Aston Villa sign Australian international Brett Holman from AZ Alkmaar

Aston Villa have made their first signing for next season with Australian Brett Holman joining from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.

The winger was out of contract in the summer so was allowed to speak to other clubs and the player stated himself that he knew all about Villa’s history and this is why he wanted to join the club. It is a signal of intent from Alex McLeish that he believes that the club will stay in the Premier League or he would not want to sign new players for the new season if he did not know which division they were playing in. Although he is not the biggest name in world football and he may not excite the Villa fans as much as a few other names that are usually thrown around in the summer, Holman is a very consistent player and always chips in with goals and assists.

This season could prove to be his best yet in Holland with him already scoring six goals and contributing another nine assists. He has played in Holland for quite a long time now and was originally brought over by Feyenoord but did not play a game for the club and was loaned out to Excelsior where he finally started to make an impact, although this was in the second tier, he was starting to make a name for himself. He then continued to progress when he joined NEC Nijmegen, scoring 15 goals in the two seasons he was at the club which is pretty good for a winger.

He is currently at AZ Alkmaar and won the league with them in 2009. Every season he has been at the club he has got better and better and they were trying to persuade him to stay for longer but the lure of English football was too strong for him. He also has 53 caps for Australia scoring eight goals.

Holman playing for Australia against Japan

Now the question is will he succeed in England? A lot of the players we see coming from Holland are strikers and they have had a mixed time of playing in English football. Starting with Ruud Van Nistelrooy who was fantastic and in my opinion if he had stayed at Manchester United for the rest of his career would have come close to becoming the all time top scorer in the Premier League. However, there have been some expensive flops, the one that springs to mind the most is Afonso Alves who scored 47 goals in just 39 games for Dutch team Heerenveen. He then joined Middlesbrough and was very poor only scoring 10 league goals in his two years at the club. In his defence when he first signed he did look very promising as he scored six goals in his first 11 league games but then faded away and was very poor afterwards.

Two others that have not exactly failed in England but haven’t exactly hit the heights are Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez. Both were fantastic goal scorers but know Kuyt is seen more as a wide player and gets his fair share from that position but not enough for a striker. Suarez has looked pretty good but yet again has not added the goals to his performances.

So it will be interesting to see how Holman adapts to the Premier League but he may not be the flamboyant player the fans wanted to see and definitely feels like an Alex McLeish signing. Someone that has a high work rate and will try and cover every blade of grass and maybe what Villa need is someone that is going to unlock a defence when the game is tight which has cost them a few times this season.

A round of applause for Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United

Chris O’Grady scored the winner for Sheffield Wednesday in the Steel City Derby but the real winner today was football in general.

I know this doesn’t make sense but every single person in Sheffield should be proud because their two teams were supported fantastically and even though they hate each other, there seemed to be a mutual respect. Both sets of fans were passionate right up until the final whistle and to fill out the stadium is yet another amazing achievement seen as though they are in the third tier of English football, a position neither team should be in at all as they are both far too big for this division.

I was at the game and could see how much the victory meant to every single Wednesday fan as they all sung their heart out for most, if not all of the match, this was not just another game and even the Blades fans that claimed it was knew that they were lying. The derby is the most important game in the season and just the fact you can get one over your rivals means you have to win the game at all costs. Like I said, both sets of fans were amazing and it will be hard to match the passion of them anywhere around the country.

To the game itself and the first half was very even with neither side being able to dominate fully and create many clear cut chances. United had a free kick that hit the bar and bounced down which some people in the Kop were unsure whether it went in. The giveaway to them that it didn’t was the lack of appeal from the players. Other than that there wasn’t much action in the goalmouths but in the middle of the park there was certainly a battle which neither team wanted to lose. Jose Semedo and Chris Lines seemed to be in control but I’m sure that from the other stand, they would say Nick Montgomery and Michael Doyle were controlling the game, this just shows how even it was.

The second half wasn’t much different in the way that there weren’t many clear cut chances but Wednesday were in control and had stepped it up. Or possibly United were happy with a point and sat back? Or maybe Wednesday were so in control that it forced United to play a different way and they couldn’t so a point was the best they could have hoped for. I think this is the most likely as the Blades have played some good football this season but they were just launching hopeless long balls in the second half with most drifting out of play. So, Megson won the tactical battle against Wilson.

Megson’s decision to play Antonio worked out very well as his ball to Buxton was inch perfect and freed the fullback to cross for O’Grady to score the only goal of the game. Hopefully this result will lift Wednesday and make the end of the season enjoyable for the fans as they definitely deserve success.

My final thought is that television companies missed a trick not putting this game on as I don’t think they will ever have the chance again to show the whole country how good League 1 can be and how much the true supporters love their clubs. There are too many glory supporters these days and a game like this may have made them realise who a real football fan is. So both Sheffield clubs deserve a lot of praise for this.

Who will be the next Huddersfield Town manager?

Huddersfield Town have sacked their manager Lee Clark somewhat surprisingly as it looks as though Clark was leading the club into the playoffs again this season. Maybe this wasn’t good enough but I believe that the board have made a strange decision because there are bigger teams in the division this time around and they are all above them. Charlton Athletic, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday are all above the Terriers and these clubs all have recent Premier League history and therefore it is not such a bad thing being behind them.

They may have sacked him because even though they went on that fantastic run, Clark was reluctant to attack and win games and just took the draw which isn’t always a bad thing but they have challenged at the top of League 1 now for years and to finally get them promoted they may need somebody else that is willing to take the risk. Or has he been sacked because he wanted to take the Leeds United job?

But anyway, let’s look at the options they have available to them to replace Clark. Neil Warnock’s name is obviously going to be on tip of everyone’s tongue because he is available and has worked in Yorkshire before and has a fantastic record of getting teams promoted. He has managed at the club before and won promotion through the playoffs in the same tier of English football therefore he knows what is necessary and will know what the fans want at this club. However, at the minute he is linked with a lot of jobs and could probably do a good job at any of them. It will be difficult for Huddersfield to attract him to a job in League 1 but if they could, they would have a fantastic manager on their hands and success would surely follow.

Simon Grayson, the recently sacked Leeds manager is another of the bookies favourites to get the job and like Warnock he has gained promotion from this division before with Blackpool and Leeds so knows exactly what is required to get a team out of this division. He would be a very good choice as manager it is just whether he would want the job because I feel he could get a Championship job if he waits around for one but maybe he wants to get straight back in to football management. But there is a lot of potential at Huddersfield and Grayson is usually pretty good in the loan market and that is usually very important in gaining promotion from League 1.

Finally, I would love to see Billy Davies get back into football management because he has now been out the game for a little while and I think he would enjoy the opportunity to build something at Huddersfield and he would definitely have the chance to do that. He did a very good job at Nottingham Forest and his teams are always challenging at the top of the table and he may give the players that extra boost to finally get them promoted after years of trying. Is he an unrealistic target though?

There is a chance for a manager to do something amazing with Huddersfield Town but will the club be able to attract the best managers to League 1. If they can’t they may have to rethink their ambitions because I cannot see another manager from the lower leagues do a job as well as or even equal to the job Lee Clark has done. They have probably pulled the trigger too quickly and should have waited till the end of the season because they are still in with a very realistic chance of gaining promotion.