Gerard Houllier’s To Do List: #2 – Release Some Deadwood
Aston Villa’s squad has never been substantial enough in the past to have the luxury or selling or releasing players. The first team is still relatively small with only 22 players registered from an allotted 25. This number, however is backed up by numerous talented Under-21’s who do not have to be registered due to their age. With youth talent at the club, Gerard Houllier may look to release some of the first team players on undeserved wages in January and hence freeing up space and funds for new signings.
In my opinion, Villa have never really used the options available in terms of free transfers and loans. Villa’s last loanee was James Milner, who they went on to sign on a permanent basis seasons later to great effect. Interest in Michael Owen, which would have represented a significant coup for the club, has been quashed by United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Houllier has already stated that he doesn’t believe January is the best opportunity to sign players but may looked to dip into the market if he can offload some unnecessary earners at the club.
Randy Lerner was rumoured to be unhappy that Martin O’Neill refused to sell some of the club’s fringe players in order to buy. The new manager may have to look to do this if he wants to put his stamp on the team. First we will look at the players that could represent a significant cut to the wage bill bring in stronger reinforcement’s.
In defence there are two unneeded players in my opinion with promising youngsters able to fill any void that they may leave. Habib Beye was signed from Newcastle two years ago, predominantly as defensive cover. The Senegalese international is a useful player as he is competent across the back line but competent is as far as it gets I’m afraid. Beye, who turns 33 next month, has never really imposed himself as a threat to the first teamers and only really features in Cup fixtures. His strongest position is right back where the club also have Luke Young, Eric Lichaj and Carlos Cuellar as cover making Beye, in my opinion, redundant.
Curtis Davies showed great promise as a youngster at rivals West Brom and captained the Baggies at just 21 years of age. Four years later he is regularly warming the bench at Villa Park as a high wage earner. I rate Curtis and feel that he could do a job for the club but if pushed to get rid of one of the 4 main centre backs at the club (Dunne, Collins and Cuellar representing the other 3) Davies would probably be the man to go. He was highly criticised for being outspoken in his views about O’Neill’s departure, which did symbolise a significant opportunity for the 25 year old. He should have kept his feelings to himself a la Luke Young and Nigel Reo-Coker who are being rewarded for their efforts with first team appearances. A deal for the centre back may also command a higher transfer fee than any of the other potential offloads with Davies having age on his side at just 25. Ciaran Clark is another reason why Davies may not be required. Clark has captained the reserve side and gained a handful of first team appearance over Davies under Kevin MacDonald and looks a real prospect.
Midfielder, Steve Sidwell came close to a switch to Fulham over the summer and may find his opportunities limited once more this term. The 27 year old is a good quality sub and is capable when called upon but the signing of Stephen Ireland has dented his chances in the first team. Sidwell is a player of real quality who has never really settled, at Villa Park and indeed since leaving Reading for Chelsea. Sidwell would interest a host of Premier League clubs and could demand a fee of around £2m as well as a wage bill slash. Barry Bannan looks a great talent and has had a positive start to the season with his native Scotland Under-21’s as well as the reserve and first team at Villa Park. A somewhat forgotten man, or even boy, at the club is Fabian Delph who has been out with injury since the end of last season and should return after Christmas. I’m excited to see what the former Leeds player can really do and his comeback may restrict Sidwell further.
Up front there is only one striker that the Villa fans haven’t taken to. Known to many of the fans as ‘donkey’, unfortunately, Emile Heskey’s lack of goal threat has seen him unable to win over the Villa faithful. The ex-England international does offer a good work rate, significantly more so than John Carew, and everyone who knows him say he’s a lovely guy. Sadly being a lovely guy doesn’t really get you any goals in Heskey’s case and since joining from Wigan, the 32 year old has managed a depressing 5 league goals in almost 50 starts for the club. Undoubtedly a high wage earner at the club, Heskey may not bring in a massive price tag but teams will be interested at around £1-2m. Nathan Delfouneso is waiting in the wings for his chance and would score more goals in 6 or 7 games than Heskey can in a season.
One baffling inclusion still in the Villa squad is Togolese midfielder Moustapha Salifou. The 27 year old may not be getting a decent wage at the club but why is he there? Salifou has not started a Premier League tie in the last 3 years and is just a reserve team regular so does not need to be on the payroll
Isaiah Osbourne was touted as the next big thing at Villa Park at one stage, how wrong we were. Osbourne turns 23 in November and no longer represents a youth talent in my opinion. Osbourne will never start a game worth mentioning for Villa and is surely surplus to requirements. Another youngster who may also be losing this tag is fellow midfielder Jonathan Hogg. Villa fans will have seen very little of Hogg, who turns 22 before the turn of the year and this could be put down to unfortunate injuries. He has spent long spells out of action and again is a reserve team player at best. Releasing the likes of Osbourne and Hogg may be the right thing to do for both parties. Championship or even League One football would suit both far more than reserve team football at Villa.
Who do you think the club can afford to lose? Do you disagree with any of my suggestions? Let me know your opinions on the quality of the squad at Villa!