“Villa have what it takes for promotion” says Matt Lynch
It’s the start of a new season, and it’s time for Aston Villa to step foot in to unfamiliar territory.
Up until this season they had been one of the Premier League’s few ever-present clubs, alongside the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea, but following last season’s horror show they now face a much tougher challenge – regaining their Premier League status.
For one Villa fan, it had been a long time coming.
“When we lost O’Neill, just before the opening game of the season in 2010, it was always going to be a tough ask to replace him.
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“It was much deeper than that though – Lerner was scarred deeply by the amount he had spent without a real return, in terms of Champions League football.
“That compiled to Lerner essentially stripping our assets year by year. We were making losses left, right and centre and we never truly got over losing Martin. Lerner should have done something to consolidate what O’Neill had done, but he never did, and he simply seemed to lose his desire and heart for the club.”
The American finally sold the club at the end of the 2015/16 season to Chinese businessman Dr. Tony Xia, who is slowly but surely filling the Villa faithful with optimism, which started with the appointment of former Chelsea boss Roberto di Matteo.
“He’s impressed me a lot,” said Lynch, “his honesty passes anything I’ve ever seen in an owner.”
The new owner has revealed plans to add a whole array of sports clubs to his business portfolio, as well as extending the Aston Villa brand worldwide, but given that this is Xia’s first sporting venture, Matt did have his reservations.
“I have a small concern, but I’d have that with whoever was at the helm. So far he’s impressed me, although his Twitter antics do concern me too!”
Matt also spoke about his expectations of the club this season. With fellow former Premier League side Newcastle being favourites to win the Championship, Lynch said the Villans said target the play-offs “at minimum.”
“I think we certainly have what it takes [to get promoted], but I’m not going to underestimate or belittle any side. I do not think there is a tougher league in the world than this one.”
While a number of players have left Villa Park, including Idrissa Gueye to Everton and Ciaran Clark to Newcastle, Villa have had a reasonably successful transfer window, with the signings of highly-rated youngsters Pierluigi Gollini (from Hellas Verona) and Ross McCormack (from Fulham) being seen as positive additions.
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“Signing McCormack is definitely a statement of intent,” said Matt, “it’s superb business. £12 million is nothing if his goals fire you in to a top six finish.”
New owner Xia has also taken to Twitter to insist that fan-favourite Jordy Ayew will be staying at the club, despite a number of reports suggesting he’s looking for a move elsewhere.
As I said before, Ayew will stay! No more clauses! https://t.co/qNOQA4vkJE
— Dr. Tony Xia (@Dr_TonyXia) August 4, 2016
Meanwhile Villa’s first hurdle in their bid to achieve top flight status is an away trip to Sheffield Wednesday, who faltered in the play-off final last season.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Barry Bannan come up against old foes, but also how Gary Gardner performs given that he’s had so many chances in a Villa shirt already,” said Lynch.
With a Champions League winning manager on the sidelines, Villa have every chance of reaching the Premier League at the first time of asking and regaining their rightful spot at England’s top table.
Matt’s prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 1 – 1 Aston Villa
My prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 0 – 2 Aston Villa