It wasn’t too long ago that the greatest threat to ‘big fours’ monopoly on the Premier League came from the likes of Aston Villa and Everton. Both sides had gifted managers, acquired some great players for nominal fees and they really got the fans believing. How times have changed. The emergence of Manchester City and Tottenham have not only blown the title race wide open, but also the likes of Villa and Everton out of the water as far as competing for trophies is concerned.
Whilst watching the Tottenham Chelsea game at the weekend, a friend of mine, who is a Villa fan, confessed to his newly found hatred of Spurs which is all a result of jealously. A couple of seasons ago, many predicted big things from Martin O’Neill’s side, they even made the League Cup final last season. But that all seems a distant memory if you compare it to where the club stand today. Through little fault of their own, they have been pushed aside by clubs with more financial clout and find themselves in a position where their best players become poached; drawn to bigger clubs with the attraction of European football and massive pay increases. Just look at Gareth Barry and James Milner.
Even more frustrating for Villa fans is that, with the new wave of youngsters coming through, the added experience and quality of the likes of Milner and Barry could have really have brought something special to Villa Park. But now instead of worrying if their side really do have enough in them to push for a place in the top four, the biggest concern has to be which next best thing to come out of the Villa academy is going to end up at City?
Similarly, Everton have found themselves unable to continue to punch above their weight as clubs who surround them, or used to, have now improved beyond the capabilities of the Merseyside club. In their defence, chairman Bill Kenwright has been trying to sell for a long time as he knew he could no longer rival the finances of the teams they are trying to match, but unfortunately, his noble quest to find the right man for the club has left Everton falling further behind.
David Moyes has unquestionable done a remarkable job with little resources. His ability to spot a star player from the lower leagues has enabled him to build the foundations of a good side. But a good side is no longer good enough. Everton have also recently found themselves suffering from the same cruel occupational hazard Villa have done. Remember Joleon Lescott?
Both teams currently sit next to each other in the Premier League in unfamiliarly low places. Everton are hovering two points above the drop zone in 15th whilst Villa are a further two in front in 14th. Obviously misleading as neither side should finish in the bottom half of the table, they have too much quality for that, but as we approach the half way stage of the season, it does point to an alarmingly disappointing fall from grace.
Whilst you consider their current standings, take a think back to the game at Villa Park between the two sides in April of last year. It finished 3-3, to the disappointment of both sides, as they were both still in the hunt of a fourth place finish. Also worth a mention – James Milner won the man of the match award for a stunning midfield display. Go back even further to the epic encounter in 2008 where Ashley Young scored a dramatic winner with seconds to go in a 3-2 win at Goodison Park. These games proved the quality of both sides and announced them to stage of the Premier League’s big guns.
Fast-forward to the present day and fans of both sides have massive causes for concern. If history repeats itself and more exciting young players decide to up-sticks and leave to pursue dreams of playing Champions League football, the days of Everton and Aston Villa as successful clubs could be over before it got going.