BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: Stewart Downing of Aston Villa celebrates with Robert Pires after hatching a vile plan to get the hell out of Birmingham...together. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Almost everyone agrees that the Robert Pires signing was a complete and total failure. Apparently even the man himself feels that way only for very different reasons from the rest of us. Yes, it appears that Sideshow Bob feels disrespected and felt he deserved more playing time than he got. We can never know exactly what the conversation was like between Robert and Aston Villa when they decided to bring him in but my guess is something was lost in translation. When one considers that both Pires and Gerard Houllier are both Frenchmen, it seems hard to believe that it wasn’t anything other than an egotistical Pires thinking he still had something that his old age has clearly taken from him.
Alas, here we are hearing about how unhappy and abused Bobby P. felt after a difficult season which quite frankly ended on just about the highest note anyone could have hoped for. The good ship Villa was somehow guided to a top ten finish (despite all of the turmoil that I will not be revisiting) and had the intense pleasure of witnessing its greatest rival face the relegation guillotine.
Unfortunately, Sideshow Bob decided to take this time to make things all about him. It should have been abundantly clear to him that at his advanced age and obvious decline in skill that his days as a full time Premier League player are over. In fact, most of us would argue that they have long been over and the signing didn’t really make sense at the time it occurred. Frankly, it stunk of a move one would make in Football Manager with a newly promoted side in order to stabilize a team and bring in experience to help a young squad fight for survival.
Sure, Aston Villa was embroiled in a relegation fight for most of the winter and spring but Pires could only have been brought on for one reason: either to show our young midfielders some tricks of the trade that he’d learned while starring for Arsenal or to come in and play on a regular basis because the talent evaluators had decided he still had something left in the tank - but not both. And yet Pires was consistently named in the squad match in and match out while being used only sparingly. Judging from his most recent flap as well as earlier comments where Pires supposedly "lifted the lid" on Villa’s internal strife, to the way that promising young players in Bannan and Hogg were loaned out, I wouldn’t think there was much mentoring coming from the Frenchman. In fact, you’d be hard served to convince me he wasn’t most often found sitting in his locker room stall with his danglers drooping out from his way-too-short shorts brooding about his lack of joie de vivre while trying to keep his hair off his face.
So we know that Pires has a me-first attitude based on the numerous complaints emanating from his word hole – but something we also know is that he’s an unreliable source at best. Just a couple of weeks ago, Pires decided to start his own rumor by stating ex-teammate and fellow countryman Thierry Henry had made an overture for him to come play for the New York Red Bulls. Not only is that insulting for the Red Bulls, who I would guess have umpteen options better than Robert Pires, but it was a damned lie. Henry not only admitted he hadn’t spoken to Pires but even mentioned that he needs to start acting like a grown man. Well played, Thierry.
When we look back on the worthless time that Robert Pires was under contract at Aston Villa we’ll remember his idiotic comments, his lack of a worthwhile contribution of any kind and the way management continually placed him in the squad in favor of younger, much more promising talent. One argument I’ve seen many times over the course of the season is that once it became clear that Villa wasn’t going to challenge for Europe they should have taken the opportunity to serve their youth. As I mentioned earlier, Pires could have been a huge boost in training for our younger players. We could have laughed and tagged him with a fun nickname like The Professor. We could have watched Barry Bannan and Marc Albrighton send in perfectly placed long balls and remarked how class was in session thanks to The Professor. Instead, he expected to play a much more important role on the pitch and was essentially stuck in limbo.
After a glorious (by this season’s standards) final two weeks which saw the club beat perennial contenders Arsenal and Liverpool, Villa fans should be ready to move on to an exciting off season where the club can rebuild around their stars. Instead, we’re stuck wondering where Robert Pires gets off complaining about his wasted time spent in Birmingham as if this entire season had been about him all along. Without him yammering on about what he deserves he’d be a mere footnote in Villa history. As Kirsten mentioned earlier, the best thing anyone can say about his time at Villa was that he didn’t score any own goals. He’s slow, old and bad. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention he had a very good game in the 4-1 victory over Blackburn – but it was Blackburn. At this point in his life, Pires clearly needs a friend who isn’t afraid to tell him the ugly truth: you’re done, Bob. It’s time to start investing. And get a haircut for Christ’s sake.