On the last day of last summer's transfer window, Paul Lambert brought in a relatively unknown midfielder from Crewe Alexandra for a low fee and presumably on cheap wages. Most of us didn't really know too much about Ashley Westwood then, but in retrospect his signing was a signature move for the new Villa manager. He fit all of the characteristics that we've now come to expect from a Lambert signing: young, cheap, "unproven," and skilled.
Nearly a year later, after a season that saw him emerge as Aston Villa's best and most consistent midfielder, Westwood has put pen to a new four-year contract that will keep him with the club through the 2016-17 season. At the end of that term, Westwood will still only be 27 years old. After signing the new contract, Westwood touched on what Lambert is doing in Birmingham:
"I love being here and I'm delighted to be part of a great football club. You look at the players the manager has brought to the Club and they're all young and hungry. I just want to be part of that and hopefully we're building something special here."
Westwood will enter the 2013-14 season as a player who will likely start every match he is fit for. In our end-of-season reviews, we had this to say about the midfielder:
Westwood was never able to find the back of the net himself, but the weird thing is it never felt as if he were trying. He is, in every sense, a playmaker. In 28 league appearances he managed six assists and seemed equally comfortable playing up the middle and the sides.
And if you want a further reminder of what makes Westwood so much fun to watch, here's one of the best through-passes you're likely to see for a while:
Lambert has made a few moves this summer about which we can all be excited. But it's great to see him locking down his earlier successes too. Here's hoping this is just the beginning of a long partnership between Westwood and the club.