Anatomy of a Scurrilous Rumour (or, I Expected Better of The Guardian)

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: James Milner of Aston Villa scores a penaltyduring the Barclays Premiership match between Aston Vilaa and Birmingham City at Villa Park on April 25, 2010 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)


Yesterday, on The Guardian's website, Stuart James had a piece titled "Aston Villa face battle to keep Ashley Young and James Milner." Naturally, when a headline like that comes through your RSS reader, you become a little bit alarmed. Young and Milner are exceptional young talents, as evidenced by their consecutive wins of the PFA Young Player of the Year, and losing one of them, let alone both, would be a colossal blow to the club.

However, a lot of Villa supporters have come to recognize the name Stuart James. He seems to have become The Guardian's dedicated West Midlands scaremonger, having blown the Milner-to-Manchester trumpet (or vuvuzela?) since before the season ended. So, does this story have a shred of truth to it, or is it exaggerated puffery, on the level of a Fleet Street tabloid? Join me, after the jump, and we'll take a look.

The two points that are highlighted in this story. First, "Young interests Tottenham and Liverpool." Second, "Milner poised to join Manchester City." Somewhat alarming, no? The first is something we haven't heard in a while, and the second seems to frame a rumour we've been hearing all summer as a foregone inevitability. But actually read the article, and everything seems to be a little less certain.

 

James mentions that Ash has "caught the eye" of leading Premier League teams over the last two years. Here, I have to take some issue. I'll forgive him for calling Tottenham Hotspur a leading Premier League team, because they can offer Champions League football, which is enough to attract almost any top player. What James doesn't mention is that Spurs aren't exactly hard up for wingers, since they already have Aaron Lennon, David Bentley, and Gareth Bale, not to mention Harry Redknapp's ardent pursuit of ex-Blue Joe Cole.

However, the other two clubs James mentions are Manchester City and Liverpool, two teams that have no more European football to offer than we do. Not to mention that Liverpool actually finished below us last season and are in dire financial straits. Also, while I'm aware that Manchester City could lavish many millions of dollars on squad players, it would be silly to pay the price tag that Martin O'Neill will want for a player of Ashley Young's quality and value if you're not going to give him playing time (which he will doubtlessly want, since he has talked about wanting to be on England's Euro squad.) Arguably, Ashley Young fits into Manchester City's squad even worse than with Spurs. Here's a list of players that Manchester City already owns that tend towards a similar position as Ashley Young: Shaun Wright-Phillips, Adam Johnson, David Silva, Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy, and Vladimir Weiss. Not to mention, as James would have us believe, our very own James Milner. By the way, if you're asking what justification Stuart James has for "Milner poised to join Manchester City," I don't have an answer for you. He only mentions Milner once, by saying that Milner will join Man City if Villa's valuation is met. Truly fantastic analysis, I think you'll agree.

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