It’s been a turbulent week at Villa Park, particularly the last 24 hours.
Ciaran Clark and Idrissa Gueye left for Newcastle United and Everton respectively. Neither departure surprises me. When things go wrong, the best players tend to leave. The squad at the moment, is for the most part, footballing Marmite; you can find as many supporters pro a particular player, as detractors. This pair fall into that category, particularly Clark.
Despite that, the Clark deal disappoints me. Leaving for West Bromwich Albion? A bitter pill to swallow but a top-flight club. I understand that but for a Championship rival? Does that tell us he has a lack of confidence in our promotion chances this season or simply that he views Newcastle as a surer bet for a quick return to the Premier League.
I know in this day and age that players hold the balance of power in the relationship but strengthening a rival can’t be considered good business for the club on the pitch. A rumoured £5m fee may bring a smile to the face of the bank manager but not to us, especially if they go up and we don’t.
In the background, we see Dr Tony Xia on social media promising us that new players are incoming. He’s true to his word with news that Ross McCormack is in Birmingham for a medical and talks. Fulham accepted the club’s bid this morning, putting a skip into our step, albeit momentarily.
Delivering other players quickly is the biggest task facing Xia. Is it too late for McCormack to debut against Sheffield Wednesday this weekend if he joins tomorrow. Not from a Football League admin perspective but for blending him into the squad? If he signs, I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t make the bench at the very least.
Were it a home game against the likes of Barnsley, Burton Albion or Rotherham United, I don’t think the nagging doubts about Sunday would exist, or certainly be as loud. No disrespect to those teams but they are games we should be winning with a weakened team. Saturday’s defeat to Middlesbrough was a little chastening in that respect. The missing ruthlessness may come from McCormack; we have to hope so.
Some time ago, Arsène Wenger offered the view that the transfer window should be closed before the season starts. He’s got a point; this week’s comings and goings must be disruptive to planning for a difficult away trip. I am sure RDM has contingency plans in place and with Clark and Gueye away from the club for at least 2 days with medicals and talks, there has been time to alter plans.
For the new owner, it’s a case of delivering on fine words. We’ve had an era of false promises from Lerner and co; now we want someone to deliver.
With four weeks of the transfer window remaining, there’s no need to panic at the moment. Times like these are unsettling, particularly when there are members of the squad you would drive to the airport rather than the ones who have gone.
But that’s football; it’s over done, we move on to the next shiny toy in the squad and get behind the lads as we face a step into the unknown. Or the Championship, as the English Football League prefers to call it.