Another Letter & Response, Nicola Keye

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Following Dave Beeston’s ‘Letter to Paul Faulkner‘, Ian – a season ticket holder of more than 20 years got in touch with me asking me to publish his letter and the response he received from the club, so here goes.

Dear Sirs

There is no doubt that this will not be the first nor the last letter you, as a group, have received over recent months about the state of our first team and the position we find ourselves in, both financially, and in more stark terms, the reality of our league position and form this season.

I’ve been a season ticket holder, with my son, for more than 20 years, and as Mr Ellis will confirm, have written to him, David O’Leary, and Martin O’Neill, on a number occasions over the past 10years, to express our views, as dedicated fans, on the club’s situation. I have to say, and with sincere thanks, that on each occasion I’ve written to express concern or thanks, I’ve received a well written reply and I trust this practice will continue with your group.

Our club needs to make a balance between the financial constraints under which all businesses operate, and delivering success. None of the fans that I know of believe we are in the same league as the top 3 or 4 teams whose ability to raise funds is far in excess of ours, and probably always will be. Nor are we in the situation which Leeds United precipitated themselves, by reckless financial management not dissimilar in risk to the Bank crisis in 2008. So we are in a position where the importance of man management within the club becomes absolutely crucial. Getting the most out of players, motivation, team building, reassurance, and public relations, are all skills which are essential at this level in this situation. I was a massive fan of Martin O’Neill who has most of these skills, witnessed, once more, by the short term success he has achieved at Sunderland. But he was wrong in some decisions, lack of squad rotation, signing players on high salaries and not playing them, and so sadly his future was not to be with Aston Villa. But I believe, as I’m sure you all do, that all of these qualities remain important for our club in our Manager.

When Alex McLeish was appointed we were told by Mr Faulkner that he had all the credentials to fit with the strategy of the club and the way forward, including success as a club manager at this level. I must admit to have struggled to find that proven success looking at his past record, but was prepared to give him the support he requires to make the job a success, which sadly, has not happened in any shape or form. Allow me to cite 3 examples of incidents which I hope you’ll agree support the case that Alex’s management style, strategy and ways of playing football are not in tune with those of Aston Villa’s culture or heritage.

In December we had really good performances against Arsenal, Stoke City and Chelsea, picking up 4 points from games which we could have well expected to get none. Following these games it doesn’t take a sports psychologist to work out that morale and confidence should be high and the manager and his staff have a sound basis to build on going into the next game. Make them feel invincible, strong, competitive, fight for every ball etc. The result was a pathetic display and a 2 -0 home defeat to Swansea.

At home to Everton we were winning the game, but sadly, due to yet another defensive mistake, we only ended up with a draw. Alex’s post match interview included the comment that he was disappointed we couldn’t hold on for a win. Sadly this reinforces the perception held by many Villa fans that his style of football is negative through and through. Something which is well known to Birmingham City supporters. There was no drive or passion to push on and secure a 2 or 3 nil win.

At Newcastle, at the end of the first half we were the better team and had just scored. So, once more, the conditions were right for a manager to build on the confidence, invincibility, competition, fight, passion, all the clichés you can think of, to go out and win the game. The second half performance was awful, and we lost.

Alex’s previous managerial appointments are, to me and most other true fans, completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that on the basis of the evidence we have witnessed this season, he is simply not good enough. The atmosphere in the ground, as I’m sure you have noticed, is flat, the passion is gone and he seems incapable of generating it. For certain the players bear some responsibility for performance on the pitch. No one would deny that. But, when the chips are down, and things are not going well, and you can’t spend £20m to get yourself out of trouble, that is when a top quality manager really earns his money. Sadly we don’t have one at the moment.

You know the fixture list as well as all of us and no doubt see the importance of the next 4 games. The decision about the future of this club is, quite rightly, in your collective hands although you will I’m sure be alarmed by the >10% drop in attendances, which is an indication of how we, as supporters feel, and has a significant financial impact on the clubs resources.

I trust you will take these heartfelt views as a sincere expression of concern about something which is dear to my heart. For the first time in over 20 years I don’t look forward to going to a match. I miss the passion, the commitment, the excitement and the thrills. It’s flat, negative and lifeless, and our club deserves and is capable of more.

Yours sincerely

The Response

When I asked Ian about what kind of response he received from the club, after he took time to sit down and hand write his letter and then send it in the post to the club he told me that the club didn’t write back, instead he received a phone call from a certain Nicola Keye.

He stated that Nicola was understanding, sympathetic, and seam to really understand the game, the club and the reaction. Ian went on to say that it could have been good PR but he was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Nicola assured Ian that the board would discuss his letter and the next board meeting and she then gave him her direct phone number if he had any further problems at the club.

Press Relations

I also personally wrote an email to both Paul Faulkner and Nikki Keye yesterday outlining my worries not only about the manager and the football on offer at the moment, but the rising season tickets and how the club is currently being managed.

Within 5 minutes of pressing the send button I also had non other than Miss Keye on the phone, answering some (not all) of my questions and assuring me about certain things going on at the club. At the time I couldn’t help but give this lady credit as she personally remembered me from a previous encounter both me and a friend had with her in the past which she helped me with.

She is an absolute credit to the football club and they should be proud of her. Again having listening to a few people who have spoke with her I can’t help but think it is nothing more than a PR stunt but as I have already stated I have a lot of respect for this women and something she said to me, which I wont share because I may of taken it the wrong way, but it gave me so hope for the future of the club so I will just sit back and see what happens.

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