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Summerbreeze - hot air or a chilling wind?


blandy
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I posted this article up on My article storage page and in the mods forum a couple of days ago, but because of all the furore, have left it till now to stick up on here. Anyway, 2 or 3 days or so ago, I read Mike's PR, Promises and Perception article concerning, in effect, the raised expectations of the supporters at Villa park, and wondered whether within it there was perhaps valid criticism of the communication from the club to supporters regarding transfers, or whether it was wide of the mark.

So I thought I'd try and look at things partly from the other side, and see how the view panned out, and what (if anything needs to be done) could be done.

The club has been taken over by new a new owner and his team, and has transformed itself, with a great deal of time, effort and commitment, not to mention money, from those people into a different club. One that clearly is genuinely intent on returning to the top echelons of the English, and one day, European game.

I feel that the club will think (rightly) that the changes in relationships between themselves (players, manager, officials, board) and us lot are much improved. Better atmosphere at games, bigger crowds, more season tickets sold and so on. 2 way dialogue on VT and elsewhere about all aspects of the club except transfers.

So far so good - except the transfer thing?

Well yes and no. I would imagine that the perception from the club of us lot is slightly mixed.

They've had a lot of praise (rightly so) for many of the things they have done. Both publicly and in private, and I believe they genuinely appreciate the heartfelt thanks response they've had for their actions. So that's nice.

Transfer wise, up to yesterday, the feedback, too, has been positive, and they'll have been pleased.

So this boils down to the reactions to the news of Marlon's signing. Reaction has fallen into perhaps 3 camps

a) Good. The manager wanted him, the board backed the signing, we got our man.

B) Bad. Marlon is not the sort of player I rate. We should have signed [someone else]

c) We've been lied to, I want my season ticket money back, it's a disgrace. The club is just the same old club it was, talking the talk in the transfer window to get sales of season tickets up.

The first 2 views seem fair enough to me, for a fan to hold. The third completely unfair. I would guess the club are somewhat bemused to get such, er, strident, comment back.

So is it the fans (well a portion of us) who are out of order? Or is there something in what they say? Mike seems to suggest communication from the club is lacking, and thus contributed to fans feeling strongly that they have been "let down".

If he's right, How could this area change?

Should or could the club have not said that they want to succeed and "walk the walk"?

The answer is they could have said little on their aims and ambitions. But this would have been a mistake. As new and unknown owners, there was a clear obligation on Randy and Co. to spell out to the fans "how it's gonna be".

Well should they have been more communicative in this area then?

"We want to sign 6 players - a forward, 2 midfielders, a goalkeeper and 2 defenders (or whatever) and we have a budget of (say) 22 million pounds"?

There's two flaws with this approach (at least).

Spelling out the detail of your transfer plans is not a good negotiating tactic.

Spelling out your budget is not a good negotiating tactic

Saying exactly what you want and getting it are 2 different things. Clubs may not want to sell, current players may wish to move, or offers might come in, which change your plans - where you end up, and where you started from are often a way apart.

Overall result - your negotiating position is weak, you end up giving yourself more chance of failure than success - leading to fans, who you were trying to please, exceedingly unhappy.

Well what about regular updates, instead, then?

"we're going to be going for a fullback from Europe in the next 10 days" (or whatever).

Result, alert rivals to your next move. Get the press tracking your moves and intentions. Outcome - reduced chance of failure and miffed fans and furious manager. Mistake.

Compared to the options so far, the one they actually took doesn't seem so bad, does it?

Practically speaking, no clubs truthfully say who they are after when they will sign them and what their budget is. They have found over time that the best plan is to keep schtum and try to get on with things out of the glare of the insatiable demand for information from media and fans.

But still, there is a part of me thinking Mike's got a point, to an extent. How did we get to a situation where so many normally rational people appear to have lost all sense of proportion? Surely something can be done to address this?

Perhaps we should go back to what the General has said? "I'm not going to discuss transfers - that's MO'N's remit"

In this case then, maybe MO'N should discuss them just a little bit?

I don't mean individual players, targets or fees, I mean where he sees the squad, overall.

It's been striking to me having read hundreds of pages of comment on just one transfer that MO'N pretty much universally escaped any criticism, whilst poor old Marlon and Richard Fitzgerald came in for loads of "comment".

It seems that the manager, the man who really matters in all this, might be the solution, then. After all Martin O'Neill is a very clever man. Shrewd, great with people. Canny.

I think maybe a few words from our leader would be helpful, just from time to time, on how things are progressing. How he sees the squad progressing, where he's still looking and working to improve matters.

We got a taste of it towards the end of the season - Gabby will maybe not manage another ever present season and I want to help him a bit" was the gist of one tidbit. And it was good. a couple of lines, job done in that areaa.

It doesn't take much to add that he would be looking therefore to add a forward to the squad who would neither block Gabby's progression, nor break the bank and detract from strengthening in other areas. He wants someone fast and powerful as an option, someone with something to prove to people....etc" or words to that effect.

Surely there's a positive in there - a popular player in Gabby is helped, and equally expectations (wildly stoked by vivid imaginations) are aligned realistically. Would we (some of us) be going freaky mental if this had happened?

This type of thing even now, would be in my eyes a good move. Maybe in respect of the defence and defenders at the club, or another area. No need to spill any beans, but just an inkling?

Maybe something about whether there are plans in the pipeline for other notable signings. That's all.

Of course if there aren't then maybe the lesson is that what Richard Fitzgerald intimated was out of kilter with what MO'N intended to actually do? And if so, maybe MO'N and Fitz should better co-ordinate what they say and do. In this case, had Richard Fitzgerald said that the new people at the club, including the manager, had reviewed the season, been hugely impressed with the progress made by the youngsters, had identified the need for broadening the squad width, but felt that he introduction of too many new faces in one go would be counter productive, that they felt that 2 or 3 additions or replacements would be necessary but that (for example) Martin Laursen's fitness and form, combined with the progess made by Gary Cahill...etc blah blah meant that major surgery is not needed, that a chance to continue had been earned....etc" then expectations again, would be managed.

Of course, there's another aspect. We may yet be adding further to the squad, I believe we will. I believe that Marlon Harewood will be a useful player at Villa Park, I believe that despite the furore the club now is in good shape and good hands.

Maybe the lesson is simply that it's the silly season and we all get affected and talk drivel to fill the gap.

So to our proud, bemused, but very welcome American board I can only say, welcome to an English Summer. May you experience plenty more.

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I have a theory regarding our lack of transfer activity.

Everyone knows that we have a lot of money, so if we are genuinely interested in a player his price will go up above his market value, the same as happens to Chelsea (albeit to a greater extent than us). I think that Villa maybe waiting until another club has a bid accepted for the player and then we go in with the same bid and get the player to choose us (because of our good manager, ambition, history, etc.). Example - Marlon Harewood. Wigan had a bid accepted, we match it and obviously he would choose us.

So are we waiting until Hearts accept a bid from Sunderland (who have less money than us) for Gordon so we can simply match it and persuade him to join us? Let's hope so. The same could be happening with other players.

This tactic wouldn't work if any of the big 4 were in for a player, but at the moment we're not in the same market as them. In any case, they have a lot of money so the price will go up anyway. If anyone else is in for somebody we have a fighting chance of getting them.

Hopefully I'm right and the transfers will start flooding in once everyone else has done our negotiating for us!

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The board shouldn't cair one bit what fans think over summer. They should do what they want and achieve MONs targets as best they can.

We the fans should have to wait until the end of the summer before becoming concerned.

It is rediculous to suggest that they should compromise targets by commenting on transfers, spelling out targets etc just to apease needy fans. Suck it up people!

We should be grateful they have given us so many press releases to pour over on these boards as it is. They don't even owe us that.

Sit back and let them get on with the job! The time for questions is at the end of the window. The time for judgement is at the end of the season!

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Great article. I agree it's useful to try and see it from the other point of view. On another thread (his only contribution to any thread other than his own, and significant for that reason) Krulak wrote

I probably shouldn't even get in on this one...as I rarely read what is "out there" on other threads because I am busy enough on my own but, here goes. I guess I am a wee bit surprised at this post simply because it appears that it was driven by one act...a signing of one player. Out of that signing comes a bubbling up of skepticism, lessening of optimism, etc. Obviously, that is the right of the author...and the right of anyone else who finds agreement with the comments...I am not arguing that point. All I am saying is that the mood swing, based upon one signing, seems a bit severe. I have fought in many a battle where things took an unexpected turn...or things didn't go exactly the way I wanted them to go....and the stakes were VERY high. I did not lose my focus when that happened and I didn't re-set my expectations.

If he sees the Harewood signing as the cause of the scepticism, I think he's wrong. It was what set off the widespread expression of frustration, but that was there already. I think the cause is the perceived gap between stated ambition and action (ie statements about ambition, but signings both fewer and lower profile than fans took this to mean), coupled with a memory of Ellis' deception. The scepticism is both unfair and out of proportion.

It seems to me that what Fitzerald said was essentially no different from what Krulak had said earlier, ie that the ambition was to compete at the highest level and the funds would be made available to do that. Many people translated that into immediate signings of world class players.

Which is, yes, where MON comes in. Blandy mentions him wanting players with a point to prove, and this is exactly what he said when he started at Celtic, I understand. He's also careful with other people's money. And starting from where we are, it would require quite a leap of faith for a world-class player to sign up straight away. So he's working towards making tangible improvements in the squad at whatever pace seems possible, but we're unhappy that he hasn't already gabbed Sneijder and Huntelaar and others.

I don't believe there is any significant difference between MON, Fitzgerald and Krulak about where they want the club to be, and I think that ambition also fits what we want. But I do think there is a gap between what MON sees as a realistic and achievable way of getting there, and the vaulting ambition of many fans, who want it all now.

Is there something that MON could say which wouldn't give away detail that would be unhelpful in future dealings, which would reassure people, which wouldn't make false promises or raise expectations or else depress people? Probably not, actually. There's a pent-up sense of frustration that has built up over many years, and people are looking to the new board to relieve that immediately. It's unrealistic, and maybe the lesson for the board is to expect some of this, try to counter it where they can, not to be upset by it, and trust that in the end people will judge on track record, which so far has been good.

Either that, or sign Sneijder and Huntelaar damn quick.

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Excellent article Blandy.

I think you got it spot on. I think this summer was always going to be something of a black and white for Villa supporters. I always knew we weren't going to be signing huge names, but we wouldn't be signing piss poor ones either.

It is a good point to the American owners, welcome to the English Summer, well said. The papers, agents and journalists certainly make this so. They make it difficult on fans, and even more so on the managers.

I think the best people to talk to about MON transfers are the Celtic fans. The ones I've heard from are very happy with how he handled the transfer seasons at Celtic. He kept his "cards close". I think this is a very smart move, it works well in negotiating tactics.

However, at Celtic, he had a club with a reputation, one that could attract bigger names then Villa. And no disrespect to Villa, I love them to death, but lets be honest. It's why they got the better players out of the basket in Europe. Larsson, Petrov, etc etc.

Soo it's an interesting time for MON and his transfer season, he has a load of money, but so do half of the other clubs out there. He has the Villa reputation, which is a big name, but not as big as Celtic, so the competition for signings is to say the least, DIFFICULT. I wish him all the luck and he has my trust in faith. If I could I'd buy 5 season tickets and give them back to the fockers that want theirs replaced. hahaha. UTV

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Pete, you as usual are have articulated what a lot of us have said

I just think peopel are suckered in by what has gone on at the likes of Man City and believe we should be doing teh sae

I don't

I said on numerous occassions last season we had the nucleus of a good squad which just needed additions in the right place

NRC has a replacemet for McCann fits the bil, despite my reservations over Harewood we need cover for Carew

now MO has to get the rest and becayuse the team was bedding in last season I do expect us to hit the ground running

other teams who have brought and will buy 8/9 players won't have had the bedding in period that carew Maloney, young, Petrov have had, in that way teh excuses for them are thin

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I have a theory regarding our lack of transfer activity.

Everyone knows that we have a lot of money, so if we are genuinely interested in a player his price will go up above his market value, the same as happens to Chelsea (albeit to a greater extent than us). I think that Villa maybe waiting until another club has a bid accepted for the player and then we go in with the same bid and get the player to choose us (because of our good manager, ambition, history, etc.). Example - Marlon Harewood. Wigan had a bid accepted, we match it and obviously he would choose us.

So are we waiting until Hearts accept a bid from Sunderland (who have less money than us) for Gordon so we can simply match it and persuade him to join us? Let's hope so. The same could be happening with other players.

This tactic wouldn't work if any of the big 4 were in for a player, but at the moment we're not in the same market as them. In any case, they have a lot of money so the price will go up anyway. If anyone else is in for somebody we have a fighting chance of getting them.

Hopefully I'm right and the transfers will start flooding in once everyone else has done our negotiating for us!

Keep going, nothing to see here - NV

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The voice of reason Blandy! Well said nice article. I think TBH when most Villa fans calm down and think about the Harewood signing and get over the shock of it not being the next Van Nistleroy, they'll realise he's a pretty decent replacement for Sutton/JPA. As I said a few days ago, every transfer is a gamble but if we've paid about £3.7M on a 27 yr old who has scored goals in the Premiership then even if he's a complete disaster, which I strongly suspect with MON's track record he won't be, we haven't exactly lost alot have we?!

BTW Forgot to post this when you were talking about Owls on OT the other day its a photo of my best friend Heth whose moved up to the Orkneys - she used to work at Muncaster Castle and this is photo of her holding an Eagle Owl I think she said

heatherowls012go2.jpg

Shot with FinePix F410 at 2007-07-20

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I have a theory regarding our lack of transfer activity.

Everyone knows that we have a lot of money, so if we are genuinely interested in a player his price will go up above his market value, the same as happens to Chelsea (albeit to a greater extent than us). I think that Villa maybe waiting until another club has a bid accepted for the player and then we go in with the same bid and get the player to choose us (because of our good manager, ambition, history, etc.). Example - Marlon Harewood. Wigan had a bid accepted, we match it and obviously he would choose us.

So are we waiting until Hearts accept a bid from Sunderland (who have less money than us) for Gordon so we can simply match it and persuade him to join us? Let's hope so. The same could be happening with other players.

This tactic wouldn't work if any of the big 4 were in for a player, but at the moment we're not in the same market as them. In any case, they have a lot of money so the price will go up anyway. If anyone else is in for somebody we have a fighting chance of getting them.

Hopefully I'm right and the transfers will start flooding in once everyone else has done our negotiating for us!

..... I think your theory has legs.

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Excellent posts by both blandy and peterms.

We are a big club, but perhaps not as big as some of us percive us to be. We are improving and will continue to do so under the leadership of MON and Randy Lerner. Some of us have seen the very bad times and have seen a manager like Ron Saunders change the club around. Money talks alot more now and some clubs are being very aggressive in their attitude. I am happy with the way Villa are progressing, obviously need a bit more but am confident the manager will get them.

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Is there something that MON could say which wouldn't give away detail that would be unhelpful in future dealings, which would reassure people, which wouldn't make false promises or raise expectations or else depress people? Probably not, actually. There's a pent-up sense of frustration that has built up over many years, and people are looking to the new board to relieve that immediately. It's unrealistic, and maybe the lesson for the board is to expect some of this, try to counter it where they can, not to be upset by it, and trust that in the end people will judge on track record, which so far has been good.

Either that, or sign Sneijder and Huntelaar damn quick.

:lol:

Well said blandy and peterms... v good posts

When the barrage of abuse and criticism came cascading down, I was embarrassed! Embarrassed to be a Villa fan and embarrassed for the General et al.

... but I think some fans just needed to vent... and if there's any good that's come out of the activities of the last week, it's that the unrealistically high expectations have been dampened.

At the start of last season, we went a few games unbeaten, and expectations all of a sudden started to go haywire: "We'll be in Europe by the end of the year!", some people said... Disappointment and anger are the corollary of unrealistically high expectations.

And, at the end of this season, some fans expected some superstar signings to be coming in thick and fast.

There will be the inevitable retorts: "... but FitzGerald said we should expect top class signings!! That's why we expected better!"... Yet those same people conveniently forget to factor a number of quotes from *the manager* (!!!) into their expectations about taking time, bringing on the kids, etc

On a slightly different note: It's not clear to me that bringing in a fans'-eye "top class signing" will improve our situation. Signings that satisfy the fans aren't necessarily what Aston Villa needs...

Look at what happened when West Ham bought in Tevez and Mascharano last year. They joined a squad which the previous year had finished seventh... I remember reading quotes from West Ham messageboards saying things like: "This is perhaps the greatest team the Premiership has ever seen!"...

The fans were initially sated by the signings... but what happened? The signings served to unsettle the dressing room and the team nearly got relegated!

Evidence suggests that wage inequality within a team has a negative effect on performance (a disruptive dressing room being one such cause). I sincerely doubt that MON wants a highly inequitable wage schedule at the Villa.

Will the 5 year plan be successful? I don't know... I'm not Mystic Meg or Russell Grant (thank God). What I do know is that we should not be rushing to sign players that merely whet the fans' appetites and do not fit into the manager's plans...

... and we won't! So, we shouldn't expect it!

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