A few years ago, Aston Villa and Everton were equals. Matt Turvey looks at the gap between the two teams ahead of their game this weekend.
As Aston Villa face Everton this weekend, Gareth Barry will return to Villa Park for the second team since his departure from B6. Following Barry's move from Villa, many saw him as a mercenary - given he took a contract with the then-newly-rich Manchester City - but the reality is he was joining a club on the up.
Quite how Villa are perceived is a matter of who you talk to. For many, Villa are something of a shell of their historical best, even if the majority of the club's successes came when Queen Victoria was monarch rather than Queen Elizabeth II.
Others can see progress under manager Paul Lambert, even if the speed of progress isn't to everyone's taste, especially when teams like Tottenham Hotspur have progressed on from a few years back when both clubs were seen as similar in their aspirations.
Getting back to Barry, his loan for Roberto Martinez's new team is something of a gamble. Between Barry and fellow loanee Romelu Lukaku, it has been vaunted that the duo are costing the Merseysiders nearly £10m in fees and wages, a fair amount for one season's worth of work.
Comparatively speaking, Villa are suffering from the scars of past financial expenditure, and of the austere measures used to steady the ship, leaving such payments bad value for the Midlands club.
Of course, some will argue that the signing of Libor Kozak amounts to much of the £10m invested, and thus Villa could have afforded to make a move for both Barry and Lukaku had it not been for Lambert's choices.
The reality is that next season, Everton will likely have to give back both players, leaving Chelsea reaping the rewards of Lukaku's experience, and the Merseysiders needing to find a new solution to their problems.
Maybe the £10m gamble will pay off, as if Everton achieve a good league placing this season, the rewards are there in prize money but, as with most of football, nothing is certain.
To finish, as an extra for Villa fans, we're running a competition on my website Aston Villa Life to net you a retro shirt from our famous history. Maybe times are hard for us in 2013, but cheer yourself up and have a chance to win a shirt whether you live in Birmingham, Boston, or Botswana. The link to enter is here - http://www.astonvillalife.com/aston-villa-blog/win-a-retro-aston-villa-shirt-from-your-era-of-choice/
You can follow Matt Turvey’s regular opinions at his own site, Aston Villa Life at http://www.astonvillalife.com, via the site’s Twitter account @astonvillalife, or via his own Twitter account @mturvey_star.