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These moments of calm


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It’s that glorious time in the middle of an English summer, where the thwack of willow on ball threatens to drown out the din of the English Premiership, where the noise of Geordie tears is almost gone from memory and the hubbub of the coming season is still but a whisper.

Mostly though, its glory comes in the arrival of that time where we start to make some signings.

“I like these calm little moments before the storm, it reminds me of Beethoven”

So we find ourselves once more in early July, with Gareth gone and Laursen lost whilst Martin O’Neill, deaf to our clamour continues to compose his team. Forty-one days have passed since our last game and only fourteen more separate us from our next, with nothing as yet to show from the summer between.

They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn and I’m inclined to agree, but these are testing times for the wild eyed, maddening conductor of the Villa Park orchestra, someone, somewhere has burst a bubble and there are many willing to point a finger at the managers baton.

He’s been here before on many an occasion and is nothing if not his own man, I’m sure the O’Neill mind is still ablaze with the plans for it’s summer. Infuriating, awkward, baffling and idiosyncratic he may be, but deliberately so I think and in the eye of the storm I often feel that all is calm around the manager; sometimes in these quiet moments I fancy I even hear him laughing.

Still, for those of us on edges this is scant consolation and there is reason enough for concern. Our squad proved not quite strong enough last time out and it has weakened since. Early summer brought links to many players and we’ve watched as some of those have moved on to pastures new. There have been those on the verge but none have crossed over, and right about now it seems things are as quiet as they’ve been since Shearer’s boys limped back onto the coach.

No noise from the Villa boys.

Which is exactly why I expect things to change at any moment. Summer is short now; let the band strike up!

What can we expect in the next few weeks then?

Only God and Martin O’Neill can know for sure, I only know what I want.

A goalkeeper; maybe not urgently, but before too long Brad Friedel will be hanging up his gloves and they will not yet fit too well with young Elliott Parish. Brad Guzan is a more than able deputy but I’d hate to see him fighting the good fight alone. We’ve been linked with Sergio Asenjo, Spain’s U21 keeper who would be a wise if somewhat unlikely acquisition.

Central defenders; our most urgent need is for a man of sufficient stature to replace the retiring Laursen, overtures have allegedly been made to Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin, both in the autumns of their careers and I’d be unsurprised to see one or other join us. Neither is more than a stopgap though and sadly our interest in Brede Hangeland or even Matthew Upson seems to have faded leaving much to think on and space for doubt.

Full backs; One of each would do nicely. Kyle Naughton of Sheffield United seems to have been close to a move at least a dozen times already this summer; he won’t be a Blade much longer and would be a useful addition. On the left, much depends on Bouma’s return and Shorey’s favour and the insurance of a talented youngster wouldn’t go amiss – Daniel Fox from Coventry perhaps?

A Barry replacement; or maybe that’s a little misleading; someone to play in the centre of the park who can compliment Reo Coker’s grit and Stillyan Petrov’s styled graft. We’ve been linked with Tim Borowski, a large German with plenty of experience. Tom Huddlestone, a large young Englishman with a fancy for passing, Steven Defour, a diminutive Belgian with a burgeoning reputation, Jermaine Jenas, the energy in Tottenham’s midfield and perhaps most intriguingly with Sanli Tuncay, an altogether different type who captures both the eye and the imagination. I’ve a feeling that the manager might be calling a different tune however and I suspect we’ll hear a new name added to this list before too long.

Another wide man; Can you keep a secret? I don’t want to betray any confidences, reveal any sources or break any secrets, but there’s a rumour going around that we might be interested in David Bentley. Whispers of Downing or the exotic Bastos be damned, I’ve a feeling this one might just be happening. He makes for good cover on both sides and along with Milner and Young, having three players who can share the hundred odd starts of the coming campaign between them wouldn’t be any bad thing.

Finally, a striker, or at least I think so. It was going to be Sturridge wasn’t it, or Michael Owen? Flavour of the month is Berg the young Swede, some want Bent and others still hanker for Love. Who knows where this will take us, but if injury strikes, Heskey and Harewood will not be enough to fire us to glory. I trust the manager agrees.

I make that seven players, and that’s if none leave us before the new season arrives. It is time Mr O’Neill for the summer’s business to become an allegro; we’ve been patient, as have you but time is getting short and the moment has come.

The great thing about the last six weeks is that they are gone. Time masters us all and can even back Martin O’Neill into a corner; we’re just about there. This humidity, so stifling, must now surely break.

The little grey cloud of doubt has drifted over parts of Villa Park, carried on the wings of our anxiety and held by these moments of calm; time to blow it away and with it this dissonance.

Lift up you baton man of Kilrea and strike up a symphony, stand back expectant throng and hold your breath for the first movement of O’Neill’s 4th season and bring forth an ode to joy.

Or, you know, get a move on Martin.

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Nice article. Although I have to admit I am coming around a bit to the idea of not buying a 'Laursen replacement'. Maybe Cuellar will come good? Petrov did, and he looked completely out of depth at one point and whilst Cuellar hasn't exactly set the world alight, he's been pretty solid and shown he has the right attributes (lacks a wee bit of pace, but Davis makes up for that) to be a success.

I have great faith in Davis also. He's a good player already, and he does appear to be still learning, although he does appear to be a bit of a confidence player.

I think the area we mainly need to strengthen is down the sides. If Ashley Young gets injured, we'll be in trouble.

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A good read!

There is one thing I most definitely think has to happen from reading the article and that is the "seven players" as I believe this sort of number is required. Obviously it is unlikely to think Villa will spend vast amounts on 7 individuals but a few smart buys that could be potentially brilliant. There has also been a lot of emphasis on Villa's scouting agenda's towards the end of last season which makes the latter feasible. On top of this we might expect a few bigger money signings but at the right price. Personally I would like to see Mark Noble at Villa as Barry's replacement for the long term.

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I've never read an OBE article that I didn't enjoy, and this certainly didn't buck the trend. Very good read mate, I was almost disappointed when the article finished!

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Fantastic, talented article OBE. One which i concur with and i hope that our manager has indeed a few quality surprises up his sleeve. If we are to bring in at least seven players then, i feel like you do OBE that the time for that is fast approaching us!

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.....a very good post and one that i would imagine is being echoed by the large majority of the villa faithful.... but not necessarily on this site.

I hope the bit about Martin having a quiet laugh to himself is wide of the mark ( although i guess it was said in jest), because right now i know of a few fans whose anger has turned to irony and if that spreads he who laughs first laughs last.

but hey good post.

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i read it like it was a poem...

i agree on many points, though goalkeeper and full backs (maybe a right back) are not really a necessity in my opinion!

cuellar and davies dont play great together so a centre back is a must!!

im excited yet very apprehensive about the coming weeks!!

UP THE VILLA!!

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