Aston Villa: 5 Reasons to Be Optimistic in 2013
Proud history, bright future.
It's a phrase commonly thrown around by Aston Villa fans, but not since the Martin O'Neill era has it been uttered with any semblance of consistency.
Despite a rocky start, support is firmly behind the Paul Lambert regime as his long-term plan kicks into second gear. Here are five reasons to be optimistic if you're a Villan heading into the new year.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Aston Villa chairman Randy Lerner has invested in a project with Paul Lambert.
It's slightly more exciting than the project he and Alex McLeish undertook together—commonly known as slash the wage bill—and looks exclusively to the future to build a competitive team at a reasonable cost.
It's the youngest team in the English Premier League and it consistently puts in competitive performances. They're tough to beat and never give up.
B6 is full of players with the right attitudes again.
Shed the Deadwood
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
The year 2013 will almost certainly see Aston Villa eject the last of the deadwood left over from calamitous managerial reigns.
You've got Alan Hutton, Stephen Warnock and Richard Dunne—three players who eat up over £120,000 per week on the wage bill—either injured, uncommitted or unwanted.
Two of those are set to become free agents in the summer while one is well aware he has no future at Villa Park (via BirminghamMail.co.uk).
Randy Lerner won't receive much in the way of a reimbursement for these players, but shifting the heavy wages will be ideal for a club in rebuilding mode.
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Of the purchases Paul Lambert has made so far in his Aston Villa career, almost every player is set to improve exponentially over the next 12 months.
Ashley Westwood—Villa's Michael Carrick if you will—is growing week on week, Matthew Lowton is proving consistently trustworthy and Ciaran Clark looks a future Lions captain.
Barry Bannan and Fabian Delph are getting their fair chance in midfield, while Joe Bennett, Enda Stevens and Eric Lichaj all vie for the left-back spot.
It was ropey to start with, but it's getting a lot better. The 0-0 draw at home to Stoke may not have been the right result, but it was a pinnacle performance and an important confidence booster for the kids.
Beware the Belgian Beast
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Christian Benteke is also a future star, but he's so impressive he gets his very own section.
The Belgian targetman has been nothing less than spectacular since his high-profile move from Genk, transforming the style and tendencies of a young Aston Villa team.
He's outmuscled Sean Morrison, humiliated Chris Smalling, dazzled Ashley Williams and battered Swindon Town.
Benteke will be one of two things for Villa—a club legend or a £25 million sale.
The Right Man Is in Charge
Christopher Lee/Getty Images
When you hire a new manager, there's plenty to consider.
Gerard Houllier, the man hired after Martin O'Neill's resignation just days before the start of the new season, was never going to be a long-term solution considering his age and health.
Paul Lambert, on the other hand, is 43 years of age and hungry for the game. He's building a team in his image—young, hungry, fearless and determined.
The same stability under MON can feasibly be expected under Lambert, and it's the consistency that's so desperately needed at Villa Park.