Dave Woodhall on a month of limited activity at Villa Park.
On Saturday, five weeks to the day after 2014-15 lumbered to its end in the Match That Never Was, I went to a 2015-16 pre-season friendly. Cadbury Athletic v Coleshill Town, if you’re interested. It finished 2-2, the attendance peaked at 37 and yes, I am sad.
The start of the pre-season season (I can remember when it consisted of three friendles in the fortnight before the real stuff started; now it’s well underway before the kids break up), and the return to training this week shows that the transfer window is well underway and Villa really should get a move on.
So far most of the traffic in Aston has been outward, with Andreas Weimann, Matt Lowton and Yacouba Sylla sold, Darren Bent off on a free and a few lesser names also gone. In return, all we’ve brought in are new father Scott Sinclair for a couple of million and the first decent-looking Bosman we’ve signed in living memory, namely Micah Richards.
The arrival of Idrissa Gueye from Lille looks imminent, we’ve apparently got an offer for left-back Jordan Amavi on the table and Dutch midfielder Tjarron Chery is also being heavily linked. Naturally, a fortnight ago I’d never heard of any of them but equally naturally I now know they’re all potential world-beaters and their signings will make Villa Park a veritable fortress of impregnability as well as a bastion of attacking flair.
On the speculation (transfers out) side, there’s still plenty of talk about Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke, with the phrase “release clause” being bandied about as often as “due dilligence”. Nobody’s saying that these things exist, and there don’t seem to have been any offers for either player, but that doesn’t stop the column inches from being filled, with Liverpool’s supposed interest in Benteke whipped up to ever-greater heights by some disgraceful press stories.
Whether these originate inside Anfield or whether their mates in the media are attempting to curry favour by demanding that little Aston Villa do the decent thing and drop the price to relase Benteke from his Villa Park Hell as it’s bound to be called any day now is a moot point. It’s certainly not the first time Liverpool have tried to get a Villa player on the cheap, and I do wonder why it is that a club who continue to conduct themselves with such dignity over Hillsborough can behave in such a grubby fashion when it comes to less important matters.
Meanwhile, Ron Vlaar’s contract has run out and there’s no sign whether he stays or goes. Personally, I hope we get at least another season out of him, because for all Vlaar’s inconsistencies and injury problems we’d be hard pushed to find a better replacement for free.
And we’re still no nearer to getting a new owner. Indeed, the lack of comment on the subject makes me wonder whether we’re still on the market or not. As always on this subject, it would be nice to have it sorted for definite sooner rather than later.
One thing that has definitely been sorted are next season’s league fixtures. Opening day at Bournemouth has surprising not been messed around with for TV, first home game against Manchester United unsurprisingly has, but not for the usual reasons.
We’re going to endure a Friday night kick-off, because a bunch of loutish morons who claim to have the bulk of the nation behind them but who in reality are loathed and laughed at in equal measure by all right-thinking folk will be in the vicinity on Saturday afternoon. And the difference will be?