There are few harder things in football than being an Aston Villa supporter at the moment. It would appear that Villa have reached rock bottom, staring relegation in the face. Knowing now that it’s just a matter of time until May arrives and the 10 year slide towards the Championship is officially confirmed.
A friend of mine who’s a Villa supporter suggests that getting relegated to The Championship is ‘what the club needs’. Strip the club of all players just there for the Premier League luxurious wages, even if that means letting the Youth players step up and take responsibility.
It seems a similar situation to the 2008/09 season which saw Newcastle United relegated, ‘a club too big to go down’ some suggested, but they did. Toon fans would disagree with me, but going down to the Championship probably did the club the world of good and helped to lead Newcastle back to the Premier League the following season with thanks to Chris Hughton. (Although no doubt they are back to struggling in the league under Steve McClaren at the moment!).
Aston Villa have always been a club engrained in history, and very much like The Magpies both sets of supporters have not been rewarded on the pitch for their loyal support during the last decade.
So who’s to blame for the demise of the 5 time League Cup winners?
INEXPERIENCE – One Key word, I’d like you to remember throughout reading this blog, Aston Villa is a club in turmoil which reeks of Inexperience. From the owner, to the make shift Chairman ‘Steve Hollis’, to the long list of inexperienced managers and finally to the First Team Squad crying out for some old heads.
From research and general consensus, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are several contributing factors to Villa’s current league position;
1.) Manager Recruitment process since 2006 –
Since 2006, 7 managers have been used in a 10 year period – adding to that Remi Garde’s future at the club will be under immense scrutiny once this season has drawn to a close. Out of the 6* managers who have worked under Randy Lerner, Garde’s win percentage is the lowest with a mere 15.7%.
* 7 managers have served Villa in this 10 year period, but David O’Leary was let go several months before Doug Ellis sold the club in early 2006.
Even more amazing, is that Martin O’Neil without question the most successful Villa manager in this particular decade with three 6th placed finishes stayed at Villa for 4 years!
5 managers since 2010! How could the hierarchy at Villa, ever expect this to be a remedy for success? Mr Lerner might not have possessed the knowledge to turn Aston Villa into a club to regularly challenge the Top 4. But even relating back to running a business, you wouldn’t see management getting changed as much as Villa have had managers.
Fans see managers such as Alex Macleish (21.4%) & Paul Lambert (29.5%) as a mistake that the club should have avoided, whereas for the respected managers it was an opportunity which they couldn’t and shouldn’t have turned down. An opportunity to manage a sleeping giant of the English Game?
But surely after Gerard Houllier stepped down as manager, there must have been a stampede to hand in an application for the role of Aston Villa’s next manager. If the Villa hierarchy had been loaded with some more ‘football savvy’ heads, perhaps the outcome would have been different, and Villa would be challenge in this seasons topsy turvey league campaign instead of propping up the table in the sorry state they are right now.
McLeish should have known better, selling the two key players arguably playing the best football of their respected careers at the same time in Ashley Young & Stewart Downing and only bringing in the temperamental Charles N’Zogbia to replace them? I don’t have my football coaching badges, but even to me that sounds baffling.
Some credit should go to Paul Lambert though he had a philosophy which he believed in, and got the praise he deserved by blooding in young talent from either the Villa Youth System or from the work of his talent scouts. He also signed Christian Benteke and Ron Vlaar – the latter who seems to have gone missing since the storming World Cup he had in 2014.
Even throughout his time at Villa, it seemed such a ‘2 steps forward, 1 step backwards’ approach. One season he signs to key players mentioned above, and then its followed by two seasons (2o13/2014 & 2014/2015) where no one with real Premier League pedigree was signed.
Evidence which suggests that Lambert tried too hard with the youth players is that during the 2013/14 season, Title winners Manchester City average squad age was 25.5 years old to 28.2 years of age. Lambert’s Aston Villa? 22.9 – 26.3 years of age. Something to think about. Success is built on team spirit and experience.
It’s come out since Lambert’s time at Villa came to an end that he did try and sign ‘big name players’ such as Wilfred Bony & Lukuku but didn’t receive any backing from the Villa board.
As for Tim Sherwood, at least he showed some fight and got stuck in, if he was still in charge of Villa now. I’d have fancied him to have turned it around, but we will never know.
2.) Inexperienced First Team Players
Geoff Horsfield, Zoltán Gera, Robert Earnshaw, Kanu & Kevin Campbell – West Brom 04/05
Linvoy Primus, Matthew Taylor, Pedro Mendes, Dean Kiely – Portsmouth 05/06
Roy Carroll, Paul Konchesky, Teddy Sheringham, Luís Boa Morte, Lee Bowyer & Carlos Tevez – West Ham 06/07
Above are three teams which all survived the drop when most would have had them pegged to be relegated. What main quality springs to mind when thinking about all these players? Experience. They don’t come much more experienced than Teddy!
Villa have two main experienced players that I can think of off the top of my head ,in Club Captain Micah Richards & Joleen Lescott. The latter who’s had more incidents away from the pitch than good performances on it.
Plain and simply after escaping relegation last season (finished 17th) the summer should have been used to recruit more mature players. Look at the key role 35 year Esteban Cambiasso played at Leicester City staying up last season, he did’t play every game in the league you couldn’t expect him to at that age. (unless your names Ryan Giggs!) But he would have been at training every day, and in the squads on match day and provided a calm head.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a massive advocate of young talent emerging and being given a chance to shine (Wakey Wakey Jack Grealish) but it has it’s place next to senior experienced players, needs a chance to be bedded in one step at a time.
3.) Randy Lerner – Wrong Man at the Wrong Time
When Doug Ellis sold the club to Randy Lerner back in 2006 for £62.6million, Mr Ellis should have done his homework on the businessman he was selling to first of all. If he had he would have discovery Lerner had previous, when he owned the Cleveland Browns. ‘Lack of interest and then sold it’.
The fear for fans is that once Villa slip into the Championship that will be the catalyst to the club slipping further and further down the English rankings. If that happens the only positive for the club is that it’s run in a self – sustaining way so it shouldn’t end up in a situation like Leeds or Portsmouth have done in the past.
I’ll give Lerner credit for his time as owner whilst Martin O’Neil was manager, when O’Neil was brining in successive 6th place finishes, Lerner was putting his hand in his pocket and writing cheques. Supplied O’Neil £120m in the 4 years he was at the club, and recorded a loss of £82m in that time.
But it seems when the results started to turn south, Lerner turned his back on the club when it probably needed him the most. What Villa fans would have done to have even a quarter of that £120m spent during the summer of 2015 (same fee they received from Benteke from Liverpool).
All of the topics I’ve covered in this blog, in my opinion have all had an impact on the demise of Aston Villa Football Club.
I do hope they return back to the Premier League soon, for the fans sake.