Opinion

Aston Villa and Short Term Solutions

Aston Villa should, where possible, avoid developing talents for other clubs and develop their own players.
Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)

The news of in-form striker Tammy Abraham possibly being recalled from his loan at Aston Villa by his parent club has had more than a handful of claret and blue supporters shaking their heads in shame. You can’t blame these sets of supporters for having a massive problem with seeing their leading goalscorer recalled. To add salt to an already fresh wound, it was rumoured that none other than Midlands rival Wolverhampton Wanderers had offered a hefty sum of money to Chelsea in an attempt to bring Abraham to the Premier League. Villa Park is 17 miles away from Wolverhamptons’ ground, Molineux Stadium. Villa supporters were mostly wishing Abraham was moving much, much farther away.

Situations like this are never easy for supporters of any football club. The loan system itself is heavily geared to allow young players to sharpen their talents at another club. And most often than not, to a smaller club. While there is no doubt that Aston Villa remain in the “big club” discussion when it comes to English football clubs, Villa find themselves begrudgingly in the second-tier of English football at present day. The massive history of the club, added with the professional level of players and staff currently at Aston Villa, would be a proud destination for any young or out-of-favour footballer who needs and yearns for more playing time, even in a loan capacity. 

There is a time when loaning in players is a good thing and can help add some depth in areas on the pitch. There is also a time when loaning in players is nothing more than planting the seeds of another farmers crops. Since being relegated to the Championship in the 2015-2016 season, Aston Villa have heavily depended on the players of other clubs to try and achieve promotion back to the Premier League. In theory, bringing in young starlets and experienced yet ageing players in a short-term signing or loan agreement seems like a wonderful idea. 

Some ideas are best left as merely ideas. 

Should Tammy Abraham have departed, it would have been nothing more than history repeating itself for Aston Villa since relegation from the Premier League. It all started with goalkeeper Sam Johnstone joined Villa on loan in 2016 from Manchester United. Johnstone featured 21 times in a campaign that saw the Villans finish 13th on the Championship table. The next season, Villa would again secure the services of Johnstone on loan and he quickly showed that he was making progress as a goalkeeper. There are some that would go as far to say that Johnstone was beginning to be revered as ‘one of our own’ by the Aston Villa faithful. While Villa marched on to finishing the season in a playoff position, Johnstone was touted as a ‘must sign’ no matter the outcome of the Championship playoffs. 

Regardless of the financial situation of Aston Villa at the time, Johnstone would go on to be sold by Manchester United to West Bromwich Albion in the summer of 2018 for a reported fee of 6.5 million pounds. Villa were in dire financial turmoil at the time that Johnstone joined West Brom and there was no way of securing the goalkeepers services. But when Johnstone signed for newly relegated West Brom, it felt like Aston Villa did nothing more than develop a goalkeeper for one and a half seasons before watching him disappear into thin air and reappear as a starting goalkeeper for a local rival.    

That cannot be allowed to happen any longer under the new ownership of Wes Edens and Nassif Shawiris. 

The same situation happened in the case of West Ham man Robert Snodgrass. Snodgrass joined Aston Villa on loan in the summer of 2017 under the pretence that he would be receiving little to no game time under then West Ham skipper Slaven Bilić. Snodgrass quickly became a fan favourite at Villa, scored memorable goals and generally became a rare case of the supporters loving everything about the Scottish winger. But after Aston Villa failed to achieve promotion at the last hurdle in the Championship Play-Off Final, Snodgrass himself disappeared seemingly into thin air, taking his 7 goals and 14 assists in the Claret & Blue top with him back to West Ham. And now the same is happening with Tammy Abraham and the very same thing will most likely happen with Yannick Bolasie and youngster Axel Tuanzebe, too. Anwar El Ghazi could also return to his parent club in France if Villa don’t exercise a clause to purchase the player at the end of his loan agreement. 

The very same can be said for John Terry’s time at Aston Villa, as well. These short-term solutions for long-term problems aren’t doing Aston Villa or their supporters any favours. It is expected that utilising the loan market in the proper way can undoubtedly help a football club achieve most goals they may have. The problem at Aston Villa is the seemingly life-or-death dependence on the loan market. It is not sustainable as a business nor as a cohesive sporting team to bring players in and out of a club with zero-to-no chance of signing them on a permanent basis. Aston Villa must find a way to be above having to depend on other clubs players for success. 

Villa do have a crop of players in the youth system that should be getting games, but through different set of circumstances have not. Young Villa winger Andre Green isn’t getting much time on the pitch while on loan at Portsmouth, but when he is getting time, he is scoring goals. Why are Aston Villa paying Yannick Bolasie a reported 70 thousand pounds a week when they have a promising young winger that needs developing? Green scored a late winner in an FA Cup tie against a very good Norwich City side this past week, his 2nd goal in the competition coming onto the pitch as a substitute. With all due respect to Pompey, is it in Andre Greens’ best interest as a footballer to be developed by their coaching and training staff instead of at Aston Villa? It’s a stretch to think most Villa supporters would think so. 

It is not reasonable to say that that Aston Villa should never dive into the loan market, but there must come a time when the club is not so mindlessly dependent on bringing in loan players on excruciatingly high wages for a mere chance of promotion back into the Premier League. Previous ownership at Aston Villa has tried to buy their way out of the Championship and painfully failed. It’s starting to look like loaning other teams promising players is starting to backfire as well. Aston Villa cannot allow themselves to become a ‘development club’ of sorts for larger clubs to fluff the value of up and coming players via loan deals.
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