Dave Woodhall looks around an empty Villa Park.
Six weeks after the Premier League season ground to a halt, and football is still the centre of attention. These days the fun just never stops.
There’s been nothing of any real substance in the great takeover saga, and despite stories linking Villa with just about every sports-minded billionaire in America we appear to be no nearer a new owner than we were when Randy made that statement within hours of the final defeat of the season. The press have to take their share of the blame for this lack of excitement; when Doug put Villa up for sale they kept the interest high by inventing exciting new owners hailing from everywhere from Knowle to Caracas. Now they seem to be just running their finger down the Major League baseball table and linking each club owner in turn. If it’s Tuesday it must be William DeWitt jr.
At least there’s been two early signings, and although they’re far removed from the previous Paul Lambert doctrine/cliche of young and hungry, neither has done anything to lift the feeling that financial times are going to be hard once more this summer at Villa Park. Philipe Senderos is playing in the World Cup for the nation currently ranked sixth by FIFA. That’s the good news… Joe Cole, meanwhile, could be a useful squad addition but at the age of 32 he shouldn’t be relied on as any more than that.
Meanwhile, anyone looking in the direction of Brazil as a distraction to the situation at Villa Park shouldn’t have bothered. Senderos has so far come on as a sub for Switzerland and played his part in a five goal defeat. Ron Vlaar, on the other hand, has looked good for the Netherlands, leading to inevitable speculation about his future, and in particular a move to old Trafford. At which point a bit of realism should kick in.
I like Vlaar, but he’s not in the top level of central defenders I’ve seen playing for the Villa. Not that this is a great criticism because it could be argued that over the past twenty-odd years Villa have been consistently stronger in this position than have any other club in the country. Vlaar isn’t in the same class as Paul McGrath or Martin Laursen; I wouldn’t even pick him over at least half a dozen others during that period.
He’s a good, solid stopper in the Shaun Teale or (going back a bit further) Ken McNaught class and certainly hasn’t shown anything on a consistent basis that might make him a target for one of the biggest clubs in the world. I know there’s the Louis van Gaal connection, but the new United manager (and let’s hope he’s every bit as much a success as his predecessor) can scour the globe for players.
As for Senderos, if it looks as though he’s going to start the new season anywhere near the first team I’ll be worried. But as a third or fourth choice he’s a reasonable option until the ownership situation clears, if it ever does.
In other news, the two biggest dates of the close-season, namely the unveiling of the new kit and the fixtures, have come and gone. In years gone by they would have aroused a bit of discussion, now they’re the source of endless and heated debate for days. The new kit’s got stripes so I don’t like it. When the fixtures were published the first three dates to look out for were always the first game, Boxing Day and Fulham away. One of those highlights is no more, but I’m sure everyone is looking forward to trips to Stoke in mid-August (it’ll be cold) and Swansea on Boxing Day (it’ll be colder, but probably not much).