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The UnHoly Trinity


VillaAndLoyal
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A blog one of my mates put together...

 

Cracking read and I, for one, agree with pretty much all of it.

 

 

http://tomclover.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-unholy-trinity.html

 

 

The men who destroyed Aston Villa....


Jimmy Haslam isn't anyone's idea of a saviour. After making his fortune in the less than glamorous industry of motorway service stations, he has toured the NFL, buying shares in various franchises. Each time, he declares his undying love for his new team, be it the glitz and glamour of the Dallas Cowboys, or the grit and grime of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Haslam left no doubt about his supposed adoration for the Steelers; yet, when the opportunity arose, he purchased a controlling interest in their great rivals, the Cleveland Browns.

The reaction in Cleveland, a proud but perennially unsuccessful franchise, was less than predictable. Outbreaks of cheering were reported, which passes for tearful emotion in this most blue collar of Midwestern cities. They may not like the varied and easily-seated loyalties of Haslam, but at least he replaced their current owner, consistently voted the worst and least productive in the entire NFL. Haslam might be dreadful, but at least he's not Randy Lerner.

The NFL is geared towards parity. An absence of transfers and a draft which significantly favours the weaker teams is intended to offer each team an equal chance of success. Yet, Cleveland are a terrible team, a national amusement as one losing season follows another. The major reason, according to the hardy fans who brave the freezing winds off the Ohio river to watch the appalling fare on offer, is Randy Lerner. Lerner ran the franchise in a manner typical of the heir to the MBNA credit card fortune. He risked nothing, spent only when a return was guaranteed, and, appropriate to an heir to a business about which he knew nothing, he left the running of the Browns entirely to others.

Lerner is the antithesis of Harry Truman. For him, the buck stops anywhere but on his desk. He is the ultimate delegator, the man who believes that someone, somewhere, knows more than he. For such a man, the credit business is an ideal home. Less so the risk-intense world of sport. So it came as a surprise to many when Lerner doubled his portfolio with the purchase of Aston Villa. In fact, this was yet another risk-averse decision. Villa were begging to be bought, a club owned by an octogenarian chairman run on the sort of autocratic lines that would have pleased Edward Heath fully three decades before. Here was a club that had somehow survived the first flood of overseas investment in the English Premier League, chock full of assets and potential upside.

Other buyers wanted to asset-strip the club. Lerner, instead, saw an opportunity. Investing in the team was almost embarrassingly low-risk. Success meant the untold riches of the Champions League. Failure meant a compensatory parachute payment and, at worst, recouping his original outlay. Lerner, as usual, intended to appoint sharper minds than his own to the key decision-making posts. Yet here, again, we see a staggering lack of judgement.

Non-executive director, effectively face of the franchise, was to be General Charles Krulak, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and senior member of the Sons of the Revolution, a reactionary group still glorying in the eighteenth century war of independence against the British. This most unnatural of football club leaders was joined by incoming chief executive Paul Faulkner, a disastrous appointment that would condemn the club to free fall in years to come.

Faulkner remains a laughably dreadful appointment that belongs in the realm of situation comedy. Educated at Cambridge, he progressed rapidly through Lerner's MBNA, and just ten years after leaving the privileged surroundings of King's School, Chester, he was in command of one of the world's great football clubs. It was like giving Augustus Gloop the keys to the chocolate cupboard. Unable to believe his luck, Faulkner pursued the first high- profile manager that came to mind; the formerly great German striker, Jurgen Klinsmann. When Klinsmann turned him down, he set his sights on the man who would become the final link in the chain that would ultimately destroy Aston Villa: Martin O'Neill.

O'Neill had made his managerial reputation at Leicester City, converting a team of rugged physicality into Premiership regulars and League Cup winners. His professed and overtly political Catholicism helped him to a post at Glasgow Celtic, a stint in which he was generally outshone by the less-experienced Rangers boss, Alex McLeish.


 

O'Neill excels in man-management of players, and arrived with a track record of success in converting journeymen professionals into accomplished role-players. He would have been the perfect appointment for a cash-strapped club looking to survive - he was a disastrous one for a team preparing for its biggest ever cash injection.
 
O'Neill started brightly, as the beneficiary of enormous goodwill created by cheap-but-effective publicity gestures on behalf of the new ownership. Someone, perhaps the ever-mistaken Faulkner, arranged for supporters to be given free coaches to a Carling Cup tie at Chelsea. Chaos ensued at the ticket office, as thousands of Brummies queued for a bargain free coach to the capital, depositing their match ticket in the bin as the did so. As these initiatives were progressing, O'Neill made a cautionary start in the transfer market. The marquee signing was Ashley Young; the introverted, socially awkward but enormously talented winger being a classic O'Neill project. O'Neill's only other financial outlays of the summer went to former club Celtic, for his old captain Stiliyan Petrov and another precocious oddball, Shaun Maloney. Young and Petrov were successes, especially the former; more than enough to compensate for Maloney's swift return to Glasgow due to chronic homesickness. A strong performance in the League left Lerner, and most fans, feeling that the building blocks were in place for a very special team.
 
The problems began in the 2007/08 season. O'Neill, never one to tolerate dissent, put an end to his sectarian feud with former player of the year Steven Davis by sending him to Fulham, whilst personal issues were also said to have been behind the catastrophic sale of Gary Cahill to Bolton for just £4 million. The replacements were laughable. Future England regular Cahill was replaced by the abysmal Zat Knight, with another troubled talent, Nigel Reo-Coker, brought in to bring drive to the midfield. Villa climbed the league, but their wage bill was already beginning to spiral.
 
The following season, O'Neill spent a remarkable £46 million, though he deserves credit for somehow persuading West Bromwich Albion to pay £4.5 million for the declining Luke Moore. In, for huge money and with crippling wages, came the likes of Steve Sidwell, Curtis Davies, Nicky Shorey, Luke Young and Carlos Cuellar. In the moment, the crowd-pleasing success of another import, James Milner, covered up the wage-bill cancer that was eating at the heart of the club. It was in this season that O'Neill would make bitter enemies of a section - though arguably not a majority - of Villa's most loyal supporters. The team had enjoyed a bumpy if enjoyable ride to the quarter finals of the Europa League, with highlight-reel victories in Prague and at home to Dutch giants Ajax. In the quarter finals, they were drawn against CSKA Moscow, then an impressive, fast-paced team with claims on the trophy. Villa drew 1-1 at home, an insipid display which nevertheless gave them a fighting chance in the return leg.
 
It was amongst the freezing snow and wind-lashed ice of Moscow that the O'Neill reign unravelled. Pleading a key weekend League match at home to Stoke, the manager sent out a half youth, half reserve team in one of the most hostile environments in European football. The youngsters, to their credit, only lost 2-0, but for many fans, the defeat was far greater off the pitch. This, after all, is a tea that relishes past glories, a team that, in the summer of 1982, lifted the European Cup on a balmy night in Rotterdam. For a Villa team, then, to treat European competition with such arrogant disdain was for many a appalling betrayal of the club's heritage. Had O'Neill's decision carried the club into the Champions League, it may have paid off. Instead, the rested Villa team drew anemically with Stoke, and the hangover continued, as the drive for a top four place capitulated amongst a sea of finger-pointing and recriminations.
 
This wasn't the end of it. In a tacit admittance of wrongdoing, the club took the extraordinary step of laying in a lavish free meal for all 300 supporters who had travelled to witness the Moscow fiasco. O'Neill, never a man given to explaining himself, much less apologising, gave an extraordinary speech. He raged against anyone, from chairman to supporter, having the temerity to question him on football matters. It bore the astonishing claim that he had never once made a poor sale or purchase in the transfer market, and it betrayed a man in need of greater autocracy than Aston Villa could ever provide. Surely no supporter present that night could have been remotely surprised to hear of his resignation the following August.
 
The timing, typically of the man, was petty and self-aggrandising, leaving the club with no manager on the brink of the a new season. Faulkner began his search for O'Neill's replacement with less than stringent criteria. "We require someone," he said, "with a strategy for building on the existing strengths in our current squad."
 
This sentence is worth underlining, highlighting and repeating, for it is integral to the decline of Aston Villa. The first reaction, of course, is to be amused by they fear that experienced top-level managers might arrive at interview without a strategy. But in fact, this is a rare example of clarity in the David Brent-rivalling corporate speak lexicon of Faulkner. Read between the lines: there will be no more money, ever. O'Neill's spending sprees were the Lerner gamble, and they crashed down at the last hurdle like Devon Lock. From now on, prudence would be the watchword.
 
The man to replace O'Neill was Gerard Houllier, considered a safe pair of hands, though at 63 and with a history of heart trouble, it was a surprising return to the managerial hot seat. The amiable Frenchman would perhaps have been a better fit in a director of football role, for despite an excellent season with limited resources, his health began to visibly deteriorate. Houllier was rushed to hospital in April, and never returned to the Villa dugout. Faulkner, in typically irrelevant fashion, thanked him for his "work ethic", and began the search for his replacement.
 
Villa were now labouring under the yoke of O'Neill's profligacy. Not prepared to risk further investment, Lerner and Faulkner sold off the key playing assets to compensate for the exorbitant wages of those high earners languishing in the reserves. Faulkner then made the incredible decision to appoint Alex McLeish as his new manager. McLeish arrived lacking in credentials, having been relegated the season before, but more importantly, he had been the manager of hated rivals Birmingham City. Fan protests immediately followed the appointment. It was wholly typical of Faulkner to utterly disregard the rivalry, and fail to realise the key issue: that an enormous surge of ill-will meant that supporters' patience would be non-existent. This, of course, not ideal at a time when the club, as Faulkner himself might have it, were "rapidly downsizing." McLeish himself probably warrants some sympathy. His unattractive brand of physical football delivered results sufficient to keep the club in the Premier League, a workmanlike nine months of pushing shit uphill. But his was an impossible job. The fans would never accept him, and he knew it was a one-season appointment long before an abysmal final day defeat at Norwich.
 
The architect of that defeat, Norwich boss Paul Lambert, swiftly emerged as favourite to replace the beleaguered and swiftly fired McLeish. Lambert held all the attributes desirable to Lerner and Faulkner; his swift rise made him young, cheap and unlikely to complain at heavy fiscal constraints. With the sale of the Cleveland Browns complete, many at Villa may have expected Lerner to take more interest in Aston Villa, but this was not to be the case. To him, Villa were like a defaulting account at MBNA; the goal being to recoup the losses, and get out. How very different from the much-maligned American owner of Liverpool, John Henry, who missed the firing of his Boston Red Sox manager, Terry Francona, in order to watch the Merseyside derby on television. Lambert, and the young squad he managed, would be precisely the kind of gamble Lerner liked: one with no downside. Stay in the division and turn a few youngsters - such as the improbably prolific Christian Benteke - into saleable assets, great. Be relegated, asset-strip the club and pocket the parachute payment; well, gee, that's fine too.
 
Villa supporters remain largely divided on the merits of Paul Lambert as a manager, particularly after a disastrous festive period and the catastrophic FA Cup defeat to Sheffield United. What they are surely united on, though, is that whilst their club may struggle to repeat its glory days, it deserves better than to be treated as a low-risk business buried deep in the portfolio of a disinterested American and run by a chief executive of almost unimaginable imbecility. Aston Villa were made great by a true visionary, William McGregor, it would be tragic if their story ended as the micro-managed plaything of Randy Lerner.

 

 
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Faulkner joined Villa after MON was made manager, did he not? Because MON became manager before Lerner bought the club...

 

Based on that alone, I stopped reading the article, because the rest is likely as ill-researched and ignorant as that key faux pas

Edited by P3te
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Is there any evidence that Faulkner has done a bad job?

 

If his remit was get the wage bill down while staying in the premiership, then in a business sense he's done a fantastic job.

I do wonder where all the Paul Faulkner hate comes from. It's not as if he's marched in and told all highly paid players to leave and then demanded Lambert signs Tonev. He runs a business based on instructions from above and that's what he's been doing (and successfully if accounts are anything to go by).

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Other buyers wanted to asset-strip the club. Lerner, instead, saw an opportunity. Investing in the team was almost embarrassingly low-risk. Success meant the untold riches of the Champions League. Failure meant a compensatory parachute payment and, at worst, recouping his original outlay. Lerner, as usual, intended to appoint sharper minds than his own to the key decision-making posts. Yet here, again, we see a staggering lack of judgement.

There is just so much wrong with this paragraph alone.

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Is there any evidence that Faulkner has done a bad job?

 

If his remit was get the wage bill down while staying in the premiership, then in a business sense he's done a fantastic job.

I do wonder where all the Paul Faulkner hate comes from. It's not as if he's marched in and told all highly paid players to leave and then demanded Lambert signs Tonev. He runs a business based on instructions from above and that's what he's been doing (and successfully if accounts are anything to go by).

 

 

Exactly. He gets a lot of hate from people who have absolutely no idea what his job is.

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Is there any evidence that Faulkner has done a bad job?

 

If his remit was get the wage bill down while staying in the premiership, then in a business sense he's done a fantastic job.

Considering Aston Villa are flirting with relegation again the obvious answer is yes!

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That's just a thought after a question. Going back to the question you raised yes there is evidence that in some regards Faulkner has done a bad job.

 

You're completely right. Faulkner is doing a crap job based on a criteria you know nothing about.  :thumb:

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I stopped reading when O'Neill turned up. Because Faulkner was made CEO in 2010? And O'Neill was chosen and appointed by Ellis? Regardless of whether O'Neill took it because of the takeover, which in my opinion he did, there's no point writing a decent piece of scorn if you're not going to get facts right. In this case years apart.

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That's just a thought after a question. Going back to the question you raised yes there is evidence that in some regards Faulkner has done a bad job.

 

You're completely right. Faulkner is doing a crap job based on a criteria you know nothing about.  :thumb:

 

Took you a while but you got there in the end.

 

I maintain, going back to your question in some regards,he is not doing a good job.

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That's just a thought after a question. Going back to the question you raised yes there is evidence that in some regards Faulkner has done a bad job.

 

You're completely right. Faulkner is doing a crap job based on a criteria you know nothing about.  :thumb:

 

Took you a while but you got there in the end.

 

I maintain, going back to your question in some regards,he is not doing a good job.

 

 

The fact that you keep completely missing the initial point is absolutely astounding.

 

But then again, some people are so negativity driven that they have absolutely no ability to maintain a balanced viewpoint. Oh well, no point trying to change your mind. G'night.  :thumb:

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I stopped reading when O'Neill turned up. Because Faulkner was made CEO in 2010? And O'Neill was chosen and appointed by Ellis? Regardless of whether O'Neill took it because of the takeover, which in my opinion he did, there's no point writing a decent piece of scorn if you're not going to get facts right. In this case years apart.

 

Yep, that's where I got to before I stopped reading.

 

This part in particular: 

 

"Faulkner remains a laughably dreadful appointment that belongs in the realm of situation comedy."

 

Why? Because he signed MON. Errrrr... nope. :blush:

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Or could it just be you asked a question and didn't like the answer.

 

I can see Faulkner has done some positive things for the club but it is clear going back to your question in some regards,he is not doing a good job.

 

And how can you possibly assess that when you have absolutely no idea about the remit of his job?

 

I'm offering a middle ground that he could be doing a good job because the wage bill is down and we're staying in the league, or you could look at it from your point of view. My point is that neither of us can know for sure. Yet you're so set that he's doing a bad job. Because neither of us know, it's incredibly unfair to constantly berate him (and he gets a tanking on here).

 

But because you clearly know, I presume it must be because you're an expert of business at board level in a multimillion pound industry?

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If you read again I'm actually more in the middle ground because I'm saying he has done some positive and some negative!  You seem to be more on the positive side.

 

Who has berated him? Most chief executives have more than one remit to their job and as I said there is evidence he has done some of them well but also evidence he hasn't in some regards.

 

I may well know more than you about business though so I take your point on that.

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The fact that Faulkner is doing a good job is absolute bull. He is the one who oversaw the MON era, authorised the spend. Now he is cleaning up the mess, "he" played a huge part in.  And for you guys who say he is doing a good job keeping us in the Premiership while keeping the wage bill down??? Its hardly a job for a CEO genius is it. A couple of us on here could probably do it. Hmmm, lets think?? I'll sell all the high earners (though im still struggling, so i will probably give them away) reduce the wage bill to a limit of £15k and buy cheap players. hardly mission impossible is it

As for his marketing acumen,  Genting, Dafa Bet, FX Pro (who dropped us) Macron for our shirt sponser. I mean its nothing any maketing company/manager could'nt have secured

I really dont see why ths guy is so untouchable. He has no respect for the fans, Ie communication, the recent interview, telling us nothing we wanted to know and just continues to run this football club like a business straight out of a book he must have read at university.

Any CEO in the know would have in the first instance (not having football knowledge) employed a director of football to oversee and help with footballing issues

To this day I still believe Lerner runs the finances (being a banker) but employed Faulkner to oversee all footballing issues which was at the time and still is way above him!!!

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