Aston Villa clearly did not realise what a talent they had on their hands when they let Daniel Johnson leave for Preston North End in 2015.
Since Aston Villa were relegated to the Championship in 2016, they have stocked up their midfield with some of the biggest names in second tier football.
Mile Jedinak, Conor Hourihane, Henri Lansbury and recent loan signing Robert Snodgrass have shone at this level before and, on paper, no team in the league can match Villa’s midfield in terms of reputation or individual quality. However, a record of just two wins in eight Championship games this season, following on from the 13th placed finish in 2016/17, is a firm reminder that football is not played on paper.
And while Jedinak has proven influential in the centre of the park and Snodgrass should be a real source of much-needed creativity, January signings Lansbury and Hourihane are yet to find their best form on a consistent basis in claret and blue.
Meanwhile, a player Villa sold for just £50,000 is thriving at a Championship rival. Preston North End’s Daniel Johnson is perhaps one of the league’s most underrated midfielders – and it’s fair to see Villa did not spot his true value when letting him go for peanuts.
The Jamaican-born playmaker had not even made his senior debut for Villa when they sold him to Preston for pocket change back in January 2015, as reported by The Mirror, and his consistently impressive displays for The Lilywhites continue to make that decision look ever more baffling.
Johnson scored and ran the show as Preston ended Harry Redknapp’s brief Birmingham City tenure with a 3-1 win at St Andrews on Saturday, guiding the high-flying Lancashire club to fourth in the Championship table.
While Villa’s expensively assembled squad underachieve, Preston’s do the opposite thanks largely to a player the Midland giants let go for next to nothing.