Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Benteke to Liverpool? Villa should strive to hold on to him

The Beast of Bodymoor
It's all over the papers: Liverpool want Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke.

With thirteen goals in fourteen games, it's no wonder he's on the radar of every Premier League club with ambition.

But Liverpool? They're no longer a Champions League perennial and both fans and players alike looked as though they couldn't wait for the season's end.

With lame duck Brendan Rodgers at the helm admitting he'd accept the sack, what would Benteke be walking into?

Steven Gerrard, arguably the greatest to don the Red shirt played his last game in a 6-1 thrashing at Stoke which followed a final Anfield bow, a poor 3-1 reverse to Crystal Palace.

Raheem Sterling was pilloried, mocked and jeered by the travelling away support – Rodgers had urged the fans not to give him a hard time.

This is how they revere their star
So while Benteke prepares for the FA Cup Final with the inspirational Tim Sherwood coaching him to better form, why on earth would he switch to Anfield. Because they were famous once?

If a Champions League club came calling, it'd be more understandable for the 24-year-old Belgian striker to move on. EURO 2016 is on the horizon. Could Villa repel interest from Wolfsburg or Sporting Lisbon? It'd be harder.

No, this is a moment for Villa to use mere Anfield interest to secure him on improved terms over a longer period.

He's on a four-year deal until 2017 so adequate compensation for one of the Premier League's hottest properties is assured - but if Villa are to build on a bright young manager and his more focused squad, they need to treat Benteke as if he were a new signing.

I say pay him what he wants - and when his stock rises even higher next season, then accept his departure.

Benteke's farewell needs to be on Villa's terms. It's not now and it's certainly not to Anfield.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Wembley: Fans Howard Hodgson and Jonny Gould roundup an emotional FA Cup semi-final victory for Aston Villa

Villa give Stevie G the bum's rush.

Aston Villa reach their first FA Cup Final since 2000 after a 2-1 win over Liverpool in the semifinal.

Manager Tim Sherwood said they bamboozled the Reds who didn't perform to their highest capability but Villa, through goals from Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph showed great determination to win.

It was the Reds who'd scored first through Philippe Coutinho. But as Brendan Rodgers contends with why Liverpool didn't show up for the big occasion, Sherwood is measuring up Villa's Cup Final suits!

What a turnaround since his appointment after the defeat at Hull!

Here's Howard and Jonny reliving the game right at the final whistle.

Wembley: Mat Kendrick, Howard Hodgson and Jonny preview the Aston Villa v Liverpool FA Cup semifinal.

Tim Sherwood has changed Villa
Mat Kendrick
Tim Sherwood stands on the verge of reaching an FA Cup Final with less than a season of managerial experience.

But can Aston Villa beat Liverpool to face Arsenal in the Final on May 30th?

Mat Kendrick from the Birmingham Mail, Howard Hodgson from the Aston Villa Supporters Trust and Jonny met under the Bobby Moore statue at Wembley just before kick-off to discuss!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Madridistas are 100% wrong about Our Gareth

Gareth's trademark er, shape thing
As the bookies fall over each other to shorten the odds on Gareth Bale returning to the Premier League this summer, spare a thought for the man himself.

Pilloried everywhere he roams, on the pitch even in the car park, Gareth Bale is a man under pressure to perform at Real Madrid.

But the world’s most expensive player is at the Bernabeu for a reason.

Here is a young Welshman, who through sheer weight of personality and self-belief, forced his way from left-back to wing back to left-winger and finally centre-forward, scoring half of Tottenham’s goals the season before last.

All this via a loan spell at Nottingham Forest, where he was nearly offloaded.

From the Real Madrid museum at the Bernabeu
If his first season at Real was dreamy, his second has proved a rude awakening

Stooping to score a brilliant header befitting the Champions League Final, he also used every sinew of his admirable physique to score one of the goals of the season in the Copa Del Rey Final.

Two trophies, two great goals and a gaggle of ungrateful, spoilt Real fans with short memories.

How dare those fans kick his car while driving out of Madrid’s training ground after defeat in Barcelona. Had Ronaldo not been offside, he'd have scored.

And the 25-year-old should ignore everyone of them. He’s earned the right to play for the Galacticos.

Champions League night at the Bernabeu
And he is a Galactico.

Not only that, he's a man of character. Just look at the vigour and patriotism with which he dons the Welsh shirt. How his performances have put Wales in with a shout of qualifying for a major tournament for the first time in two generations.

The man towers above the Madrid booboys, literally and metaphorically. What have they done but pay a few quid for their tickets year-after-year? Sure they can boo (if it empowers them) – but they don't have the right to hooliganism.

Tough it out and rise above it, Gareth.  The Madridistas are absolutely wrong about you.