As an Australian Aston Villa fan there are two teams very close to my heart, Aston Villa and the Socceroos. The two teams at this point in time have the complete opposite problem, Villa is too young, the Socceroos are too old. Paul Lambert has looked to bring in young, hungry players which he can mold into a team to take Villa forward, but in the process has removed most of the experienced (though underperforming and overpaid) players from the club. Holger Osieck meanwhile is still reliant on the same Socceroos team that played in the 2006 World Cup and has been reluctant to expose the next generation of Australian players to international football.
Over recent months however, Osieck has begun to introduce younger players into the squad, and while the starting eleven with still be very similar to those who watched Australia in Germany, increasingly the substitutes have been getting younger and performing well when getting their chance. This has lead to some people declaring its time to remove the old guard and allow the youngsters to play, something as a Villa fan sounds very familiar.
Ahead of the friendly against Romania, one of the younger Socceroos, Ryan McGowan, responded to this idea an interview, “You can’t just chuck youngsters in all together. Our job is to be there and to let the more experienced boys know that if they slip up then we’ll be looking to try and take their positions. At the same time we learn a lot off them. We pick their brains all the time and they provide invaluable knowledge on the ins and outs of international football”.
This outlines where Lambert has made his mistake at Villa. While Lambert has a wealth of experience from his playing days to pass along to his young players, as their boss the interaction and responses from him are going to be different then they would be from a fellow teammate. The majority of the players in the Villa team would not remember Lambert winning the Champions League in 1997, the game likely finished past their bedtime. The young Villa players are learning on the job with no-one to guide them on the field, no-one they can relate to giving them advice.
Osieck, however slowly, does seem to be beginning to bring through the youngsters who are able to learn off the senior players and benefit from their experience. The Socceroos are in danger of losing a lot of experienced players at once after the 2014 World Cup without blooding their replacements to avoid a drop-off in performance and results. With the younger players in the team the Socceroos can play at a higher tempo and look like a better team. Consistency of the performances and trust in the younger players seems to be an issue for Osieck. How many of the youngsters will be starting in Brazil, if any, will be the big question for Australian fans over the next year. Lambert on the other hand, has missed his last opportunity to bring in some experience to the squad with the transfer window now closed and has ostracized the experienced players he did have at his disposal at Villa Park. Richard Dune is close to a return from injury, hopefully he will be welcomed back into the first team and will be able to lead the team to safety. The Villa youngsters, like the young Socceroos, have the ability to play good football at a high tempo but consistency is the issue and something that will come from experience, something older players provide.
Villa has a talented group of youngsters who are crying out for someone to lead them through the tough spells in a game, the Socceroos have a group of experienced pros crying out for some youthful exuberance. If Osieck and Lambert could somehow find a happy medium both teams would benefit greatly.