Hello all, you will know me on this site as “En Route” – an alias I have utilised for a long time from my dabblings in music production. I’ve been encouraged recently to conjure up a main article for you all to ponder over (and gradually deconstruct into debates over methods of cooking, Ian’s dashing sunglasses, and Frem’s obsession with transfers).

Firstly, let me properly introduce myself. My name is Josh; I’m a second year going into third year Criminology/Psychology student and I’m 21 years old. I’ve been a Villa fan all my life – as is the tradition, due to my dad deciding upon birth. However, I’ve only properly followed the best team in the Midlands since towards the end of the John Gregory era, with my younger childhood interests more inclined towards collecting the stickers rather than watching them actually play. Since then, I haven’t been to too many games, as my family haven’t been frequent stadium-goers for quite some time, but it’s always been a great experience when I have. I seem to have the lucky knack of going when we absolutely trounce the opposition, as well.

Enough about me, I’ll move on to more interesting topics.

The “On the Cheap” Myth

I admire and agree with the groundwork Lambert is laying for us with his ‘young, hungry to prove themselves’ criteria for players. The only thing that gripes me is the media – and, quite often, fan-led propaganda that Villa are simply doing this because they have no money. Yes, the numbers are published annually and they haven’t been looking great at all since Lerner’s first season in the chair. This should not, however, be confused into thinking Villa are now working towards a policy akin to Swansea or Norwich, attempting transfer window masterpieces every year and finding adequate players on the cheap and sitting on low wages. We are growing the squad from the ground up once more, arguably for the third time in as many years, however I cannot for a second believe that Lambert’s ambition to move the club into the higher regions of the league table hang onto the performances and potential of the likes of Bowery, Sylla, Bennett, etc. These are stepping stone players with the potential to improve as players and therefore vastly increase in transfer value. And that’s not to say I don’t think these guys are decent players, but we should not expect too many more of their ilk amongst the preferred first eleven.

This is a very clever philosophy from the men responsible and if it pays off, Villa will be once again a much more respectable prospect for any more fashionable transfer targets and we should expect to perform within our means as a team with a 42k+ stadium and handsome sponsorship revenue.

I admire Lambert’s way of thinking and I trust his backroom staff and him with evolving this club and ridding us of financial waste, ensuring that high earners are worthy of such positions and utilised accordingly. An almost utopian concept, isn’t it? To have a wage structure that rewards achievement rather than used to attract slightly-better-than-average transfer targets. Harry Redknapp, listen up.

Moving the Squad Forward

As the news comes in that Dunne, Makoun, Lichaj, Marshall and Dawkins have packed their bags, cutting approximately £110-120k/pw off the wage bill, and with likely departures for Bent (on £65k/pw), Ireland (£55k), Given (£50k) and Hutton (£40k) then I can assume we’re all excited to see where this ability to manoeuvre in the transfer market, free from the affliction of an inflated wage bill, can lead us.

Belhanda, Tonev, Popov, these players are all interesting. But no signs of defensive targets as of yet. For me, this should be the priority as if we can keep Benteke, Weimann and Agbonlahor together we possess a very strong frontline. Defence let us down massively and I’d be willing to let Stevens and Bennett join Lichaj as former Villa left backs, if we can bring in someone who can make the spot their own as Lowton has done at right back. Centrally, Vlaar and Baker have improved as a partnership and Clark has a lot of work to do to convince anyone he can really make it at this level.

Personally, I’d look towards Benjamin Mendy of Le Havre or Martin Olsson of Blackburn for left back. Centre cover is probably best, letting Vlaar and Baker continue their development together should be the focus rather than immediately splitting them up again. For this, well it’s anyone’s guess, really. Goalkeeper cover can be provided by Siegrist who would do well to take lessons from Guzan, a keeper who really struggled to control his area in his earlier seasons here but now looks like a typical Yank General, running around the place shouting at people, starting wars for oil, the usual stuff. If we go against Siegrist and maybe loan him out for experience, then Mark Schwarzer or Jan Mucha might be useful acquisitions as they’re both now available for free, and unlikely to demand high wages.

All in all, the foundations are being put in place for a respectable, competitive team and I am looking forward with excitement about what the future may hold for our lads. Given our good progress in the League Cup last season – despite an embarrassing two-leg defeat to a team full of pissed-up factory workers from up North, I can see us winning the thing next season if we play our cards right.

En route to glory? I think so, at least a little pinch of the stuff, anyway.

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