As Ashley Young publicly states his reluctance to discuss extending his contract until the season has ended, Greg Simkins argues that selling the diminutive forward would be disastrous for Aston Villa.
Despite recording three successive sixth place finishes, a surprisingly large section of Aston Villa fans have expressed disappointment at the ‘Lerner regime’. The American owner (a preamble normally followed by a lengthy critique) has actually been one of the new wave of trans-Atlantic businessman in football to not receive universal condemnation by the British public; Lerner’s apparent reticence to land the club with crippling debt differentiating him from Messrs. Hicks, Gillet and Glazier.
Nevertheless, a marked change in approach by Villa – a renunciation of the big spending adopted by their rivals – has caused disquiet amongst a number of the supporters. As sensible as this decision will undoubtedly prove to be, one does feel a certain amount of empathy for the Villa faithful as they are forced to witness Manchester City purchase their best player each summer.
Lerner’s rather pragmatic acceptance that the financial risk of breaking into the top four outweighs the potential reward is understandable. Nevertheless, he must find a balance between a stoic recognition of Aston Villa’s limitations and the almost limitless ambition of fans. If Ashley Young, arguably the Midlanders’ prize asset was allowed to leave at the end of this campaign, one can only imagine the backlash.
Gerard Houllier’s side are currently perilously poised upon a precipice of sorts; three players away from being both a top four or a bottom ten side – dependent upon whether these are three acquisitions or sales. In Young, Villa have that coveted commodity, a player who is endowed with the natural ability to make things happen.
Young has flourished in his new role just behind the lone striker. He is already well on the way to exorcising the demons of an inauspicious last campaign, a season dogged by a lack of sustained form as he found himself playing second fiddle to James Milner, parked on the wing for the most part. If he is sold, top six finishes may soon be little more than a distant memory.