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Villa must learn from Delph loss by locking up Clark

Ciaran Clark’s career has followed a similar arc to Fabian Delph’s. The club can’t make the same mistake twice.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

In the last 24 hours, we’ve been talking a lot about a guy who, for years, never showed his potential at the club, and with his contract starting to wind down, had a breakout season, finally becoming what we all hoped he’d be.

Of course, we’re talking about Fabian Delph, who completed a move to Manchester City. After four years of injury struggles and mediocrity when he did see the pitch, Delph finally broke through in a big way in the 2013-14 campaign, turning in his best one yet en route to becoming a very influential player for the club.

We all know the story though; Villa botched the contract situation about as well as you could, before Delph swooped in and signed a new, four-year deal to stay at the club; however, he left himself a low buyout clause, letting him move to a larger club if they were in for him.

At the end of the day, it became a compromise that had to be reached; Delph wanted the club to get something in return, but wanted the flexibility to move. He had all the power, and thus, we landed on an £8 million release clause, which City triggered early in the window.

By not taking care of his contract situation when it should have been — no later than July 2014 — the club lost all its leverage, and, quite possibly, a few million quid.

But what if I told you Aston Villa were on the cusp of committing the same, insane error once more?

After years of middling in the squad between injuries and lacklustre play, Ciaran Clark finally showed what we all hoped he would, just as everyone was willing to throw in the towel on the Irish defender’s chances of ever becoming a Villa star. As we head into next season, he may well be the most-influential player returning to the club, and he’ll anchor a back line that looks to be improved.

The only issue?

His contract expires in 12 months.

Villa are sitting in the exact same place with Clark as they were with Delph a year ago, and if Villa fail to act, we may well be having the same sets of discussions next year.

Clark being in Claret and Blue is the perfect place for the player. He’s in Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland plans, is the first-choice centre back when fit, and may well be in line for the club captaincy with Delph’s departure.

But of course, we’d have said the exact same thing about the outgoing midfielder last summer.

This is, all things considered, Tom Fox’s biggest challenge yet.

Between the mismanagement of Delph’s deal and Ron Vlaar leaving for nothing, Villa have likely cost themselves no less than £10 million — and perhaps closer to £20 million — in incoming transfer fees. In the FFP world, that’s huge.

And they can’t afford to let it happen again.

To be fair, there were reports in June that the club were set to hand Clark a new contract, but that it hasn’t been signed three weeks later means there may be something amiss.

Clark is a budding star in this squad, and it’s time for the B6 brass to step up and give him a wage package that shows it. If that’s £50k/week, great. If it’s £60k/week, that’s fine too.

In the grand scheme of things, fretting over £1 million each year on his wage could well cost the club upwards of £10 million in the market if the situation is to turn out like Delph’s did this year.

The club need to show the faith in the defender to make him the offer they deserve. Resist the temptation of including a release clause, or if it’s there, pay him enough to make it enough so that we don’t get drastically undercut.

Get it done, Tom.