Editor's review of 2007

Last updated : 03 January 2008 By Tom Vickers
Martin O'Neill enjoyed his first full year in charge of Villa in 2007 and aren't we glad Randy's revolution brought him to the helm.
O'Neill started last year by dipping into the transfer market to make what has proved to be two key signings.
Ashley Young joined from Watford for nearly £10 million and John Carew was drafted in as a swap for the much lambasted Milan Baros.
Unlike Young, Carew made an instant impression as he consistently powered through Premier League defences who didn't know much about him.
Although Young was the first of the two to score, as Villa lost 3-1 at St James' Park, he made little impression for the rest of the season.
The now England winger, struggled as he was introduced on the right of midield and as we all know now, he plays far better on the left.
A fan who sits in front of me at Villa Park told me to give him time as he believed Young was the next Thierry Henry. He explained that the Frenchman was no good at Arsenal at first but just look at him when he was put in the right position, it all came good.
That fan is on his way to being proven right now as Young has ended the year in fine form and made his way into the full England squad. I assure you it isn't Mystic Meg that I sit behind.
Carew on the other hand, struggled with injuries during 2007 but he has often put in commanding performances when on the pitch. It is surprising just how good the big Norwegian can be.
Back to the team in general. We started the year with only two wins in 10 after suffering a December hangover. The last month of the year always seems to make or mostly break the season as we regularly get tough fixtures.
We were knocked out of the F.A Cup at the third round stage by you know who and were not enjoying season, until it got to April, when we claimed a surprise win at Blackburn, a ground which, during the 90's was not a good destination for Villa.
Goals from Berger and the little known Gabby Agbonlahor won the game and turned the season back round.
We went the remainder of the season unbeaten and even claimed an unusual win at Man City, where we never calim three points.
This showed just how far the team had come. It showed how O'Neill's signings were finally making an impact as both Carew and Maloney scored in that game and it also showed just how good Villa were to become away from home.
We finished the season with a 2-2 draw at the Reebok which left us in a respectable 11th placa overall. Not bad, but better would be expected in the next campaign especially after showing such end of season promise. Also don't forget the Villa faithful expected some more big signings with Randy's dollars.
Those big name buys never really materialised as another summer of disappointment loomed at Villa Park. We only managed to acquire Nigel Reo-Coker (£8.5 million), Scott Carson and Curtis Davies (loan), Marlon Harewood (£4 million) and Zat Knight (£3.5 million).
None of these players seemed like the world beaters we expected to see arrive throught the Claret and Blue gates.
We didn't expect Ronaldinho to samba in but we expected some top Premier League boys to sign.
However, what many won't have realised, except for maybe the guy in front of me at Villa Park, was that heroes would emerge from within the ranks.
Martin Laursen, Gabby Agbonlahor, Thierry Henry... sorry Ashley Young and of course the ever brilliant Gareth Barry have been simply awesome.
Barry has capped a great year, personally, with being named... wait for it....Midlands Player of the Year. That wasn't his main achievement of 2007 though, as he was of couse England's best player in the latter part of their dismal qualifying campaign.
Although McClaren was mauled by the media, he did do one thing right, by bringing Barry to centre stage. He continues to get better for Villa and just oozes class every week.
As good had Barry has been this season, Martin Laursen has been even better. Astounding doesn't begin to describe him.
He has scored important goals and kept them out at the other end. Player of the season so far without a doubt.
The Claret and Blue started the season in disappointing fashion against a tough Liverpool side. The visitors snatched the game with an undeserved goal via Gerrard and it looked like nothing had improved over the summer.
But as the new signings began to bed in and our new stars like Young and Agbonlahor began to repay O'Neill's faith we began to look like a very good side.
A new style of no fear football was put in place and consolidated by an amazing 2-0 victory over Jose Mourinho's Chelsea at Villa Park. It is of course no longer Jose Mourinho's Chelsea and that victory put paid to the Portuguese managers reign in England. He never won at Villa Park, incidentally.
From Chelsea onwards, O'Neill's men marched and apart from a blip in the Carling Cup against Leicester, the Northern Irishman was really showing why many wanted him to manage the national side.
We won all four games in November including a great 2-1 victory over the Blues who we sunk at St Andrews. The second win in the last two visits to their ground. That defeat ended Steve Bruce's long tenure and it seemed like O'Neill was intent on wrecking every other managerial career in the division.
We then beat Middlesbrough and Blackburn with ease, also on the road, and looked unbeatable by December.
However, the smallest squad in the Premiership faced a big month and started it badly with a 2-1 defeat to table-topping Arsenal. It was no disgrace as the Gunners failed to even have a shot in the second half.
It was the next game that was most disappointing as we slumped to a poor 3-1 defeat at Villa Park against Portsmouth.
It looked like winter blues had taken their toll again. But, then we started to turn things around.
A creditable draw a Sunderland was followed by an unfortunate draw against Man City, after we played them off the pitch.
Then that famous game at Stamford Bridge. A 4-4 thriller and my friend, a Chelsea fan, even had to text me to say: "Villa are amazing", because we were against the Blues...again.
That energy sapping draw was followed by an even more exhausting win up at Wigan. The pitch at the JJB was unbelievably bad and restricted our passing game, but we won. We soldiered through the mud as Agbonlahor struck his seventh of the season. Were you watching Mr Capello?
That win was the conclusion, and a fitting one at that, to a transitional 2007. It was fitting because we played poorly in the first half but battled back in the second. Would we have done that under O'Leary? I don't think so.
We showed steel and grit which was shown again against Spurs with another 2-1 win to kick off 2008.
Villa fans will want a place in Europe this season and we are entitled to hope. Villa Park deserves the return of European nights.
Come on Villa!


The Editor