5) Gabriel Agbonlahor
Some people would say “save the best till last” but it is difficult to find any superlatives to describe the impact of Gabriel Agbonlahor. There is not much that has not already been said about the former club captain’s contribution to the Villa course over the last five seasons. The shock resignation of Martin O’Neill back in 2010 coincided with a rapid decline in the form of Agbonlahor. As a host of key players such as Barry, Milner, Young and Downing were sold, Agbonlahor was left with the mantle of being Villa’s star player. Sadly it became somewhat apparent that without these players to support, Agbonlahor was not of the same calibre. A career best of 13 league goals during the 2009-10 season saw Agbonlahor win his first competitive England cap, adding to two previous friendly caps. Since then, Agbonlahors decline has been as such that over the last three seasons he has scored 11 league goals, managing to find the net once during the latest campaign.
As a number of managers have come and gone during Agbonlahors time with the club, the Erdington born striker remains and continues to frustrate supporters with his minimal impact upon proceedings. We must remember that for all his criticism, Agbonlahor has produced moments of brilliance, most notably in the Second City Derby but this is not enough to justify a role in the team. Past glories and claiming to be a lifelong Villa fan do not warrant being an automatic selection in the side. It is clear that as the competition for places has faded, Agbonlahor grew comfortable. The desire to fight for the shirt had gone as there was no one left to compete with.
Question marks over his weight have long been aimed towards Agbonlahor with a poor attitude in training cited as reasons for the player’s lack of contribution on a match day. There have been well documented fall outs with managers such as Gerard Houllier, Alec McCleish and most recently, Remi Garde. Agbonlahor, on the face of things, seems to feel he is exempt from instruction, that having been a part of the furniture for so long that the rules do not apply to him. That is where the problem lies. Agbonlahor has been at the club too long and whilst he is the last person on this list he is arguably the first man that supporters want to see out the door.
Fans can accept defeats are part and parcel of the game but a lack of effort, especially from someone who claims to be one of their own, does not sit well with fans of any football club. Agbonlahor has been captured in the national press this season for partying in the wake of the clubs relegation being confirmed, at a time when supporters, such as he claims to be, would be hurting the most.
His actions both on and off the pitch this season led to a heavy fine, brief suspension and removal as club captain. Fans have grown tired of the excuses, the desperate pleas to remember the goals against Birmingham City and WBA. Great memories they may be but they are firmly in the past. Agbonlahor should join his past feats in the Aston Villa archive and call a day on his Villa Park career.
Agbonlahor was never a natural goal scorer and relied heavily upon his pace. His most fruitful period was during his partnership with John Carew and he never managed to strike such an understanding with another team mate. For many, Agbonlahor is a causation of problems off the field as much as he is on it. Dressing room discontent has long existed at Villa and now is the time for so called senior figures to move on.
Following what has been the most disappointing season in modern times for the club, there was an endless list of players who could have been included in this article. These five however have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Their conduct both on and off the pitch has been an embarrassment to both themselves and to the club. Their role as senior players has been abused. When the likes of Gareth Barry and Lee Hendrie came into the first team, they had senior players such as Gareth Southgate and Ian Taylor to guide them. One was an England regular and the other a Villa fan through and through. They were at the top of their profession and playing in a competitive, if not always successful team. This transcended to the likes of Barry and Hendrie who went on to have contributions of their own to the clubs fortunes.
There is an array of talent in the Aston Villa Academy but the current crop of players are setting no example to the next generation. Instead they are wasting away their careers and dragging this great club into a situation it should never be in.
Regardless of who stays or goes come August, the supporters will always get behind the team on match day. For the sake of a successful Championship campaign it is paramount that the bulk of these players are not still around come the first game of the new season.