This is a summer of uncertainty for Aston Villa. The fans, the manager, the support staff and just about everyone else will be focussed on the outcome of a potential takeover. It is crucial to remember that the club has to continue to function properly, no matter what the outcome. If anyone has a right to be anxious about what the future could bring, it is the players and particularly those with expiring contracts. There are a number of contract situations that must be addressed in the near future to prevent a complicated summer becoming even more difficult.
Out of contract 2014
Marc Albrighton, Gary Gardner, Nathan Delfouneso, Callum Robinson and Janoi Donacien.
Out of contract 2015
Gabby Agbonlahor, Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph, Karim El Ahmadi, Alan Hutton, Chris Herd, Jordan Bowery, Darren Bent, Enda Stevens, Jack Grealish and Samir Carruthers.
A quick glance and you can see there are 5 regular starters, including some of our best players. You will also see some of our best young prospects. In fact almost all of the reserve side are out of contract in 2014 or 2015. We have to consider that even if rich new owners come in this summer they will not be able to replace the whole squad immediately. We must retain our important players and the players with potential. With that in mind, this is my suggestion to whoever is in charge over the next couple of months:
Sign: Albrighton, Agbonlahor, Vlaar, Delph, Robinson, Donacien and Grealish. Give them new contracts as soon as possible. Give Gardner one last chance, a 1-year deal to prove he can make it at Villa, if nothing else for the fans who desperately want to see him succeed.
Don’t offer new deals: El Ahmadi, Carruthers and Bowery. We can afford to wait and see how the situation develops for these players. We might need El Ahmadi and Bowery next season, but are they really players we want to sign on for the next 3 years? I don’t think so. As for Carruthers, he has talent but hasn’t really shown enough in recent times to suggest he will break into the first team. It would be best to wait and see how he recovers from a long-term injury picked up at MK Dons before committing to keep him beyond the end of next season.
Look to sell: Hutton, Stevens, Herd and Bent. Even if Bent and Hutton might be able to offer the current squad a little experience, they haven’t done anything in the last couple of years to suggest they will add quality. Their wages could be invested far more wisely. Stevens is simply not good enough, as evidenced by his failure to hold down a starting place for Doncaster. Herd’s problems off the field and lack of ability on it make him more trouble than he is worth, with little scope for significant improvement at 25 years old.
Release: Delfouneso. A goals per game ratio of 0.13 in the Championship and League 1 is simply not good enough. Sadly, he looks unlikely to fulfil the potential shown under Martin O'Neill and at 23 it’s time to let him go.
There are encouraging signs that Villa have already begun to address these issues. Robinson has already been speaking to the press about his desire to sign on. News broke last night that Gardner is mulling over an extension. In the last few days we have seen rumours that new deals will be offered or may have already been offered to Agbonlahor, Vlaar and Delph. This all suggests that someone behind the scenes is planning ahead, though I advise that they make a deal for Albrighton the main priority, with speculation gathering that he could sign elsewhere.