Where do we go from here?

16

Another chaotic week has passed at Aston Villa, with coaches being suspended, takeover talk rife and yet another inept performance, which was only not a defeat thanks to poor finishing and a mistake by the referee as Bertrand’s handball was a penalty all day long. Then we had not one but two statements from our normally quiet owner Randy Lerner. By not denying a sale was imminent or committing himself to the club, he only fuelled the talk of a sale going through once the season has ended.

So where do we go from here? First and foremost, as Mr Lerner has quite rightly pointed out, the priority must be to get the club safe from relegation. We have already had five opportunities to do that since the Chelsea game and so far we have seriously fluffed our lines! With every passing week in which the win doesn’t come, the harder things becomes as what belief and confidence are left are eroded.

Luckily for Villa, a couple of scrappy draws will probably do it so these next two games against Swansea and Hull must result in us not losing. Despite our impressive record against top sides in the Premier League this season, I am not confident at all of getting anything from the games against Manchester City or Spurs. If we lose on Saturday and Fulham, WBA and Sunderland win, the tension for the Hull game will be unbearable for a group of players who already have proven to be brittle and Bruce will have his men well organised and a game plan ready. Like the games against Crystal Palace, West Ham and Stoke, we will find the Tigers tough opponents unless Sid Cowans has managed to get a new message across in the brief time he has had in his temporary role.

Let’s be positive and assume we will crawl to safety – as I predicted in January whilst Messrs Faulkner, Lerner and Lambert insisted good progress was being made… What happens then? A few weeks ago I outlined five options for Aston Villa Football Club in an article entitled ‘Options for Aston Villa’s future’. It seems to be looking increasingly clear that Lerner at the very least is keen to sell and he most probably does have a buyer lined up. It looks very likely that the new owner(s) will come from America and we can only hope lessons are learnt from the Lerner stewardship. Option five on my list looks most likely now but there is a possibility that option three could bear some fruit.

Over the last eight years, the net investment by Randy Lerner has not been the problem. What has been the problem is never appointing a suitable board to run a big football club like Aston Villa, which has resulted in a boom-bust period. The first five years saw the boom of unsustainable investment and the last three years have involved desperate cut backs to try and address the balance.

The investment levels were right in the first four years of Lerner’s ownership but, sadly, far too much was wasted on the wrong players by a manager with too much autonomy due to an inadequate board. CEOs like Fitzgerald came and went because they could so O’Neill in particular was impossible to work with.

After O Neill’s sudden departure days before the season was due to start, Houllier arrived and he was also given big money. Had he had not taken ill, he wanted to spend big in the summer of 2011 and it is well known that Yohan Cabaye was at Bodymoor Heath ready to sign. Who knows where we would have gone if Houllier had not left?Unfortunately, with Houllier went Lerner’s ambition for the Villans to be winners.

If Villa had secured the services of Martinez then perhaps things could have been different but the bizarre switch from wanting Martinez to appointing McLeish smacked of a board with no real idea what it wanted or indeed what to do. I understand Sir Alex Ferguson was the man they turned to for advice and he recommended Big Eck; I see his next managerial recommendation has also bitten the dust!

If Lerner had appointed Graham Taylor or Ron Atkinson to the board of directors at the start, or even post-Martin O’Neill, then this would have been an easier situation to handle. They both understand Aston Villa and still have their fingers on the pulse of the modern game. At no point has Lerner appointed a director with football knowledge and that is the crux of his problems. Managerial appointments would have been easier (and superior) and more suitable players could have been targeted whilst establishing a proper football ethos.

I do sympathise that he hasn’t banked a decent cheque on a player sale for almost three years (Downing) but again that comes back to poor managers buying the wrong players and putting them on inflated contracts – all signed off by the board.

One thing that Lerner can be praised for is leaving the club potentially debt free, although that will be reflected in his asking price.

What’s done is done. If there are to be new owners they can learn a lot from Randy’s years at Villa. I understand he is keen to leave a legacy behind. Right now the best legacy he could leave would be to sell us to the best new owner(s) available with a desire to re-establish Aston Villa as a force but this time for the long term with sustained, controlled investment and a board of directors more balanced and in particular more knowledgeable about the core product – football.

We certainly deserve to have some hope and prosperity on the horizon again after a period of mediocrity and failure which has gone on more than long enough.

16 COMMENTS

  1. The lack of football knowledge on the board has always been an issue ever since Steve Stride left. It’s been a perennial problem just like the lack of a creative midfielder/No10 and a defensive midfielder. These issues have been here for many years and it’s kind of reached an unwanted joke status in that every fan in the land can see what we lack yet the manager is oblivious to it.

    As a man you cannot fault Randy Lerner. He is a nice guy who has done some great things at Villa. Sadly it’s his bad things that are at the forefront.

    My hope is that we are indeed sold to an owner who shows ambition again, with the correct men appointed to the board.

  2. Quite right! Randy was a fan who stood on the terraces. He is a businessman but has no knowledge of running a British football club. He did not appoint a board of people with the requisite knowledge. There was no one to oversee O’Neill’s spending. But O’Neill cannot be blamed for this. He was given money to build the best team he could; it was not his job to investigate the depth of the Lerner’s honeypot and question its sustainability. Too much blame is laid on O’Neill. At the time I think all of his purchases were regarded as good acquisitions, astonishingly so by fans as a whole, and he built a team twice on the verge of Champions League and only refereed out of cup double in his last season. True he did not bring in the big names mentioned, eg Wesley Schneider, at the time but we could not offer CL to players who demanded it; he seemed to buy the best available. The truth behind his sudden departure we do not know. Similarly we do not know the truth behind ‘Did Lambert get rid of every single experienced player he inherited and buy cheap lower division replacements as his own stupid decision or because he was ordered to?.’ The blame for this always seemed aimed at Lerner wage cutting, but why would Lambert take the job if he knew he would have to replace the internationally experienced Cuellar, Dunne, Collins and Warnock with Lowton, Vlaar, Baker and Bennett? Did he expect them to bring him top four and CL.
    The entire club from top to bottom is a mess and American oil tycoon, Russian oligarch or Arab….. whoever, just throwing more money at the club won’t help. The new owner will need an experienced British management team to sort it out. Now, and quickly!

  3. Stride, football knowledge ha ha ha ha?? where on earth do these myths originate from?? The guy was a lackey, a yes man (despite what he tries to say) and a decent secretary, that was it.

    This is the guy who recommended his mate to the job despite having minimal experience and frankly was a spiv as his future career showed.

    This is the guy who told me in a meeting that we have always worn stripes as a kit … idiot.

    OK as to the article, not a lot there to disagree with really except my information is Fitzgerald left because Lerner hated his 5 year plan comments and his ambition was far greater than Lerner’s as then he went to work at Man C for the crook Thaskin.

    Howard, I do have to laugh when you mention Atkinson as an advisor – that guy is a total joke in all ways. Yes people would like GT to advise but he recommended MON and McLeish and backed both when appointed ….

    The problem we now have is that Lerner on Sunday opened up a massive can of worms and if he does not say we are sold on the day the season finishes then the club is in massive limbo for the summer. We all expect Lerner to say the club has been sold or very close to, what happens if he does not?

  4. Randolph must at least leave us with the right owner. All right, he made a big mistake with high investments in the beginning years, but the important thing is that he has been punished for his one bad mistake that has led to all his problems. I do feel sympathetic towards him for having realized his mistake so late on, but the blame is on him too.

    Some time ago I had written a comment asking Lerner to come out and speak. He has done just that, and from what he says, I think he will be sad to leave Lambert, if not Aston Villa. But yes, go Lerner, and get some owner who knows football. An owner who can appoint a board with footballing experience, and a manager who has experience and who can consolidate, to give Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce as a few of the affordable effective examples (Even Steve Bruce)

    And no, don’t let the owner ask Sir Alex Ferguson for Lambert’s replacement, if it is required. He will probably next recommend Lee Clark of Birmingham City fame (again!)

  5. I have to agree again Howard,I truly hope we are sold to someone who can get us back where we belong and bring back stability to our great club.

  6. Yes another week and yet again there are fans all too ready to proclaim to the world as to how badly Villa is being run !
    But are things as bad as claimed , are things so unfathomable or could it be that those making such proclamations have their own agendas for the club ?

    So were being told Lerner has done some good for the club , but should be igniored & we should focus on all that has been done wrong . So what that there is not a footie person on the board . But who is on the board ? Villa like it or not is not owned by a company of directors as it is a PLC owned by Randy Lerner which to some has been a bone of contention to some ever since he bought the club . But what would a director of footie bring to the club ? Certainally @ some clubs it works yet @ others it has been an abysmal failure . Would it work @ Villa ?
    Possibly but probably not with a select few fans who will never be satisfied !

    As for past prediction they are easy to make , but the real question is could the problems have been prevented ? And would spending vast amounts of money solved the problem ?
    I predicted the problems with last minute O’Neil before they happened & the problems that happened after he left . The team had been run into the ground & had been “running on empty” for @ least 6 months and the squad existed in name only as the young players had not had their potential developped & the rest not used . Should MON have been given the funds he needed to replace the players he knew were not fit to start the season is questionable. But he was in post before Lerner took over & had autonomy in running the team , so when ever he was replaced would be difficult .But has what has followed been a catalogue of errors or a case of learning by making mistakes compounded by unpredictable problems & highlighted by those more than happy to point the accussing finger of blame . Such as pointing the accusatory finger @ Bertrand when real fans would support their player , especially as the cameras show their was more than a shadow of doubt from most who did not benefit from it being a penalty !
    But that aside was apointing AM a known relegation expert so unfathomable ? As I see it he had the job of demolishing the team . But why on earth would anybody be appointed to do such a thing I can hear the angry cries . The simple answer is that appointing a manager similar to Houllier who would be able to reconstruct the team to make it successfull was not possible , so the alternative was to rebuild from the ground upwards .Rebuilding requires demolition to occur before rebuilding can start . Yes it’s been a tough 4 years & especially for those fans only too keen to laud it over others & not capable of taking the rubkes @ failure
    Is Lerner about to sell the club ? That remains to be seen but equally he could be about to anounce more investment in the club ,& we’ve yet to hear how much the media investments in the Far East will bring to the club . But one thing is certain is that the last time he was seen in Brum was @ the Acorns function in early December last year although his jet made a brief visit to Elmdon yesterday morning !

  7. Colin, PLC stands for Public Limited Company. Aston Villa is not a PLC. It is owned whole by a private company. I have no agenda against the club, I just want it run properly. The points raised are fair. My co article even lists 5 options for our future with Lerner staying featuring in 4 of them. However, it seems clear he wants to sell.

    I am not a fair weather fan as you are trying to imply. Far from it. I’ve seen the club in the second division and just started going as it recovered from being in the third tier of English football – nothing to do with success. The club still had a spirit and identity then. The club is currently lost and soulless. It’s drifting and many outside of Villa Park have also commented on that. The reasons are a largely AWOL owner, an inadequate board to run a football club and a manager bereft of ideas who has broken records, mostly very bad ones.

    It seems Lerner has recognised it’s not working and wants to sell. If he didn’t, a simple “Villa is not for sale” in his rare statement would have sorted that. Perhaps it’s time you followed the guy you admire so much and admit it’s not working instead of trying to discredit fans with questions and inaccurate assumptions.

  8. Public & not private? Seems that different people have different ideas as to what a PLC is!

    As for it being clear as to Lerner’s intentions may be, they are as clear as mud and the only clarity is the hopes and wishes of those who would like to see different owners in charge @ Villa , but then there have always been those who were strongly opposed to him acquiring the club.

    As to implying that you are a fair weather fan Howard, where would you get that impression from? Certainly not from me ! As for me making inaccurate assumptions, what are those? After all for most stories where facts are based on assumptions the opposite to what is stated as fact may in fact be correct!
    As for me trying to discredit anybody, we’ll only know which assumptions are correct when the real truth comes out.

    As for the club being lost & soul-less is that true? Or just the words of those who want change for the sake of change?

    Certainly in the last match Villa looked to have improved despite the score line. Of course a win would have been better and many experts @ FM claim they could manage Villa better! But could they?

    Of course fans want Villa to be a top club. I certainly expected them to perform better this season than last , but then I did not expect so many injuries. And of course with better players results would be better, or would they? Seems strange to me how some fans value Villa players less than they do fans of other clubs and I got that impression from a L’pool fan who I was talking to a couple of days ago. Lambert himself has said he needs to improve the squad and that he has not finished building it. But will he get to finish building a squad and if he does not will his replacement succeed, or will Villa remain in the wilderness or worse as successive managers fail to halt a downward slide? Certainly we will never know if Lambert is sacked before getting in any of the better players he says are needed.

  9. “Certainly in the last match Villa looked to have improved despite the score line”

    That is an incredible statement. Wow!!

  10. The only comment I can say on this is soccer pundits in America all are saying the same thing. Basically AVFC has been allowed to fester. Most feel sorry for Randy simply because they have more information and knowledge of his personal divorce problems.

    Never the less all agree AVFC have problems, big ones. Most of the guys passing these comments are ex National Team players from several countries, who surprisingly, are genuinely concerned.

    A question that has been raised several times by them,however, seems pertinent ” What sort of perception do people have of the Midlands?”

    I have in the past visited US schools on Q & A sessions on the UK. Most kids had no idea about Brum, and Aston Villa but London, Manchester and Liverpool clubs tripped from lips easily.

    I personally think Randy’s been woken up and he will stay and put things right. But what do I or anyone else know?

  11. Colin Gale

    “Certainly in the last match Villa looked to have improved despite the score line”

    Are you totally blind ?
    That’s the most ridiculous paragraph I’ve read in years
    Under this leadership Lerner & Lambert) we will soon be in Championship & changes at the top must come soon.

    The institution called “Aston Villa” is now a laughing stock in Britain & Europe.
    Go now Lerner but be wary of who you sell too.

  12. Charle H & Mardy, no, I am not blind. And despite Southampton’s lowly status as a club they currently have a half decent team. So rather than judge Villa on our fans views of our clubs status, I judge on what I see not on some false perception as to what a result should be!

    As for Villa being a laughing stock it is fans such as you who make it so, as even though many fans of other clubs would like “the Vile” gone from the Prem there are also many who respect Villa for its past history but think the demands of some fans are unrealistic.

  13. I love democracy H, all the different opinions on how to put AVFC right!

    So how do we put all the ideas together to push us forward?

    Why not approach the owner again and ask for a fans forum to be taken on board(as @ Liverpool.Spirit of Shankly) IF he is staying or approach the new owners on their purchase to show how hearts and minds can work together!

    Your dad’s views on fans being members is one idea I’ve always liked, having a vote on your CEO every 3 years as @ Barca seems great democracy to me.

    Ultimately it will boil down to the fans motivation to purchase season tickets at the club. The club is vastly undersold in every commercial way…so all fans @AVFC, do you want APATHY??

    This isn’t about personalities,this is about where you want to take YOUR club!! #AvfcBigClubAmbition

  14. How can any chairman, defend lambert, and never come near the place
    Proves sanity has left us . These crazy ………….s make caligula look sane.
    Until reality is met head on Avfc are facing decline.

  15. Hi Roger- Approaching the owner is not an easy thing to do at Villa. His mail certainly is vetted it seems! I do agree with the idea of a membership scheme where the CEO/chairman is voted in every 3 years. It has worked well at Barcelona over the years. Anyway, hopefully if there is/are to be a new owner(s) they would entertain such an idea. This one certainly isn’t open to help from ex players or fans, not that he has to be but looking at what has happened in his tenure it could well have been beneficial to him no matter what Colin Gale says.

  16. “It has worked well at Barcelona over the years.”

    Yes but Barca is not owned by one person! And do you really think any new owner of Villa will give the club to the to the fans?

    It’s easy to suggest it but I wonder how many claiming that it should be so would do so if they were in Randy’s position?

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