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Angel flies to MLS


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by John Cresswell

Juan Pablo Angel has ended his six and a half year stay at Villa, and signed a two year deal with the New York Red Bulls, moving on a free transfer.

The move marks an end to a career at Villa Park which is the true meaning of ‘Roller Coaster ride’ – in fact this began even before he signed for the club when the deal originally looked off as it was discovered Angel was part owned by agents – something which is illegal under Premiership laws and it wasn’t until River Plate bought his rights that Villa entered the bidding once more, eventually beating Bayern Munich to his signature.

Whilst it’s safe to say that the majority of Villa fans hadn’t heard of the Colombian, his signing brought excitement but also relief. It has long been thought that Angel was signed after the huge amount of fan pressure placed on Doug Ellis in the first of many protests. With John Gregory’s Villa desperately needing a striker, former chairman Doug Ellis was seemingly refusing to spend the cash to bring in a top striker – and to be fair, he eventually did – even if a lot of prodding was needed. He wasn’t too happy about it though - I seem to remember there being reports with Ellis claiming “I wish to God we hadn’t signed that man”.

Whilst the Chairman may have not been a fan, the supporters were – and despite the goal drought as he struggled to settle – supporters remained behind him. We, of course, know the stories about the club not backing him, and of the time when the chairman back then decided a round of shooting was more important than meeting Angel to air his unhappiness, but I’ll leave the stories and memories to someone who is much more eloquent.

Angel seemed to have one good season, one disappointing one – along with Villa’s fortunes, it has to be said. With Martin O’Neill arriving in the summer, Villa looked like they may be on the up again, and Angel started scoring in the early part of the season, but goals dried up once more and Villa began to stutter. Following the signing of John Carew and Shaun Maloney it was clear that Angel would be on his way out – especially as the £9.5million man is sparingly chosen even for a place on the bench now.

So farewell to Angel, and good luck. Juan Pablo scored over sixty goals in a Villa shirt, and whilst that not be the ‘Legend’ status that we would have hoped for, only Peter Withe, David Platt and Dwight Yorke can match that in the past thirty years. On a personal level, I’m glad he’s going abroad – it wouldn’t be right seeing him in another Premiership team’s kit – and I’m even more delighted that he’s going to New York, where a very good friend of mine, and number one JPA fan Ryu Yokoi currently resides. If JPA had never signed for Villa, I’d have never got to know Ryu. He’s come over to see Villa play a couple of times now, and each time his favourite player has been ruled out by injury.

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MY LITTLE ODE TO JPA

You came to us from River Plate,

Your first Villa Goal sealed Coventry's fate

The Pound Sign Protests meant you were "Our Signing"

You had some hard times but we never heard you whining

You were always pleasant and played with a smile

(a leading member of my handsome hunks file)

You stayed six and a half years - through good times and bad

But now, in America there are new opportunities to be had

And so, as you leave us for the United States

You say goodbye to all your Aston Villa mates

So Farewell then Juampie, a genuinely nice man

Come back and see us at Villa whenever you can

And no matter when or indeed where you go

You will always be my Villa hero

Off you go to the New York Bulls that are Red

Go for it Juampie, you'll knock em all dead.

So as I wish you good luck and say a sad Goodbye

I'll remember you fondly, with a tear in my eye

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Best of luck to him. How many players would have been so professional when the club treated him so badly when he joined?

Lovely bloke one-to-one too, was happy to chat when I saw him coming out of TK Maxx in Sutton (yes, really) not long after he arrived here. Wasn't a long chat but I think I exhausted his vocabulary at the time ;)

Anyway, I see this as quite a shame, but it's the right move for him.

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I wish JPA every success in New York. Our loss is the MLS gain because adding players like Beckham and JPA to the rosters of American "Soccer" teams can only improve the quality of the football and the appeal to the fans.

JPA had that one great season which really made DOL's record actually look better than it really was. JPA never got that form back after his ankle injury and seemed to lose a pace thereafter.

Having been a Villa fan over five decades and having the good fortune to see the likes of Gerry Hitchens, the Doog, Tony Hately, Andy Lochhead, Brian Little, Gary Shaw, Peter Withe, Dwight Yorke etc. I can happily say that JPA belongs right up there with them and in his own unique way deserves to be a legend.

As a professional he embodies much of what is desired of a Villa player and deserved to wear the claret and blue and we fans will miss him and I am sure he will miss us also.

Good luck in the MLS my friend. We JPA fans will now be following your fortunes with the Red Bulls. Thank You JPA, you and your football brain were a pleasure to watch.

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