Aston Villa and the ticking clock

Dave Woodhall looks at Villa Park and sees… not much happening yet.

It’s only been a month since last season ended, and already we’re barely two weeks away from the start of the next one. As expected, Villa have been linked with a few dozen players but so far there’s been nothing concrete in the way of movement either in or out. I suppose that’s understandable, with there being so much uncertainty over everything from the division we would be playing in to transfer fees in a post-pandemic world (we should have known better on that one – nothing will ever stop footballing hyperinflation).

It surely can’t be too long, though, before something happens. Villa have got money to spend, clear deficiencies in the team and the mistakes of 2019-20 can’t be repeated.

In the absence of any transfer news, comment has been restricted to those two summer staples, the new kit and next year’s fixtures. The new kit has got a claret body and blue sleeves, which should be the minimum requirement but over the years Villa have found minimum requirements hard enough to meet. It was also on sale reasonably early, although there were stock shortages almost immediately, which is something else we seem to make a habit of.

The fixtures also came out, minus the usual clamour of excitement about the three standout dates of the season – first game, last away and Fulham away. Two of these will be behind closed doors and God knows if we’ll be allowed into any away matches during the forthcoming season, or indeed, what the situation will be like with regards to getting into Villa Park. It’s a sign of the hold football clubs have over their customers that season tickets are on sale for matches we might not be allowed to watch – get that sort of loyalty in any other business, start off with a market stall and you’d be a global brand within a couple of years.

I’ve never been all that bothered about how the fixtures pan out; after all, we have to play every other club home and away, so it doesn’t really make much difference. I do, though, think we’ve struck lucky in having our first game postponed even if it does prove to only be for a few days; with such a short close-season, every bit of extra time in terms of fitness training and bringing in new players will be vital.

Then there was the latest on the ongoing saga of Jack Grealish not playing for England. We should be used to this by now – Jack is merely the latest in a long line headed by Dennis Mortimer and Gary Shaw. Gareth Southgate’s excuses become ever more laughable and he’s now up there with David Platt in denying that he ever played for the Villa.

Actually, to say there’s been no movement either way isn’t strictly correct. Pepe Reina has answered the question about whether we should offer him another year’s contract by signing for Lazio, and good luck to him. He might have made a couple of rickets but with him in the team the Villa defence seemed a lot more confident during the run-in. We’ve also signed sixteen year old midfielder Ben Chrisene from Exeter City, and so impressed his old club with the way we conducted the move that they thanked us for our behaviour. The last time I can remember that happening was when we bought Fabian Delph from Leeds, which is a bit of a mixed omen.

I’m still not too worried about the lack of activity, but if the newspaper speculation hasn’t been followed up by definite movement by the end of next week then perhaps we should start thinking less about the press and more about bringing in press gangs.