What Can Villa Do Next?
What a mind blowing 2010/2011 season it was for Aston Villa supporters. Club favourite, Martin O'Neill first left in the summer having failed to get the backing he wanted from the board. Then when the players learned that his replacement would be Gerard Houllier, they revolted. Following this, Houllier offered to resign and his resignation was accepted. The club was left in limbo until Mick Clince, a young manager with a great reputation from his short time in the Championship in charge of Cardiff, threw his name into the hat.
Clince had coached under Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford and been highly recommended by him. The Villa board decided to go for the young man, seeing him as quite the opposite to Houllier. Houllier had been taken out of retirement by the club, but here they were giving a manager a shot, who had just come into his own, 2 years into his management career.
It was presumed after his appointment, that Clince would be given a few years to put together a team that would get to know each other well, as well as himself. Clince moved quickly to disperse these murmurs however, hinting that he was hoping to emulate the success of O'Neill at an early stage.
Over the summer, Clince spent and brought in a lot of money through transfers. It became clear that the Villa board had retracted their position on the finances they were prepared to put into the club. The new manager had obviously made quite an impression on them, or were they just hoping to hold off a backlash from supporters? Either way Clince ended up with a squad full of recognised talent.
The Villa Squad Following The Summer Transfer Window
With a squad of new talents such as Rodwell, Radu, Teixeira etc. Much was now expected of Villa from the off. Clince tried to take the pressure off his young starlets by frequently mentioning the likes of Dunne and Petrov as being crucial to the outcome of the new season.
Up to the Christmas period Clince's men were inconsistent. At times they shipped 3 or 4 goals, other times they were amazing, playing beautiful football. One player who did consistently perform though was Gabby Agbonlahor, who was frequently on the score sheet, usually playing as a lone striker. The 9th place that they were occupying heading into the new year however was worrying Villa fans.
In January, Clince again delved into the market,. Aaron Ramsey, Bernardo and Stephen Kelly all joined on loan and a new number 1 arrived in the form of Guillermo Ochoa.
Brad Friedel had been having a bad season and the right back slot had been rotated between centre back Davies and Luke Young who was well short on form.
By the end of the season Clince's team had turned everything around. Having managed to stay in the League Cup throughout the season, Villa went on win it this time around, making up for the disappointment of the previous season, where Man United had controversially beaten them. In the league their form saw them rise swiftly up the table and they eventually finished 5th, their best result in 14 years. In Europe however they faultered against Stuttgart at the quarter final stage. Overall Villas season and appointment of Clince was classed as a huge success, especially considering the youth of the team and manager. Guillermo Ochoa was credited for keeping the defense well organised following his arrival in January and the rest of the squad were widely complemented on their grit and determination to see the club rise so well in the second half of the season.
Undoubtedly Villa's Player of the Season was Gabby Agbonlahor, scoring 39 goals from 44 starts. No doubt Villa fans will be hoping that this is a sign of things to come from a player who has always been seen to have great potential.
Can Villa improve on their 2010/2011 season? Follow our in depth coverage of their 2011/2012 season to find out.