DavidG is asking the question of a player who has not achieved the past two seasons the levels he should have.
Recently our attention has naturally focussed on our search for a new manager. This in turn gives rise to intriguing questions regarding the playing staff; what will be the “shape” of the squad once the new manager has got to work? Who will make it, and who won’t? Who’ll go, and who’ll replace them?
Since Martin O’Neill’s controversial walk-out, there’s been an on-going clearout of his “old guard”. The likes of Sidwell, Carew, and Beye are history, and have recently been joined by Heskey and Cuellar. Dunne, Collins and Warnock are all (I think) in the last years of their contracts, and seem likely to leave sooner rather than later.
All this leads me on to one Gabriel Agbonlahor. Gabby’s a slightly different case. He’s one of us, home grown, a self-proclaimed “Villain for Life”. Not an O’Neill signing, rather an O’Neill protege, he burst into the first team like greased lightening, with that electric pace capable of terrifying defences. We hoped that he was the real deal, a future international. But some had doubts, fearing that he was a one-trick pony who lacked a real footballing “brain”. Still, he was a regular on the scoresheet, and appeared to work hard at developing and improving his game. Okay, he wasn’t the new Michael Owen after all, but he was a stalwart, a potential Villa legend in the making.
Then with O’Neill’s departure, the wheels started to fall off for Gabby. Dogged by injuries and loss of form, his confidence and enthusiasm seemed to evaporate. Persistently played out of position, the goals dried up and Gabby seemed to lose his way. Occasional comments suggested the player’s discontent, and his career seemed to have turned into a cul-de-sac.
So where might Gabby go from here? If Lerner finds that “young, vibrant” manager we all crave, can Gabby re-invent himself and find a new lease of life? His history under Houllier and then McLeish may argue against this. Sadly, I think Gabby’s just grown stale, and I fear that we’ve seen the best of him in a Villa shirt. It may be in everybody’s best interest, and most of all Gabby’s, if his thoughts turned to a clean break and a fresh start somewhere else. O’Neill seemed to bring out the best in him,and a possible move to the north-east has been hinted at, so this might suit Gabby nicely.
It would be a wrench to see him go, but all things considered, it might be for the best. I for one would wish him all the very best; at least until he inevitably came back to haunt us!