In recent history Aston Villa is a football club that has held a proud tradition of hosting strong, influential, committed and charismatic central defenders, which went on to achieve legendary status amongst the clubs loyal following. Paul McGrath, Ugo Ehiogu, Gareth Southgate and Martin Laursen are four such examples.
More recently Richard Dunne has flirted with that illustrious tag, and new signing Ron Vlaar fit’s the physical mould but, it is far too early to call how pronounced he will last in Villa fans memories. There is however still a man out there that holds such a status, a man that could still feasibly come back to save Aston Villa. His name is Olof Mellberg.
Villa’s young defence has been nothing short of a disgrace this season. If it wasn’t chronologically impossible, some could have been forgiven for thinking that Pete Doherty must have named his post Libertines project, ‘Baby Shambles,’ after watching Villa’s defence in action. There’s a gaping hole presenting itself that a man of Mellberg’s calibre would fit snugly.
It was John Gregory that bought the Swedish man mountain to the club in 2001. Mellberg went on to play 232 times for the club, over 8 years, winning the hearts of Villa fans (gay or straight) along the way. His performances were all about brute power, grit, leadership, aerial dominance, snarling passion, and above all else, a huge love for the club. No better summed up than on his final game for Villa away to West Ham in 2008. As a leaving gift, Mellberg gave every single Villa fan, which had made the journey to Upton Park, a replica shirt with his name and number on the back and a message that read, ‘Thanks 4 Your Support.’ It was a magnanimously emotional gesture that Villa fans will never forget.
After going on to play for Juventus and Olympiacos, Mellberg now plays for Villarreal in Spain’s second tier. At 35 years old some may argue that he is too old for a return to the Premiership, to those that do think that I politely return ‘bollocks.’ It was only during the European Championship’s last summer that Mellberg scored against England and picked up the Man-of-the-Match award.
As a Villa fan fearful of what might be I strongly urge Paul Lambert to bring Olof Mellberg back to Villa Park. Lambert would have absolutely nothing to lose. Considering Mellberg’s age and ‘Spanish Division Two’ status surely some kind of deal could be brokered cheaply. Mellberg would no doubt, and probably quite literally, give his soul to save the club he loves. If it was a deal lasting only until the end of the season, Mellberg as a player, or simply a voice in the dressing room, would be invaluable to Villa’s young side. Bringing such an adored legend back to the club, and one that most importantly could still do a great job, would give the fan’s a huge lift. It would be a move that almost single-handedly would relieve Lambert of a monumental amount of pressure.
But taking some of the strain off Lambert is not the main point here. Villa need experience. Villa need passion. Villa need fight. Villa need leadership. Villa need hope. Villa need quality. Villa need someone that can defend. Villa need a man willing to put his body on the line. Villa need a player that strikes fear and discomfort into the eyes of opposing forwards. When Mellberg sports a beard he looks uncannily like a Viking. He looks like he eats babies. That’s what Villa need.
Villa fans, would you welcome Olof Mellberg back? If so pass this article around, together we can make it happen…
image: © mollyig