Proud History, Bright Future: Laura Burnip considers Aston Villa’s options in the post-O’Neill era

Posted on August 15, 2010


WITH less than three weeks left of the transfer window, most Premiership clubs are frantically trying to secure last-minute signings to boost their sides in preparation for another tough season.

Following Martin O’Neill’s seemingly abrupt exit as manager just six days ago, Aston Villa are looking to fill just one position.

With reserve team coach Kevin Macdonald currently at the helm, the general consensus seems to be that until a permanent boss is installed, Villa’s incoming signings for the summer will remain at zero. Villa cannot sign new players until they sign a new manager.

Villa fans shelter from the rain under a big flag.

The fans’ favourite is Martin Jol, not put off by the fact that his current employers at Ajax have made it patently clear that he is unavailable. Other names in the frame include USA coach Bob Bradley, and former Villa defender Gareth Southgate, who failed to prove himself at Middlesbrough and would certainly not be welcomed by the fans after tactless comments made following his departure from the club.

What seems to be overlooked is that, apart from the escalating drama of a player-plus-cash deal with Manchester City for James Milner, Villa are not going to make any signings this summer and never were.

One merely needs to look at the reasons for O’Neill’s departure to realise this. The wage bill is too high, a complaint made to and ignored by O’Neill on several occasions according to the board. Last season saw a 42% increase, and at £71m it is reportedly considerably more than that of Champions League qualifiers Spurs.

More importantly, despite appearances and comments to the contrary by the previous manager, Villa actually have a pretty big squad; A wealth of young talent whose only chance to shine came in the one match which warranted a full-strength side. The away leg against CSKA Moscow in February 2009 ended European hopes and was arguably the first sign that even O’Neill was fallible.

Martin who?: Kevin Macdonald praises James Milner in a post-match press conference.

Yesterday saw 20-year-old Marc Albrighton, a local lad who has risen through the ranks of the club’s youth academy, start against West Ham in what proved to be a one-sided comprehensive home victory by the Midlands side.

In fact, Aston Villa’s reserve side, under Macdonald, have been champions of the Premier Reserve League South for the past three seasons, going on to win the Final in 2009.

Taking all this into account, what the club clearly needs is someone to make the most of Villa’s existing set-up, and to further nurture those players who have not yet made the step up from the training pitches of Bodymoor Heath.

Kevin Macdonald knows the players, the club, and what the fans expect and deserve. He saw how things were done under O’Neill, and what could have been done better.

There is nothing to be gained from signing a new manager over giving Macdonald a chance to prove himself.

And luckily for KMac, I think Randy Lerner just might agree.