5) Get the most out of our young talent
During a season which was ultimately one to forget, many young players made their senior bows and provided some hope for the future. Kevin Toner, Jordan Lyden and Andre Green, all made their league debuts with Rushian Hepburn-Murphy adding to his cameo appearance the previous season.
All four players have come through the club’s renowned youth system and showed plenty of promise. It would take a brave manager to throw these players into a full Championship campaign but a bleeding into the first team or a brief spell out on loan may prove beneficial in the long run.
The Championship may be a platform which will give the management and also the players more confidence that they are able to make a willing contribution to the first team.
Such is the harsh nature of football management, many managers are reluctant to give a number of youngsters a chance on a regular basis. In what is essentially a results driven business, managers rarely take the gamble of selecting younger members of the side over more experienced professionals.
The experience in the first team may not have been as many of these players would have envisaged but it could prove to be a blessing in disguise. It has shown them just how near that they are to cementing a place in the first team. The club, irrespective of the position it finds itself in, clearly holds these individuals in high regard. Now is the question of whether they can push on from this experience and really challenge for a place in Roberto Di Matteo’s new look squad.
Nathan Baker, Gary Gardner and Joe Bennett all gained Championship experience last season and will be hoping that a return to their parent club will see them challenge for a place in the side.
This season is arguably the biggest in the career of Gary Gardner. Identified from an early age as a player with huge potential, a series of career threatening injuries saw his development hampered and question marks over his ability as a Premier League player.
Loan moves to Coventry, Sheffield Wednesday, Brighton and Nottingham Forrest, have seen the young midfielder gain plenty of experience and it is hoped that he can finally produce the goods in our first team.
His performances may not always be eye catching but there has certainly been enough evidence, more so during his time at Nottingham Forrest that Gardner can readily compete at this level. There has been much frustration for the club, fans and most certainly Gardner himself that his career at Villa Park has continued to stall.
Whilst not under the circumstances anybody connected to the club longed for, this could now be the time for Gardner to finally build on his early promise and begin to give something back on the field of play to the club who has stuck by him throughout some career threatening injuries.
Di Matteo needs to strike the right balance between youth and experience. Whilst our new owner’s riches should enable us to be competitive in the Championship transfer market, this is not an option which Di Matteo can be reliant upon.
The signings must be astute and in doing so present good business for the club. Having the ability to bring young players through can potentially save the club millions. If they are good enough, then age becomes an irrelevant matter.
No one is under any illusions as to the magnitude of the job facing Roberto Di Matteo. Recent events suggest that the club is beginning to sort out it’s off the field affairs. The focus must now turn towards preparing a squad that is well equipped to give Aston Villa every chance of making an immediate return to the Premier League.
Di Matteo will need to assess the squad which he currently has and decide which members are able to facilitate a promotion push and which players need moving on.
This will arguably be the toughest component of the rebuilding job. Such was the damaging manner in which the club suffered relegation; it will be increasingly difficult to move a number of underperforming players on. In addition, many of the players earn wages befitting of a Premier League side and it will be increasingly difficult to convince would be buyers to match these demands.
By the time the new season arrives in August, we could be seeing a very different Aston Villa side. The foundations off field are in place and the coming months need to be used correctly to get the rebuilding process up and running.
Di Matteo has good contacts in the game, a strong CV and a coaching team who will provide an array of experience. The combination of Di Matteo, Steve Clarke and Kevin Bond is an exciting one. All three have enjoyed relative success in their coaching careers.
This season provides a fresh start for all and a mixture of the five areas discussed should see Villa heading in the right direction.