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This week, VillaTalk founder PB looks back at a successful festive period for Villa during which the team started, apparently to believe they are real contenders, and looks forward to start of what will hopefully be a long Cup run.

First of all, let me take this opportunity to wish everyone connected with Aston Villa a very Happy and prosperous New Year, and may all our football dreams come true in 2009. I’d like to thank Randy Lerner, General Krulak, the rest of the behind the scenes staff, Martin O’Neill, his coaching team and every single Villa player for a 2008 which was so enjoyable and exciting for all us Villa fans.

The year ended with three League games that yielded seven points, and which included a number of incidents that seemed to underline that the Villa team are starting now to develop a certain belief that they have arrived, or at least are arriving, in the big time. It is this belief, this “winning mentality” that ultimately is the difference between the great and the very good. Each of these games over the festive period showed little glimpses that Villa believe they are winners, and perhaps more importantly that their opponents, even the illustrious ones, also share that perception.

First, each of these games featured a Villa goal in the last few minutes of the game that turned what would have been a disastrous two point haul into a magnificent seven point return. The fact that two of these goals were own goals shouldn’t be overlooked. Winners make their own luck. How many times down the years have we seen Manchester United doing exactly this - stealing points through deflected or offside efforts deep into injury time? How many times this season alone have Liverpool bagged all the points late in the game? (This was also a characteristic of the great Liverpool sides of the 1980s). Psychologically this is a vital part of becoming a major force because as future matches enter the closing minutes our players (and opponents) will now come to expect a Villa goal, and a huge chunk of top level sport is played “in the head” so to speak. Compare this to last season,where the opposite was true - we rather expected to concede late goals than score them. This represents a big and important change.

Next I want to talk about “nobbling referees”. Arsene Wenger, rather bizarrely I thought, came out with this comment that he felt that Villa had “got” to the referee at half time in the Boxing Day clash, and that every second half 50-50 decision went Villa’s way as a result. Certainly Gabby Agbonlahor was “looking for” the penalty (as all top strikers should) and many referees wouldn’t have given it, but I think Wenger’s claims are more than a little outlandish. If Villa could nobble referees in this way then our home record would be significantly better than it is. However, this getting “at” referees through “intimidation” is another of those things that winners do and losers complain about., Arsenal, rather ironically, are famous for it down the years, as are all of the “elite” clubs all over Europe. Referees get surrounded by irate players after every major decision that goes against the big club, and while referees never change their minds, the effect it has is on future decisions, as Wenger implied.

Did I say referees never change their minds? Well, the Hull incident is certainly the first time I can ever recall a referee reversing a penalty decision. Of course, it wasn’t a penalty, and while I’m thrilled he changed his mind from a Villa perspective, I’m not sure about this in the long term. Villa players (and not just the captain as claimed) surrounded him, shouting in his face about his error and he changed his mind, which I don’t think he would have done without significant player pressure. So on the one hand, well done the Villa lads for “acting big” and surrounding the referee in this way (those two points might be huge come May) but on the other you have to fear for the loss of authority this might engender in referees. I hope we dont see a return to every major decision seeing a referee surrounded by snarling, baying players (unless they are Villa players of course).

And so Villa enter the New Year sitting tidily in the top four and pushing hard for that Champions League slot. What a year it promises to be! My belief is that Villa need another thirty points from the remaining eighteen games to secure Champions League football next season, and while on the face of it that seems perfectly achievable, I think we are going to have to continue to grow and develop as a team in order to get over the line ahead of Arsenal and Everton. Come March and April, when every game will be like a Cup Final, we will need to really show our character and determination, and it will be nothing if not exciting. We also have the rest of our European tour to look forward to, starting with the tie against Russian giants CSKA in February (how brilliant to be involved in the latter stages of Europe after so long!) and of course our annual tilt at the FA Cup which gets under way live on TV on Sunday.

I love the FA Cup, even though in recent years it’s image has been badly tarnished. I remember as a kid watching the great finals - Arsenal beating United with Alan Sunderland’s last minute winner, Ricky Villa dancing through the Manchester City defence and so on - and I still take it personally that Villa have only been involved in one FA Cup final in my lifetime. How I’d love for us to change that this year - how great it would be to see Villa led out of the Wembley tunnel by a suited O’Neill, how great to sing “Abide with me”, how great to see Martin Laursen lifting the famous old trophy into the May evening. The dream (more realistic this year this year than for quite some time) begins in the rather more prosaic surroundings of Gillingham’s Priestfields stadium which makes a change from our annual Cup date with Manchester United which I’m sure awaits us further down the road.

I fully expect O’Neill to fully utilise what remains of his squad for this game against a mid table League two outfit. I know these player struggled against QPR and Zilina, but we shouldn’t pretend that Gillingham are anything like as good as either of those, and I’d expect us to come through as comfortably as the third round of the Cup allows,with all its history of banana skins like this. Using the squad for such games is important,and not only for the purposes of resting key players, but also for giving those on the fringes a serious competitive run out. The value of this has been recently underlined by the performances of Zat Knight and Nigel Reo-Coker who have both been called upon for Premiership action after some weeks (or months in Knight’s case) on the edges of the action. Without keeping these players match sharp in the UEFA Cup, it is arguable that they would have been too rusty to step into the Premier League and perform as admirably as they both have, and so O’Neill will likely call up Shorey, Guzan, Salifou, Gardner, Harewood and Delfouenso as a minimum, and he will expect them, correctly in my view, to perform like the Premiership players they are,even though (in the case of Shorey and Harewood) they may be on their way shortly now the January transfer window has opened.

Ah, the transfer window; much beloved of football message board moderators the world over as normally rational sensible people lose all sense of perspective and realism and panic like right backs faced with Ashley Young.. Let me tell you how it will go, to save you all needless worry and arguments.

First week: Villa fans will start to worry that no-one has been signed, and by the end of the week, there will be comments made that O’Neill is ill-prepared and dark mutterings will surface about his competency in the transfer market

Second week: As a squad player or two leaves for pastures new, the mutterings grow louder. People will state over and over again (as if no-one understands this) that we desperately need at least a couple of players and we can’t possibly hope to compete without major signings.

Third week; Fever pitch is reached on the back of Spurs and Manchester City both signing a couple of blokes who might have looked pretty in a World Cup one time. Villa fans go into meltdown as O’Neill makes comments about trying to sign people but it being difficult and two or three first team players pick up suspensions stretching the squad even further.

Fourth Week: Either we will sign players or we wont. If we do, everyone (apart from those claiming the new signings are rubbish and no improvement at all) will quieten down. If we don’t, once the window shuts, everyone will quieten down as the team resume what they were doing on the pitch, because at the end of the day, what matters is results. O’Neill has surely done enough now to warrant some faith in his ability,so calm down,enjoy the football, laugh at the speculation and understand that we will sign as many people of suitable quality as we are able to.

Have a great New Year folks

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Nice article Pete.

Just on the "respect" thing, I think the performance of the ref was absolutely abysmal in that game - he was absolutely dreadful on the night - but all that got lost due to the "controversy" over the changed decision.

Villa's players got some stick for the (understandable) consternation they showed at yet another awful decision, the ref got media credit for changing his mind and with the input from his Lino correcting his error.

It doesn't sit right with me that after an evening of utterly inadequate refereeing the ref comes out of it with credit, and the players of Villa get stick for doing nothing more than being shocked by an awful decision, really.

I share your distaste for players haranguing referees over every decision, however inconsequential and I do agree with the respect agenda, but equally terrible refereeing is part of the problem and needs to be addressed just as much as does bad player behaviour.

Bennett got away with a bad night's work.

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Great summary, but I think you've slightly overlooked one thing - we need to qualify for the champions league THIS season because:

a) Barry will be off

B) as might Young and maybe a couple more

c) Arsenal won't be this bad next year

d) Man City (and maybe Spurs) will be a lot better next year

e) Momentum - we don't want to fail at the last minute (like spurs a couple of years ago) because that won't do confidence much good.

f) New signings - once we get into the CL, new signings might be easier to get!

I firmly believe this is our best shot so we must take advantage - even if its at the expense of a cup run.

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Bennett got away with a bad night's work.

I agree Blandy (the early disallowed goal was a bit lucky for us I felt, certainly Friedel felt it was a goal judging from his reaction), although I think I'm not sure about how much praise he should be getting even for that penalty incident, given that he got it wrong, and then broke the cardinal rule of refereeing and changed his mind under pressure. Still, mustn't complain, points in the bag for Villa are the main thing

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we need to qualify for the champions league THIS season

I think we have to take one game at a time, certainly one season at a time. Its a little early I feel to be worrying about what may or may not be in twelve months time, there are too many variables to make a realistic judgement. Right now I'm just concerned about not embarrassing ourselves against Gillingham, and then getting three points off West Brom next weekend when (I think) Arsenal, United and Everton are all away.

All I know is that getting into that fourth place is going to take a superhuman effort from all concerned - fingers crossed.

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Thanks for the realism above. If we are going to play our second string against Gillingham, then they have already shown this season that Villa fans have cause for concern about a possible embarrassment awaiting! I was actually very concerned about our first team's performance against Hull as we were certainly second best in that game and we were very lucky to get away with three points. We were also lucky to get the three points against Everton, who presented us with early Christmas presents in the form of two of our goals. I also hope that irrespective of PB's comments about the transfer window, MON does purchase at least one forward (Defoe and Crouch please) and a creative midfielder for when we can't get around teams on the flanks and have to play through the middle (Arshavin please), then we will be well covered for the difficult run in ahead! Regards, Ciaran.

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I was actually very concerned about our first team's performance against Hull as we were certainly second best in that game

I don't know about second best, i don't recall either keeper having to make a serious save, and Hull played, I thought, for a 0-0 draw from first whistle to last which Villa clearly found very frustrating. You can argue that if you end up losing games where you play for 0-0 (especially at home) then you have got what you deserve. It wasn't a good Villa performance either, but there have been plenty of games where we didn't get what we deserved also - for example, we certainly deserved to absolutely batter Arsenal who somehow got away with a point. if you keep clean sheets, and have players like Young and Gabby then you stand a chance of always getting the win, regardless of how poorly you play. I wouldn't knock it.

then we will be well covered for the difficult run in ahead

I'm not disputing the need for players, it never does any harm to strengthen the squad for sure. The point I am making is that it is easy to buy players, but really very hard to buy players who will make a real difference. If the manager can buy such players, then he surely will, but his track record indicates that if he does it will be towards the end of the window, and if he doesn't it won't be for lack of trying. The bi-annual message board hysteria surrounding the window is now a bit of a sad joke imo, which is the other point I was making

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we need to qualify for the champions league THIS season

I think we have to take one game at a time, certainly one season at a time. Its a little early I feel to be worrying about what may or may not be in twelve months time, there are too many variables to make a realistic judgement. Right now I'm just concerned about not embarrassing ourselves against Gillingham, and then getting three points off West Brom next weekend when (I think) Arsenal, United and Everton are all away.

All I know is that getting into that fourth place is going to take a superhuman effort from all concerned - fingers crossed.

What a lovely and calmly put response!

Yes, I absolutely agree with PB ... it's so easy to get carried away with all the maybes, yet if we didn't qualify for the ECL but did win a Cup, would that cause all the fearsome things to happen that some predict? In my view, even if we didn't win anything and missed out on the ECL by a hair's-breadth, I cannot see that a cause for the Villa stars leaving, with the possible exception of Barry.

We don't even know yet which new arrival we may or may not get in January!

All is possible; all could be a disappointment. But that's life!

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we need to qualify for the champions league THIS season

I think we have to take one game at a time, certainly one season at a time. Its a little early I feel to be worrying about what may or may not be in twelve months time, there are too many variables to make a realistic judgement. Right now I'm just concerned about not embarrassing ourselves against Gillingham, and then getting three points off West Brom next weekend when (I think) Arsenal, United and Everton are all away.

All I know is that getting into that fourth place is going to take a superhuman effort from all concerned - fingers crossed.

What a lovely and calmly put response!

Yes, I absolutely agree with PB ... it's so easy to get carried away with all the maybes, yet if we didn't qualify for the ECL but did win a Cup, would that cause all the fearsome things to happen that some predict? In my view, even if we didn't win anything and missed out on the ECL by a hair's-breadth, I cannot see that a cause for the Villa stars leaving, with the possible exception of Barry.

We don't even know yet which new arrival we may or may not get in January!

All is possible; all could be a disappointment. But that's life!

Well said John; and congratulations Pete.

This is like an antidote to some of the manic frazzling that's going on in some of the message board threads. Calm down, guys, take a breather...get some perspective.

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I think most Villa fans have what you called perspective. We have had to over the past several seasons when the Villa faithful have been starved of success! I think sometimes that a lot of Villa fans have now got use to that lack of success and are happy just to finish in the top half of the premiership! Have a little more ambition than that please. With the addition of a few more quality players, in particular, a forward and a creative midfielder, we can, with a little luck, qualify for the CL this season! I don't think Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea fans would be at all happy to finish out of the top four! We must now develope this attitude, a winning attitude! Regards, Ciaran.

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I think most Villa fans have what you called perspective. We have had to over the past several seasons when the Villa faithful have been starved of success! I think sometimes that a lot of Villa fans have now got use to that lack of success and are happy just to finish in the top half of the premiership! Have a little more ambition than that please. With the addition of a few more quality players, in particular, a forward and a creative midfielder, we can, with a little luck, qualify for the CL this season! I don't think Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea fans would be at all happy to finish out of the top four! We must now develope this attitude, a winning attitude! Regards, Ciaran.

I am afraid that statement is something of a peversion of what was said before, mate.

It is nothing to do with "ambition" or expecting simply a top-half place nor anything else, it is to do with putting football into its proper perspective.

As I see it, it is the club to have the ambition, and as far as I can see the club does have that ambition - and ability to match it. The management and the players are the ones to put their abilities into effect; what we do as fans is to look on and admire or criticise as the case may be, but apart from giving a vocal backing to the team, and paying the entrance fee, the fan does not have much input to the process and therefore I would argue should not take the matter so seriously unless it can be seen that a dereliction of duty is taking place. The fan, however, - through his support and passion - is extremely important to the club.

However, the points that were previously made were friendly prompts to those that think that football is more important than anything else, 'cause (no matter what Bill Shankly said!) it isn't. That's what we mean by perspective. It's the kind of thinking that decides that investing in Acorns and displaying their logo on the shirts is more important than trying to bring in income through logo displays, though there has to be a balance between charity and commercial reality.

As I have oft said before, I was brought up on the Villa during the 50s and 60s. And you talk of being starved on success?! :winkold:

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happy just to finish in the top half of the premiership! Have a little more ambition than that please.

I cant speak for anyone else, and people will form whatever opinions they wish however they wish. So that you can understand what i'm trying to write better I should explain that personally, I try and look at things "as a whole". I try and ignore short term trends, try and steer clear of making judgements based upon this game, or that game, and I try and look instead at longer term trends.

As a football club we are moving in the right direction,much faster I must admit than I had anticipated. On the pitch things are at their highest point for at least ten years, and that really is something to savour, something to enjoy. All the signs are that this forward momentum will continue, but I'm not going to be smashing any furniture if we don't get into that fourth slot. I'll be disappointed, because we have a very real opportunity, but I believe we will continue to improve year on year and if we don't do it this year we will soon enough.

Its very difficult. Everton when they finished fourth did so with just 61 points, and I think its fair to say that wont be anything like enough this season. This season it is likely that the team finishing fifth does so with the highest ever points tally for a fifth placed team (since the League moved to 38 games). this is what I meant when I talked earlier about a superhuman effort to get into the top four. Not just for us, but also for Arsenal or Everton - someone somewhere is going have to put in a mammoth effort over the second half of the campaign. I hope its us, but if it isn't us, it will still have been a brilliant season and that shouldn't be lost

Signing players this month would help us to move forward, BUT ONLY IF THEY ARE THE RIGHT PLAYERS. Buying the wrong players would be considerably worse than buying no players at all. Making sure they are the right players is, I'm sure, horribly difficult and complex, otherwise every team in the League would be out there buying players that move them forwards as a team. Self evidently there are very, very few teams moving forwards in any way and none, at all, making the massive strides we are.

I'm happy to let Martin and Randy do their thing on this. They seem to be pretty good at it and generally they are making all the right decisions

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I think most Villa fans have what you called perspective. We have had to over the past several seasons when the Villa faithful have been starved of success! I think sometimes that a lot of Villa fans have now got use to that lack of success and are happy just to finish in the top half of the premiership! Have a little more ambition than that please. With the addition of a few more quality players, in particular, a forward and a creative midfielder, we can, with a little luck, qualify for the CL this season! I don't think Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea fans would be at all happy to finish out of the top four! We must now develope this attitude, a winning attitude! Regards, Ciaran.

Oh, I think we all have ambition.

The point is that some people seem to be about to spit the dummy if we don't make the Champions League this year, whereas others, like PB, are more interested in the longer term building of the foundations for sustainable success.

Me, I'm in the latter camp. Less interested in short term glamour, very supportive of the long term vision which is in place in the club for the first time in many, many decades. Not impressed with throwing money at people like Robinho, very impressed with building a team of players and player support which will be there when the flighty billionaires have developed another interest like space shuttles and gone off to do that instead.

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Many thanks for the constructive replies to my earlier comments. First of all i think the fans own the club. We are the people who pay to stand on the terraces, in all weathers, which helps to pay for the general runing of our club and towards any signings. Also if the fans do not like what they see on the pitch, we can influence the changing of a manager and his coaching staff! Therefore we, the fans have a massive input and can certainly influence what players we think are doing the business on the football pitch and which ones we would rather stay off it! I also take on board the comments about having patience with what MON is trying to do with our squad. To put it bluntly, MON has made a lot of poor signings, with a few, and only a few good ones! Shorey, Knight, Reo-Coker, Routledge, Salifou, Harewood and even James Milner have all shown recently what list they fall into. On the plus side, the two Youngs and maybe Carew, but even Carew was never going to play a full season for us with his injury record! So i certainly agree with the comment that we must buy the right players. Defoe, Crouch, Upson and Arshavin are available and these ARE the right players to push us on, but will MON buy Heskey, or Doyle instead, who have both proved that they don't score enough goals in the Premiership? Regards, Ciaran.

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There's another thread about MO'N's signings, but basically the best answer in there says that the team is basically pretty much all new from when DO'L was manager and now we're 4th, we're in the UEFA cup.

OK so GB, Martin Laursen and Gabby were here already, but the rest of the team is all MO'N's signings. If he can get us 4th with poor signings, then christ knows what good 'uns would do.

Of the ones you seem to rate, personally only Upson, for me, looks like a good buy, and I'm not sure we need another central defender anyway.

But back to the main point - I completely agree with the two Petes. I don't really get your sentiment about what the fans "do". certainly influence what players we think are doing the business on the football pitch and which ones we would rather stay off it doesn't mean anything to me, other than "we have a right to an opinion". If the manager started picking the team based around what you or I or nay other fan thinks of players, it'd be time for him to have a rest.

I think what PB and PMS are saying is that the club's being run right, managed right and the instant reaction to any result or performance or transfer is of a lot less value than the overall trend for the club, which they rightly say is on the up.

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Defoe, Crouch, Upson and Arshavin are available and these ARE the right players to push us on,.

We are of course all entitled to our opinions on the players that are here,and on the players we'd like to see here, but I think personally I would stop short of a statement as categorical as the one above, because I don't know the weaknesses of the squad in the same intimate way that the manager does. So while I would agree that all these players, with the possible exception of Arshavin, look decent at their current clubs, there is no guarantee they'd fit into our system, no guarantee they'd be happy working for a manager like O'Neill. So I would say they COULD be, depending upon a whole range of stuff I have no way of knowing, the kinds of players to take us forwards rather than stating with such certainty that they ARE the right players. Bentley looked like the right sort of player for Spurs, before he got there. Now it looks like O'Neill made a wise decision to walk away when the price got silly.

I wonder how much of our recent success is down to having a small, tight-knit squad lacking superstars? Players who will fight for each other as they had to on Sunday? keeping that squad togetherness,and it is very much the strength of our club currently, is very, very important, and the manager has to get that balance absolutely correct - the balance between the need for a bigger squad and the more important need to keep the team together. I'm glad I don't have to make these decisions, i guess that's why he gets a million a year to get it right and I get nothing for sitting here commenting on it

What's wrong with James Milner by the way? I've been keeping away from the main board so I'm not up on who we like this week. Seems to me like a terrific little footballer to me - six months younger than Ash by the way so a hell of alot of development room left in there. Give him six or twelve months and I'm sure he'll look like a bargain. Quality player, hard worker, loves the club. Is he getting stick because of that quiet little spell before Christmas when he played through illness? Seems harsh. Next thing you know people will be having a go at someone like (the imo superb) Sidwell because he hasn't done anything spectacular for a couple of weeks now....

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I think most Villa fans have what you called perspective. We have had to over the past several seasons when the Villa faithful have been starved of success! I think sometimes that a lot of Villa fans have now got use to that lack of success and are happy just to finish in the top half of the premiership! Have a little more ambition than that please. With the addition of a few more quality players, in particular, a forward and a creative midfielder, we can, with a little luck, qualify for the CL this season! I don't think Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea fans would be at all happy to finish out of the top four! We must now develope this attitude, a winning attitude! Regards, Ciaran.

Oh, I think we all have ambition.

The point is that some people seem to be about to spit the dummy if we don't make the Champions League this year, whereas others, like PB, are more interested in the longer term building of the foundations for sustainable success.

Me, I'm in the latter camp. Less interested in short term glamour, very supportive of the long term vision which is in place in the club for the first time in many, many decades. Not impressed with throwing money at people like Robinho, very impressed with building a team of players and player support which will be there when the flighty billionaires have developed another interest like space shuttles and gone off to do that instead.

Like Peterms, I am also in the PB camp. As Villa fan since the late 1940s, this period is now potentially the most exciting time I have followed the club. Brief spasms of success followed by much dross and disappointment are now replaced by the building of a sound platform from which to move upward. It may not be this season, but already, the progress is significant, even if, as PB said, it's come earlier than expected.

Top 4 this year would be great, but not the end of the world if we don't make it. Yes Sting is correct that next year it may be tougher, but then again not necessarily. Everton need financial input to really progress and Arsenal may well get back to their former glory, but this is the true interest of football, the great uncertainty. IMO, I don't think Man. City will necessarily be up there next year. They might throw large sums of money about, but this does not guarantee success as has been seen in the past. The transfer fees and wages being mentioned in the media does not make a great team or one with spirit, often only unrest between players who want some sort of parity with the newcomers. Hughes has a difficult balancing act to perform. Spurs, well they are still in transition with Redknapp, so judgement on where they are in May and what money he has will dictate their progress.

Sting has definite views on who MON should bring in, but so does every other Villa fan. Personally, I think Defoe will follow Redknapp, I'm not an Upson fan, and Arshavin would be a risk in terms of will he settle in the Premiership. All in all, MON is paid to make the decisions and the one certainty is there will be mixed reactions.

I'm happy with the progress to date, but there is still work to be done and it's clear MON knows this as well.

UTV

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Defoe, Crouch, Upson and Arshavin are available and these ARE the right players to push us on,.

We are of course all entitled to our opinions on the players that are here,and on the players we'd like to see here, but I think personally I would stop short of a statement as categorical as the one above, because I don't know the weaknesses of the squad in the same intimate way that the manager does. So while I would agree that all these players, with the possible exception of Arshavin, look decent at their current clubs, there is no guarantee they'd fit into our system, no guarantee they'd be happy working for a manager like O'Neill. So I would say they COULD be, depending upon a whole range of stuff I have no way of knowing, the kinds of players to take us forwards rather than stating with such certainty that they ARE the right players. Bentley looked like the right sort of player for Spurs, before he got there. Now it looks like O'Neill made a wise decision to walk away when the price got silly.

I wonder how much of our recent success is down to having a small, tight-knit squad lacking superstars? Players who will fight for each other as they had to on Sunday? keeping that squad togetherness,and it is very much the strength of our club currently, is very, very important, and the manager has to get that balance absolutely correct - the balance between the need for a bigger squad and the more important need to keep the team together. I'm glad I don't have to make these decisions, i guess that's why he gets a million a year to get it right and I get nothing for sitting here commenting on it

What's wrong with James Milner by the way? I've been keeping away from the main board so I'm not up on who we like this week. Seems to me like a terrific little footballer to me - six months younger than Ash by the way so a hell of alot of development room left in there. Give him six or twelve months and I'm sure he'll look like a bargain. Quality player, hard worker, loves the club. Is he getting stick because of that quiet little spell before Christmas when he played through illness? Seems harsh. Next thing you know people will be having a go at someone like (the imo superb) Sidwell because he hasn't done anything spectacular for a couple of weeks now....

Some great points Peter, very pertinent.

Sidwell has been getting some stick after Sunday's game. There will always be those fans who need to pick a player and have a go at them. Petrov, Knight, NRC have all been through it recently and it will always be a part of playing for Villa. Anything less than perfection every week is unacceptable for some fans. I recall Barry being slated as too slow, would never make the England team, lets sell him only two or three seasons ago.

Only a few have received total glorification ala God and Ian Taylor.

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