Another transfer window, another two English signings. It’s fair to say much has been made of O'Neill’s preference for home grown talent and why not a little more?
With the arrival of Fabian Delph there has been suggestions that O'Neill is grooming the future England squad; gradually cornering the market, priming a batch of young England hopefuls for when the vacancy currently held by Fabio Capello next becomes available.
It’s not a ludicrous theory, but I personally feel it’s a wee bit far fetched. Sure, it’s a reasonable argument, it's the England job. Any manager would struggle to turn it down. Win a major tournament with England and you’ll never have to pay a restaurant bill on these shores again in your life.
But is this really why O'Neill prefers English players; to finally land a job he should have got in 2006? I think it could be for other reasons.
He arrived at the club at a stage when he needed players who could perform immediately and English players understand the demands and the pace of English football. They don't need as long a honeymoon period compared to most foreign footballers.
Plus, I would imagine it makes for a smoother dressing room not having cultural based cliques which some clubs seem to struggle with – for example, Arsenal’s recent sale of Adebayor could possibly have met with joy rather than disappointment by some of the Arsenal players.
I also believe O'Neill sees Villa as his project and Randy is letting him model the club. Where else would he get that freedom? As an aside, I also think he prefers and is more suited to day to day club management. Add to that the fact that he's a stubborn git and has already been turned down for the post and I think he could follow his mentor Brian Clough and could one day be labelled as 'one that got away'.
But I’m getting sidetracked. I’ve noticed a lot of disgruntlement on this site regarding O'Neill's pro-English policy. Grumblings about ‘a lack of flair’ and ‘a bunch of overpriced workman like players’ tend to be the main noises I hear and I can understand why some would get more excited about foreign signings.
There are arguments that foreigners tend to be more technically gifted, easier on the eye and skilful ball players compared to their English counterparts, but I struggle to understand why people keep banging the drum asking for signings from the continent.
Sure we’d all love to see a Sneijder or a van der Vaart in a Villa shirt. These are players with proven pedigree who would improve the first team and who may even be worth breaking the wage structure for but what I fail to understand is the constant desire to sign players like Veloso or Drenthe.
I saw some comments on this blog complaining at the signing of Downing, a proven Premiership player with over 20 international caps and yet the same people want to see Veloso and Drenthe at Villa Park. Drenthe has one international cap and two career goals. Is that really a worthwhile investment?
I wonder if the people who make these comments have even watched the guy play.
Don’t get me wrong, the two guys I have selected could both become good Premier League players. They are young and have time on their side. But they would be a bigger gamble than buying English.
Perhaps Delph is an exception and there will be those that suggest he is a greater gamble than Veloso. But at 19 he’s already played a full season in England and I think the interest that he generated should tell all Villa fans that we could be on to the real deal here.
Real Madrid are a rich enough club to gamble on a player like Drenthe on the back of one good tournament. Truth is; we’re not. I’d much sooner see our budget spent prudently on players who are likely to make an immediate impact, won’t upset our dressing room and won’t destroy our wage structure.
If that means signing more English players, young or old, then that’s fine by me. Just because foreign players sound exotic doesn’t mean they are going to be the next Cantona or Bergkamp, they could just as easily be the next Balaban or Alpay.