The comments and debate around Martin O’Neill’s transfer market dealings and ability (or lack thereof) and the subsequent post by Doc Bowles disagreeing with the criticism compelled me to offer an alternative view as I found myself, for the first time, disagreeing with Doc.
As Doc correctly states, the ‘smash-and-grab’ attack upon Lyon in which the great John Carew was snatched from their clutches in exchange for Milan Baros was a majestic piece of business. One that is only surpassed by the signing of Ashley Young. A significant number of eyebrows were raised when the deal was announced but now the sceptics have turned into green eyed monsters, wishing they had seen what O’Neill saw.
This however, is where the praise stops. Signings such as Sidwell, Reo-Coker, Cuellar and Luke Young, although all good players capable of improving the team/squad are not world beaters and they are not going to ruffle the feathers of the big four. They are especially not going to do this when not given the opportunity to do so.
Sidwell, signed for £5m was rarely given an opportunity. Reo-Coker, a dogged, battling central midfielder was deployed at right back or on the right wing. Luke Young, our long awaited right back who has played his entire career in England and was under our nose and available for £2.5m a year before we paid £6m.
At the time he didn’t fit the bill but a year later for £3.5m more he did. We were so delighted with our new right back that we would, in fact, drop our new £4m left back and play Young in that position instead. This would then mean our new £7.8m centre back could be played at right back. Genius!
Not many people would think up a dastardly plan like that. The signs of a master operator in the transfer market? I think not.
Although those signings are questionable, they might fair okay if given a chance in their natural positions but there are also signings that are, well, just wrong. Marlon Harewood; good workhorse, will always give 110%, but £4m to never be given a proper chance is a terrible signing and it was something that every Villa fan said when it was announced.
Yes, Harewood works hard for the team, but if that’s all we wanted, someone to work hard during the odd game it would have been easier and cheaper for our transfer market genius to simply choose one of the 42,000 people in Villa Park every other weekend. Any one of us would have been honoured and privileged to grace the hallowed turf of Villa Park and run ourselves into the ground.
The same can be said about Zat Knight. Shocking signing. Not good enough to propel us to where we claim to want to be. And it is made worse when we consider we have him instead of Gary Cahill. Someone any Villa fan would love to have in the team now.
There is more; Routledge, Salifou, Sutton, Agathe. People we always knew weren’t up to the job, yet O’Neill signed them and whilst he is busy putting his energies into signing players like that the biggest crime of all is taking place. He is missing out on players that would really drive is forward.
Joleon Lescott £5m, Phil Jagielka £4m, Marouane Fellaini £15m. These three players would walk into our first team. When O’Neill is signing the bumbling oath that is Emile Heskey, David Moyes is getting Jo on loan. No risk, no expense. If he had arrived and flopped we could have sent him back. Had he arrived and scored we would now be gearing up for the Champions league.
Instead we are all hoping and praying that rumours of Carew leaving are wrong as we know he will be replaced in the line-up with Heskey.
So far, I feel Martin O’Neill has been a dumbo in the transfer market. Two good signings in Young and Carew (a deal that was probably instigated by Lyon). An eventual good signing in Petrov and lots of potential in Milner and Davies don’t, I’m afraid, make up for the massive failings in signing poor players, signing players and playing them out of position and missing out on players.
Now is the time for Martin Snow'Neill to stand up and be counted. Now is his time to prove that he is the class of manger many (including myself) think he is. Now is the time for him to prove that he has what it takes to restore this great club to where it should be. Martin my son, it’s over to you.