defending from a corner were the two conceded, a header from Matt Lowton and an Ashley Westwood free-kick the equalisers. At this stage it’s still about fitness rather than results but last season’s problems are still there and need sorting.
There are two further friendlies this week – at Luton on Tuesday then Crewe on Friday. Back in the day, when away supporters were actively discouraged by most clubs, Luton went one further by banning us altogether. News that there are no buses from the station to the ground, parking is almost impossible and there’s no beer on sale inside make you realise that while we’re not banned any longer, we’re still not exactly welcome. I’ll save my money for Crewe and Friday Night Fever.