By Graham Hill
VILLA’S decision to release Glenn Whelan – despite playing a key role in the club’s Play-off success – has been questioned by some fans.
The former Stoke midfielder is currently considered good enough to play for the Republic of Ireland and was tipped by manager Mick McCarthy to a job in the Premier League for Villa.
Whelan has also had an impressive season – save the odd slip up here and there – and has challenged Conor Hourihane for his place in the Villa line-up.
But the 35-year-old, like so many of the players released since the club’s promotion, does not fit into the age range Dean Smith clearly wants for the core of the his squad
Mile Jedinak, Alan Hutton, Tommy Elphick, Albert Adomah, Glenn Whelan, Ritchie De Laet, Mark Bunn and Micah Richards.
And there are names there who some sections of the Villa support believe should have been given another season at least because of the experience they bring.
Many thought Whelan would be among those to stay.
With eight names on their way, it can only mean Smith is ready to rebuild his squad.
But, in reality, three of those names were nowhere near the first team squad.
And Micah Richards’s controversial Villa spell finally ended when his big money contract came to an end after four injury hit years – during which time he made just 29 starts.
Keeper Mark Bunn and full-back Richie de Last are clearly surplus to requirements.
Once promotion was won, there was every likelihood that Jedinak, Adomah, Hutton and Elphick would be allowed to leave.
But there was that one nagging question over Whelan who have everything during the last third of the season when Villa staged their Play-off charge.
He became another of the fans’ favourites and some felt he should have been handed a one-year extension at least.
But this is a new era at Villa Park. Smith knows the squad he wants and it is doubtful many players over 30 will be signed – Gary Cahill being the obvious exception.
And with money burning a hole in owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris’s pockets, there is little room for sentiment with the Premier League waiting for Villa’s return.