Dave Woodhall on Villa’s continued summer.
Another three weeks gone and not much in the way of solid news, at least not the bought-by-a-zillionaire news that Villa supporters want to hear. Ron Vlaar continued his good World Cup form all the way through to the third place play-offs, which meant that he’s bound to be linked with a move to every half-decent club and especially Manchester United, until he signs a new contract. Which he will, definitely. Without a doubt. No question.
Villa have come in for criticism in some quarters for not having Vlaar’s future sorted already, but this is one of those damned if they do situations. He’s been at Villa Park for two seasons and in that time he’s been, in stages, poor, injured, average, injured then decent for the bits of last season when he was fit. It was only in Brazil that Ron started to look like a world-class defender and he’s probably on a desert island somewhere now with his phone switched off so while it would be good to get the situation sorted as soon as possible there isn’t any need to panic just yet.
There have been a couple of arrivals, one an average player and another who was world class but who I doubt we’ll see turning out for the first team. Kieran Richardson is the third left-back signed by Paul Lambert in three summers, which shows that while the manager can spot a weakness and try to rectify it quickly enough, he’s not so good at actually sorting it. Still, he’s here now and let’s hope it’s third time lucky.
Also arriving has been Roy Keane, whose arrival has naturally led to speculation as to the reason for his arrival and probably the realisation amongst a few supporters who sit behind the dug out that shouting abuse at the bench probably isn’t a good idea after all. I’ve no idea what Keane’s role will be, what he’ll bring to the club but looking at his managerial record I cling to the reminder that Peter Taylor, the best assistant of all, wasn’t much good in the top job.
Definitely going, on loan and probably for good, are Yacouba Sylla and Niklas Helenius. The former joined when were were deep in trouble during January 2013 and with him in the team results turned round almost immediately. Unfortunately he was unable to continue this good form last season and looked out of his depth most of the time. Helenius, meanwhile, was another in the Mathias Berson file of players signed then almost completely ignored. He looked fine in the brief glimpses we saw of him, but I suppose there was a reason why he never got a run in the team. I’d like to know what it was, though.
The first pre-season friendly took place at Mansfield with Villa one down at half-time before winning 3-1 with Alan Hutton (insert your own ‘at home in the surroundings’ joke here) laying on a couple of goals for Darren Bent. Again I can’t begin to guess at the future of this pair but I fail to comprehend any reason why Bent isn’t worth at least a place on the bench given Villa’s current circumstances. And all joking aside, it was a disgrace that Blues weren’t able to play at the same ground two days later after their match was cancelled on police ‘advice’. This was thanks to the same Nottinghamshire Constabulary who imprisoned 600 Villa supporters at Nottingham station in 1989 – old habits obviously die hard.
And now they’re in Texas, which is an odd place for pre-season considering that Paul Lambert reckoned Chicago and Portland were “too far and too hot” last time Villa played over there. Club ambassador Ian Taylor’s not travelled, either because he’s busy with other commitments or been banned from the trip by Lambert, depending on which story you believe. It’s not a particularly big story but this is Villa so it has to be analysed, blown out of proportion and twisted beyond recognition. Roll on a new owner, a couple of new players and most of all, August 16th.