Oh, Bazza, the love of my life, what to say about you? This season with Aston Villa has not been the best for wee Barry Bannan. With a Scot in as manager and Stephen Ireland on the do-not-call list, Baz must've thought that he'd be handed plenty of first-team starts. Instead, he was stuck playing under a man that couldn't comprehend the dictionary definition of "attack" and felt it was more important to teach lessons than to field a competent team. 10 league starts and 18 substitutions later, Bannan has, quite possibly, managed to go backwards this season.
Ok, maybe not backwards, precisely, as he only had 12 first team appearances in 2010/2011. But for a player from whom we -- or at least, I -- expected so much, this season felt like a letdown. Prior to his late October drink-driving arrest, it looked as though Bannan might be headed toward being a regular starter. After that bout with stupidity, the starts went down, although for some reason, Alex McLeish pulled him out against the big guys, like Chelsea and Manchester United. Good enough to compete against them, not enough for the Boltons of the world.
Yet when he did play, his abilities were obvious, leading to screams of frustration by those of us eager to see him start. Bannan has a superb talent for reading the game and, unlike many Villa players, real skill with the ball at his feet. He can pick out a perfect pass that the other side would rarely think to see coming. He really could be a midfield maestro, if only given a chance.
But if I tried to understand the thinking of McLeish, this post would be 20,000 words long and I'd have to hit the whisky. It's likely our ex just didn't think wee Bazza was a good fit in a team in which the main goal seemed to be preventing goals by breaking legs. The question now is, will he fit in Paul Lambert's new vision of the squad?
One of the traits most heralded about Lambert is his ability to get the best out of every player, so at the very least, he should be playing Bannan in a role most suited to his style. That's not on the left, despite what other managers may have thought. He should be starting centrally and able to direct play. The major problem with this sort of thinking is that Villa also have Stephen Ireland, who was finally starting to give glimpses of his talent in the second half of last season. It seems unlikely that Ireland will be bypassed for Bannan, so the Scot will either have to get used to the bench once again, get pushed out wide, or find a home with another club.
Which, of course, makes me sadder than words can express.