Lock Up Your Stars. It's Big, Bad Manchester City
Good grief. From liddle ciddy to the big bad wolf of English football inside a couple of years! In a bizarre outburst, Aston Villa's chairman accuses The Blues...
...of violating rules, no less. The rules we think Randy Lerner's gone into one about under shrieking Das Daily Mail headlines this Sunday appear to be to do with making a repeat bid for a club's player. Some kind of unwritten gentleman's agreement or does a hard and fast rule exist? The player in question being The Villans' England International James Milner.
'Big, bad Manchester City came along and asked for Milner and we said, 'No, he is not for sale.'...under the rules you have to respect that. And Manchester City respected that for two whole days. And then they violated the rules and came in for him again.'
Outside of comments made in previous weeks by Martin O'Neill and Roberto Mancini regarding Milner, a couple of facts are clear.
I'd 'wager' (sic) that the vast majority of football fans haven't got a clue what goes on amid agents, players, boardrooms, banks and lawyers in this stratospherically salaried era, but we've an idea it's all a far cry from being holier than thou.
Secondly, Randy has only been in English Football for four years. Roughly the time it took for the departed O'Neill to establish Villa as a top flight force for him. So there's a strong chance that when Lerner's players became famous under O'Neill's guidance, other football clubs would pursue them, so maybe Randy shouldn't be so shocked by repeat bids.
He does hint at a confused state of mind by then saying:
'Who knows if Milner is going to go? Kevin MacDonald just came up to me and said, 'Ask for more money.'
So does he want City's money or not? Blues know precisely what it is like to be a selling club. When offers come in that you cannot refuse. Stuart Pearce, for all his touchline jestering kept City in the Premier League a few seasons ago on an incredibly tight budget and thanks to the sale of the then livewire Shaun Wright-Phillips to Chelsea, our stay in the top flight since 2002 was just about preserved.
Randy Lerner is obviously intent on ensuring that Villa are not perceived in that light, even though everybody in the game knows that they operate on a different planet to the stoney broke City of 2006:
'We are not a selling club. A selling club is when you let it be known that you want to sell a player, through an agent or whatever. That didn't happen with Gareth Barry and it didn't happen with James Milner either. As for Ashley Young, he was never going.'
I suppose the answer is then, don't sell!
Milner looked happy enough at Villa Park against West Ham after a brutally jaded World Cup and if a recent VMC Forum poll is anything to go by City fans aren't that bothered if he signs for us or not:
Time to pull the plug on Milner?
Pull the plug: 75%
Wait and see: 25%
Do what it takes to sign him: 0%
So there you have it Randy. Kevin MacDonald, by your own admission thinks somewhat differently. Blackburn relished Mark Hughes' dementedly obsessive repeat bids for Roque Santa Cruz last year and now it's possible you'll be getting Stephen Ireland into the proposed Milner bargain.
That said, were City to 'Walk Away Renée,' I don't think too many City fans would be that arsed.
Yet above all else the Villa Chairman's words today serve to confirm that 'big, bad City' have rocked Premier League boardrooms to their foundations.