Whilst that (R) is not yet against our name, Aston Villa’s Premier League existence is hanging by a thread even less reliable than one found in a Primark jumper.
The club is on its knees and, while the baying mob has been gathering around us all season, people can now come out to hit us with sticks, safe in the knowledge that a miraculous escape is absolutely not just around the corner to make them look silly.
Whilst this is obviously expected, my main issue is with the calibre and competence of people who have been commenting on the club recently and who should really take a good look at themselves.
I must admit at this point that my main focus, and inspiration for this piece, is Ray Wilkins. Wilkins has been passing comment on Aston Villa all season but he has surpassed himself with his comments this week. Talking to TalkSPORT, the laughable claim that “I think we were just on the brink of doing really well” was uttered. Really, Ray? If I remember rightly, you were sacked after a run of eight league defeats in nine games.
He continued with more utter nonsense, saying that, “We played some very tough opponents in the early stage of the season and we’re probably one of the only teams who had the opportunity to beat Leicester”. Wrong, wrong and wrong again, I’m afraid. Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City and Swansea City all came to Villa Park before Tim Sherwood, Ray Wilkins et al were dismissed; these were hardly the sort of fixtures that should be labelled as difficult. As for the Leicester comment, we did have an opportunity to beat the Foxes but, thanks to some bizarre substitutions, which he would have had some sort of input into, we lost that game. To be fair here, the shambolic Brad Guzan didn’t help either. As for being one of the only teams that had the chance to beat Leicester City, I seem to recall both Stoke City and Southampton also taking two goal leads against the Foxes in the weeks following on from this. The Foxes’ defensive frailties at the beginning of the season were obvious but an ability to score just as freely as concede allowed them a base to build from.
I find it astonishing that Wilkins is allowed to continue to give his deluded and biased opinion on a national network without once being confronted on his own contribution to the mess. The whole ‘it’s not our fault’ philosophy can perhaps go some way to explaining the current attitude problems within the squad.
Moving on from Wilkins, we have Harry Redknapp also chucking in his expert opinion on the club. In his column in ‘The Daily Telegraph’, after watching “highlights of Aston Villa’s latest defeat” (there’s nothing like some extensive research), he noted that we are “pathetic”. That’s groundbreaking stuff! The real twist comes with the revelation that “the fans are pointing the finger at Randy Lerner, the owner, but I don’t think he is the problem.”
Sorry, Harry. Lerner is ultimately the problem. Lerner put the people in place who have ruined our club, Lerner has been a cheapskate in the transfer market and Lerner.
Whilst this was enough to irritate me, Redknapp carried on and made two further sweeping generalisations which surround our club right now and which are the epitome of lazy journalism and evidence of people not knowing enough about Aston Villa Football Club.
Firstly, he attacked the French players in our squad, which I personally think is unfair and, more importantly, incorrect, saying, “I look at their team and I don’t know who half the players are. They’ve brought in all these players – particularly from France – who just aren’t good enough.”
This is a misconception which makes my blood boil. Anyone who even half watches Aston Villa knows that the French players have not been the real problem. Jordan Amavi, Jordan Veretout, Idrissa Gueye and French-based Jordan Ayew are some of the players who will actually emerge from this season with varying degrees of credit. It is, in fact, the players who I suspect Redknapp is more familiar with who are much more to blame – Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, Brad Guzan, Alan Hutton and Gabby Agbonlahor to name but a few. However, these individuals miraculously escape any form of criticism whatsoever. I find that incredible and completely unjust.
The fact that Redknapp doesn’t know the French players doesn’t make one bit of difference. Maybe if we had Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and Niko Kranjčar in our side he’d be happier. Do we believe for one minute that Redknapp was raving about Kante playing for lowly Caen last season? Perhaps he was more familiar with Mahrez while he was at Le Havre? Would he have even known about Payet at Marseille? My point here is that players being unknown here and coming from the French league does not automatically make them bad players. They certainly shouldn’t have the likes of Redknapp tarnishing them, especially when other, more respected and decorated players are far more culpable for our current plight.
Secondly, Redknapp also gave us the line that Aston Villa Football Club is “heading straight for League One”. This may be a more acceptable accusation, although I believe it to be a pretty sluggish statement. I will stick my own neck out and say I don’t actually think it is likely. The whole assessment that we could end up like Leeds United or Portsmouth annoys me. Both of those clubs had financial ruin to deal with, which ultimately led to their downfall. We’re not just talking of belt tightening following relegation here. Leeds’ Peter Risdale had gambled massively and had already spent future Champions League revenue, which would then never materialise, and Portsmouth had a succession of unscrupulous and unfit owners. Lerner has his faults, but we are nowhere near the stage of going into administration and having points deducted.
It may be a struggle next year and we may not come straight back up. What both Wilkins and Redknapp fail to address is that a new board is now in place that appears to be full of individuals much better qualified to make much better footballing decisions than their predecessors. The removal of Tom Fox was crucial and we can be more positive going forward without the animosity that built up between the fans and Fox. We have taken a huge step and I feel that this should merit consideration when remarking on our club right now.
It riles me when people who should be getting their own houses in order decide to pass comment on Aston Villa. Redknapp is another man, like Wilkins, who takes no responsibility for his own failings. He recently took over as manager of Jordan and was in charge for two international games. The first one resulted in an 8-0 victory over the mighty Bangladesh. Redknapp waxed lyrical about how he had some “very talented” players at his disposal and lauded over such an emphatic victory. Five days later, Jordan lost 5-1 to Australia and the excuses that he’d “only been there for six days” and that he “can’t suddenly bring in Ronaldo” meant he completely parodied himself. I won’t even get into the ‘dodgy knees’ excuse for abandoning Queens Park Rangers at the point when it was obvious the club would be getting relegated.
These people should not be given such high profile platforms from which to spew their uninformed, biased comments. It gives the wrong information to people reading their musings and listening to their drivel. This leads to misconceptions around the club and, ultimately, the wrong people get blamed for the problems whilst the real culprits go unchallenged.
On the flip side of this, if you haven’t yet seen Andy Gray’s vitriolic measurement of Agbonlahor on the BeIN Sport network after the infamous shisha episode then I suggest you head on over to YouTube to check it out (if only for Gray trying to pronounce ‘shisha’). It is exactly the sort of analysis I would love to see more become widespread in the United Kingdom’s mainstream media rather than in the Middle East where the outburst was originally broadcast, although I think there is very little chance of such truths being aired on the smiley and nice ‘Match of the Day’ any time soon.
Also, for the record, and talking about ‘Match of the Day’, it was refreshing to see Tim Sherwood remaining dignified last week with his comments on Villa. Unlike bitter old Ray, Tim was complimentary of the fans and the club and, to be fair to him, has been ever since he was sacked. Aside from one or two understandable comments at the time of his departure, he has not felt the need to constantly bang a drum about how he would have kept us up.
I have no problem with people criticising what is wrong at Aston Villa, where there is plenty to choose from. I am just fed up of seeing the wrong things mentioned and the wrong people getting the blame for the incompetency of others thanks to the uninformed views of irrelevant people.