How Aston Villa’s January transfer window signings have fared
With Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill assessing his options, Mat Kendrick analyses the success or otherwise of the club’s previous transfer window signings.
Despite Martin O’Neill declaring that there will be little or no business at Villa Park during the January transfer window, Aston Villa continue to be linked to a host of players.
Yet, when O’Neill suggests that the comings and goings will be minimal, past experience is his witness as the first month of the year has traditionally been quiet in B6. Villa, like most other clubs, are reluctant to do their wheeling and dealing halfway through the season, a time often associated with inflated fees and panic purchases.
“Would I rule out buying anyone? I’d have to answer ‘yes’ at this moment,” said O’Neill last week, while also re-affirming his desire to hold on to the majority of his squad.
Whether O’Neill is being characteristically coy about his intentions, history shows the claret-and-blue brigade should not expect a revolving door this month.
When the mid-season window first came into force in January 2003, the then-Villa boss Graham Taylor failed to make a single signing – indeed the only movement was the departure of an unused reserve team winger to Grimsby.
The first flurry of January activity was when David O’Leary had an early 2004 clearout of four players and since then Villa’s only busy winter window was in 2007 when O’Neill brought in three fresh faces in quick succession.
In fact, in the seven years of the existing transfer deadline rules being in place, Villa have averaged just one arrival per January window.
And, what about the seven claret-and-blue new boys who have joined halfway through a campaign since 2003?
Here we assess the impact of Nolberto Solano, Eric Djemba Djemba, John Carew, Ashley Young, Shaun Maloney, Wayne Routledge and Emile Heskey.
Nolberto Solano: Taking a pay cut to leave Newcastle for Villa was a fine way of endearing himself to his new fans at the start of 2004, as was being Villa’s most creative player – and arguably their best – for the next 20 months.
Alongside signing Martin Laursen, giving Villa almost two years of the Peruvian playmaker was a rare worthwhile contribution from David O’Leary.
Sadly, it was to end on a slightly sour note when brass musician Solano was accused of blowing his own trumpet by agitating for a move and he returned to Tyneside in August 2005.
By that stage Solano was 31-years-old and past his peak, so Villa recouping the full £1.5million they originally paid Newcastle softened the blow.
January sales rating: HHH
Eric Djemba Djemba: ‘So bad they named him twice’ was the phrase which summed up Eric Djemba Djemba’s ill-fated spell after his arrival on the last day of January 2005.
If Solano was one of O’Leary’s shrewdest bits of business, then acquiring the Cameroon international midfielder from Manchester United must surely rank among his worst.
When Sir Alex Ferguson was prepared to hold his hands up, admit he had got it wrong and sell Djemba Djemba for a £2 million loss perhaps the alarm bells should have rung for Villa.
He made just 11 appearances for Villa before being loaned out to Burnley and having his contract cancelled a year early by mutual consent.
January sales rating: H
John Carew: Villa got the best end of the deal in January 2007 when they swapped flop Milan Baros for the Norwegian international who has established himself as a fans’ favourite at Villa Park.
Carew’s popularity is not solely down to his displays of affection towards the Holte End, his apparent willingness to settle down at a club at long last or the cult status following his visit to a Birmingham lap-dancing parlour.
It was backed up by a strike-rate which fired him to the top of the club’s scoring charts last season, although the manager constantly calls for greater consistency from Carew.
However, with his contract gradually ticking down and no sign of a renewal just yet, rumours persist that the well-travelled target-man could be on the move again this summer.
January sales rating: HHH
Ashley Young: When Ashley Young arrived from Watford almost three years ago for a fee which could rise to £9.65 million, along with his big price-tag came considerable expectation.
However, although the wing wonder’s form has experienced more twists and turns than his trademark runs, he has never seemed burdened by the pressure.
Young’s ability on the ball and burst of speed mesmerised his fans during his first two years. It also made opposition managers instruct their defenders to double up on him to nullify Villa’s primary creative outlet.
Still, the England hopeful has accumulated many assists with his deadball deliveries and is finding new ways to overcome the extra attention.
Young has been dubbed ‘world class’ by O’Neill.
January sales rating: HHHH
Shaun Maloney: Shaun Maloney’s dramatic deadline-day deal certainly represented the most exciting January transactions that Villa have been involved in as he put pen to paper just moments before midnight.
However, that was one of only a few noteworthy marks during a 20-month spell where his home-sickness was not helped by a lack of first-team football.
Although, Maloney shone on the odd occasion, most memorably his brace in the thrilling 4-4 draw at Chelsea on Boxing Day 2007, he struggled to pin down a wide midfield or attacking berth.
Not even working under his former Celtic boss O’Neill could prevent the Scottish international’s overwhelming feeling of displacement and he returned north of the border in August 2008.
January sales rating: HH
Wayne Routledge: Villa sprang something of a surprise by making Wayne Routledge their only purchase of the January 2008 window.
Upon leaving boyhood club Crystal Palace for the bright lights of Tottenham Hotspur in 2005, the winger made only five first-team appearances for the White Hart Lane club.
Although loan spells at Portsmouth and Fulham gave Routledge a taste of top-flight action, the right-winger’s arrival at Villa was still a little left-field.
O’Neill greeted his £1 million signing by challenging him to kick-start his career in claret and blue. However, the opportunities never arrived, with the player restricted to two steady yet unspectacular UEFA Cup starts.
Routledge went on loan to Cardiff City before Villa cut their losses and sold him to Queens Park Rangers for £600,000 12 months after he joined.
January sales rating: H
Emile Heskey: With his Birmingham City allegiances and reputation as a non-scoring striker, Emile Heskey was always going to find it difficult to win over the claret and blue faithful following his arrival a year ago.
And although he hit a debut winner at Portsmouth last January, that task has become altogether tougher during a frustrating 12 months at Villa Park.
Heskey became the latest attacking acquisition to upset the rhythm of a previously prosperous team, as O’Neill unsuccessfully reverted to 4-4-2 formation to accommodate him.
Then there are the injuries, playing second fiddle to John Carew in the fans’ affections and the supposedly misquoted interview about quitting the club to further his World Cup ambitions.
Despite improved displays and a few goals recently, there is continued conjecture, denied by O’Neill, that Heskey will leave to improve his Three Lions prospects, even though he has two-and-a-half years of his contract still to run.
January sales rating: HH