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Some Villa players simply don’t deserve a fresh start

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There are guys at Aston Villa who probably should get an opportunity to right the wrongs of last year. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Joleon Lescott aren’t those players.

Aston Villa v Liverpool - Premier League
Joleon Lescott of Aston Villa shows his dejection after the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on February 14, 2016 in Birmingham, England.
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

In truth, we really aren’t all that far off from Aston Villa’s season-opening trip to Sheffield Wednesday: Just 17 days separate the Claret and Blues from their first competitive runout of the year.

And while Roberto Di Matteo has made a good start to his transfer activity with the players coming to Villa Park, aside from José Ángel Crespo, nobody with a contract for the 2016/17 season has left the club. That’s a problem, and make no mistakes about it.

Unfortunately, I sense a growing sentiment around this club that we’re collectively realizing certain players probably aren’t moving. Most of us have our list of five or 10 players we’d love to see moved on at any cost, but at the end of the day, the players need to want to go and people need to want those players. That may or may not happen.

The other sentiment I’ve seen growing is one in favor of giving certain players a “second chance,” which is noble and admiral in theory, but a move that could seriously harm the short- and long-term future of the club if put into place.

Now, there are guys I’d like to see moved on — say, Micah Richards or even Leandro Bacuna — that I can understand keeping in the fold if they stay at the club. At the end of the day, Richards is probably still a pretty good defender who had a terrible year playing out of position (remember how much of a coup we thought that signing was?), while the Championship might be Bacuna’s level. Of course, Leandro has to want to actually apply himself here, which could be tricky, but there’s a certain level of merit to him sticking around.

But while I can see reasons for keeping Richards or Bacuna, for example, in the fold, I can’t possibly fathom why Di Matteo would have others in his plans: namely Gabriel Agbonlahor and Joleon Lescott.

We’ll start with Gabby, who I think most Villa fans still have a pretty sizable sweet spot for. When he was at his prime, he didn’t leave the club (which was ultimately his downfall), and while he was there, he was instrumental to Villa’s pushes at the top end of the table.

That said, how many second chances are we prepared to give the guy? In the past three seasons, Agbonlahor has scored 11 goals in 85 appearances across all competitions. That’s miserable. Yes, I get that “good Gabby” is a really worthwhile player to have around, but we’ve maybe seen that player 10 times over the past three years. By all accounts, he’s been a disruptive force in the dressing room (one reason to move him on) and his work rate was nothing short of pitiful last year in the club’s worst-ever top-flight season. If the club can’t goat some poor souls into buying the man, or if Gabby just doesn’t want to seek a move, Villa are far better off paying him to sit at home, do nothing and never show up to the training ground than they are including him in the squad. He hasn’t been consistently worth a damn in far too long, and falling into the trap that he might, just might, do it this year is dangerous.

As for Lescott, I truly believe he’s the worst signing at Villa in quite some time. I wrote about this in April, but Villa had something really nice brewing in the centre of defence with Jores Okore and Ciaran Clark. They looked good together, and aside from a couple blips, really aided in the survival effort in 2014/15 when deployed as a tandem.

But in Lescott, Villa signed a 33-year-old, no-talent hack who inexplicably made 30 Premier League appearances for Villa last season — and that’s despite him not joining the club until after matchday 4. Lescott joined the club, Villa lost seven straight, and as they say, the rest is history.

Oh, right. Except for that.

As you may recall, after Villa’s embarrassing 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool, Joleon Lescott tweeted a picture of his expensive car. You know, because why the hell would he care about putting on for the club he supposedly supported as a boy? I wanted him sacked that very night, and it wasn’t until he continually remained in the XI that I wanted to see Rémi Garde shown the door. Not to mention that his inclusion after the club’s relegation was confirmed made Eric Black my least-favourite Villa manager, well, ever. Yes, that includes you, Alex McLeish.

And (sorry for the incoming caps lock crisis), THE TWEET IS STILL UP, MORE THAN FIVE MONTHS LATER. Typically, when people typically apologize for screwing something up, they have the decency to, I don’t know, delete the tweet that forced the apology? To suggest that, well, their apology might actually be sincere?

But no, Lescott wasn’t sorry for sending that tweet in February, wasn’t sorry for sending it April when relegation was confirmed and sure as hell isn’t sorry for it today. There’s being a modern football “mercenary,” as so many decry most players today, and there’s being a complete and total asswipe. Most are the former. Lescott is the latter.

Look, I get that August is a new dawn for this club, under a new owner, a new manager and in a new league. Hell, I’d even argue that Villa’s not a less talented team than Norwich City, Sunderland or even AFC Bournemouth, teams that finished ahead of them last year.

But to argue that Agbonlahor and Lescott deserve another chance to make this thing right? Quite frankly, it’s ludicrous. The amount of damage those two did last season is shocking, and the amount of damage they could do to the club this year is even greater.

So, no. Not everyone who’s still here in 17 days “deserves a fresh start.” Not when the stakes are this high.