Dave Woodhall on events at Villa Park.
It’s been a bit of a week…
The biggest headlines were, of course, made by Fabian Delph. He said in January how much he loved playing for Villa. He said the same in May and last week. He said how much he was looking forward to being team captain. And within days he was off.
If he hadn’t said a word I wouldn’t have minded so much. I’d have said thanks for two years of decent service, forgotten the years when he was either injured or playing so poorly that I didn’t consider him part of our first team squad, and I’d have generally regarded him as one of the good guys for making sure that Villa got £8 million instead of him leaving on a free.
But he didn’t. Delph made the most amazing u-turn I can ever remember and in doing so showed himself as an untrustworthy, lying toerag who has now entered the circle of Hell previously only reserved for Stewart Downing and Steve Hodge. In fact, he’s lower than that – Downing just left as soon as he was fit while Hodge never pretended to be anything other than a mercenary rat who couldn’t wait to leave a ship that he was helping to sink. Delph, though, didn’t just leave the ship, he jumped overboard after being made captain and promising to steer it clear of the rocks.
There are many theories why Delph changed his mind. Some are less credible than others – for example, it defies belief that he based his last weasel words around the thought that Christian Benteke would be staying. The possibility that Delph was offered more game time following the failure of City to sign Paul Pogba is more realistic, but whatever the reason he’s gone and needs to be forgotten, if never forgiven.
Christian Benteke’s imminent departure is a bit less of a surprise. The national media piled the pressure on for Villa to do the deal on Liverpool’s terms while the locals proved once more that backing the biggest team in the region is less important in their eyes than courting controversy. £32.5 million might seem cheap in comparison to some of this summer’s transfers but with none of the Champions League teams interested it was probably about as much as Villa could have expected to be paid, release clause or no.
Villa are selling Benteke for more than four times the amount they paid for him three years ago, which is a fair return on any player. Benteke and Delph will undoubtedly be a big loss to the Villa side, but somewhere out there are players who can replace them. Maybe not like for like, but in improving the team as a whole. In fact, for a club of Villa’s stature buying to sell, and then re-investing the profits wisely, is the only way to improve short of a massive amount of outside investment.
The first steps have been made with the arrivals of Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Amavi, promising youngsters bought for the kind of price that should ensure higher quality than most of our recent buys. Another promising signing has been made in the shape of Villa’s first-ever sporting director, Hendrik Almstadt, brought in to help ensure that the sort of off-field continuity the club has missed for years will be introduced.
With the best part of £40 million coming in and a large chunk taken off the wage bill there should be enough money to mean Tim Sherwood’s first transfer window will continue to be a productive one. As for the football, Villa have returned from Portugal after a couple of friendlies that were more about fitness than any meaningful attempt at assessing what the coming months will bring. We’ll have a better idea of what the team will look like in the games starting at Swindon on Tuesday night, and who knows how many new faces we’ll see between then and August 8th.