The other day while chugging away on the treadmill during week 20 of an eight week C25K program I was listening to the Aston Villa Review podcast. If any of you don’t subscribe it is a must-listen every week for any Villa supporter. Hosts Chris Nee and Steve Green were taking note about how willing and excited our new signings were to join our club. It is amazing how the perception of the club has changed in such a short period of time.
Consider it was just over a year ago when the club was linked with the leading scorer in the Eredivisie Bas Dost. At that time his agent said:
He turned down Aston Villa because he wants to play for a top club. We are working on pleasing him and we expect some responses.
Dost himself said:
That I knew. I know the club is not very good, but the interest is great.
The player ended up signing for Wolfsbug. While they did win the Bundesliga as recently as the 2008-09 season, by any other measure they are not a bigger club than Villa. Still the recent success compared with the dour state of our club made them a more appealing choice for a young player like Dost.
One year later Jores Okore signs with us six months after turning down a move to Chelsea. Younes Belhanda, a player who at 23 years of age and a £12m valuation wouldn’t seem young and hungry enough to fit into our team made a public plea for the club to stump up the money. A year ago the idea of a player of his pedigree wanting to come to Villa would’ve been laugh inducing.
That situation does give me pause for the simple reason that it has been going on for over two weeks at this point. Seeing through the silly season smoke is part of being a fan of 21st century football, but it does feel like there is a lot of smoke there. If there is something to it, Belhanda’s experience in Ligue 1 and the Champions League would perhaps make him the kind of player Matt advocated signing as opposed to bringing back Gareth Barry or James Milner. The club should have the money, whether that is how they choose to spend it is another matter. Perhaps this is just Montpellier trying to up the bids coming in from other clubs.
The club may have only improved by one league position and three points from 2012 to 2013, but the outlook and the vibe couldn’t be more different. By the end of the season this team was as fun to watch as it had been in a long time. There is no reason why we shouldn’t expect that for a full season coming up. August 16th can’t come soon enough.