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Black Monday or Good Friday?


JohnCresswell
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Posted by "villacross".

Don't say we only publish articles that are of a certain talking point. Prepare to disagree - Peter Cross asks if the Villa board acts like one of a top four club.

I had my worst fears confirmed last week. I read that Cap'n Barry has been awarded a bumper pay rise to £45,000 / week or just over £2million a year. This presumably must therefore be the ceiling on player's wages in our club’s “Five-Year Plan”. I’m not sure how the fans have taken this news. Some will think well-done Gareth; you’re worth every penny of it. Many will say £2million+ pa is more than any footballer is worth. That’s more than the whole squad earned in the year when we were “Kings of Europe”, 25 years ago.

However, times have moved on since then. We now have Sky TV and foreign managers at the Top4 Clubs (sorry 3 foreigners plus 1 Scot). The average annual football staff wages for these same Top4 Clubs, over the 2 seasons to May 2005 was £73.6 million, At Aston Villa under HDE it was £30.3million. So with this recent news that the ceiling is now just over £2million pa with an average wage for all the senior squad of certainly no more than 1.5million pa, the current annual figure will be probably be less than the £30.3million spend under HDE.

Maybe Martin O'Neill can “walk on water” and will be able to achieve success with the smallest senior squad ever seen at Villa Park. Or perhaps his mystic powers will be able to convince players to ignore the “lucre” and come to us for the joy of adulation from us Villa fans.

But coming back to reality, to achieve and sustain real success at Villa Park again, we must be at the forefront in all aspects of today’s modern soccer industry. That means we must pay the market rate to attract “top-class” staff, whether business executives, IT staff, marketeers or footballers and their support staff. The new commercial and operational management teams appear to be doing their part. We can see massive improvements almost everywhere except in one, which in reality, is the one we are now most concerned about - the size and the quality of the senior squad!

We have been told by the CEO, Richard Fitzgerald - “Martin O’Neill’s ambitious plans are fully supported”; he also said “I expect to see big-name signings”. I therefore assumed that the association between “ambition” and “big-name signings”, was that at last, our beloved Club, within the much publicised 5-Year Plan is prepared to carry a football staff wages bill of at least £60million pa with a range up to at least £70-£80,000 per week, even if only for a few of the senior players.

Apparently, this is definitely not the case, so forget about "big-name signings" at Aston Villa. Also, forget about a “bright future” and the “big-nights” and excitement of European competition again. We must continue to look forward to scrambling to finish near the top-half of the Premiership. Lucrative pay structures and success in football today go together like “peaches and cream”, or should I say like “Rooney and Ronaldo”? The Top4 Clubs have consistently proven this every season over the last decade, without any doubt whatsoever.

As I finish this post, I am thinking about both Tony Blair and his “hand on the shoulder of history” speech after his success in finalising the “Good Friday” peace agreement in Northern Ireland. I am also seeing Norman Lamont, standing outside No11 Downing Street on “Black Monday”, admitting, but not apologising, for failing to beat the world’s financial markets by trying to “prop-up” sterling against the ERM; which was followed by near perilous financial consequences.

Twelve months ago I was excitedly looking forward to a future of “Good Fridays” under a billionaire owner and the brilliant Martin O’Neill; but alas, one year on and I cannot see such a rosy future. All I can now see is a series of “Black Mondays” with Failure…. Failure…. and more Failure. A replication of what we’ve endured for the past two decades and more.

On behalf of tens of thousands of fans both here in the UK and in all corners of the world, I make a single and humble request to Randy Lerner – repudiate my assertions that our pay structure is a barrier to attracting “top-class” signings of International calibre. Alternatively and better still, prove my assertions unfounded by ensuring that at least one such “top-class” signing is made within the next two weeks.

Otherwise, if neither of these two options are executed by Mr Lerner, this period in Villa’s proud history will be remembered as a “Black Monday”, from which those ultimately responsible for this short sighted, miserly pay policy will pay the price of failure. I then hope that those remaining will adopt the same successful strategies pursued by the current Top4 Clubs. Maybe then, we will have a bright future as well as a proud history.

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The whole conclusion rests on the assumption that we have awarded Barry with what is effectively the ceiling of our wage structure. I simply don't believe that's the case.

If we are willing to pay for performance, then by using the same argument there are no better players than Gareth Barry in the world. Which I disagree with.

I think it's good that we give a key player an increase, even though he already is on a contract where a lower wage has been agreed. Why would the club, acting on it's own initiative, decide to give a player already under contract, the max of what we can offer to any player, regardless of ability?

Looking at it from another perspective, it could be that the club wants to bring in a lot of players of similar or above Barry's quality. Then his wage adjustment would be a proactive thing to do to prevent differences in wages to become a source of unhappiness for a loyal, quality player.

So I think that IF the club now has a £45k p/w max policy, then there could be reasons for concern. But I think the conclusion rests on an assumption that I'm simply not convinced is true.

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Should we pay players 'top 4' wages inm order to get into the top 4? Or should they be paid top 4 wages when they achieve a top 4 position?

West Ham are paying players like Craig Bellamy, Lucas Neill and Kieron Dyer over £60,000 a week and imo that will not get them anywhere near the top 4.

Its not just as simple as throwing money at players in order to get into the champions league. It is something which is going to have to be built over time. The board have said this is what they want to do, and having done so much to build a better base for the club so far, they deserve to be given much more time than 2 transfer windows to prove their ambition to get the best players on the pitch.

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We don't even seem to be able to agree fees for players - which is generally done before discussing the players salary. Although I take your point in general - I don't think we have got close to bringing someone who would command £70k per week. - because we don't seem to be in the market for this type of player. AT present we seem to be bidding for players at around £4m - these type of players do not command wages in excess of £45k per week. The worry for me is that we are still competing in the lower end of the market. I really don't think MON has the funds that some on here think he does.

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I think the article is founded on a completely spurious conclusion and a misreading of the situation..

How can increasing the wage bill, by giving Barry a rise lead to, or even be indicative of a reduction in the wage bill from the Ellis period? it doesn't make sense to me. Peter assumes that there is a ceiling/limit, but has absolutely no evidence on which to base that assumption. Individual players wages are not, despite the media, made public.

An additional factor in the wages for the top 4 is the Champions League, and bonuses and performance money from that competition. The top 4 win stuff and do well, hence bonuses kick in. Their players get paid more because they win stuff, basically. Wages should be structured around performance.

The rest of the article seems to be basically saying "we have a small squad and we will fail, despite what the board have said". Which is an opinion Peter is entitled to hold, but seems overly gloomy in outlook to me, and not one that I'd agree with at all.

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It's an interesting supposition.

I think it's possible to construct a very good team of players on £45k a week, however if it were true, why now?

If we make a signing or two in the next few days and they are paid the same £45k, then it might be worth looking at where we are and whether this will be a long term ceiling or not. If not, then why put Barry's wage up now? Personally I think it's just reward for a player who has been outstanding foor the last few seasons, and no more than that.

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The article appears to be based on a presumption, a presumption which suggests that £45,000 is the maximum weekly wage that we are willing to pay. I don't see any evidence for this at all.

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I think 45,000 pounds should be the maximum we should pay each week but if we become successful winning things and be top 4 regular then we can increase bonuses. Team like West Ham is asking for a financial nightmare like Leeds if they don't watch out.

I also believe the like of Dyer, Bellamy and co shouldn't get 45 grand a week.

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Blandy - the only conjecture in my post is whether the report was correctly reported in the media. I note that the Club have not yet denied it. Also it may be possible that top-quality signings are currently being lined up and will be paid more than Barry, but surely this is extremely unlikely; but who knows? Obviously if there was greater transparency in these matters such speculation as mine would be redundant, but whilst there's not, I believe we should question the Board on these issues. I'm not particularly interested in the typical trivial questions put to General Krulak like the price and quality of pies served at the Holte End. But I not yet convinced that our Club has a clear incisive policy to get back to a Top6 spot. However, as always I value you opinion.

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Hippo-interesting to hear your views, I too believe that O'Neill has to operate within a budget. There's nothin wrong with that, all well-run businesses operate that way. Ijust feel the problem is that the budget is too small, which I believe is the reason why he's sold before buying so that he doesn;t risk exceeding the budget. The problem now seems that he can't get sufficient quality replacements for the funds that remain.

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Blandy - the only conjecture in my post is whether the report was correctly reported in the media.

Hardly, Peter, There's conjecture as to the amount GB earns, conjecture that it's a ceiling above which we will not pay, conjecture that the wage bill will be less than it was under Ellis, conjecture that we will have the smallest squad ever seen at VP (and it won't be increased in size), conjecture that the club was planning to spend at least £60million pa on wages with a range up to at least £70-£80,000 per week for some players, conjecture that our pay structure is a barrier to attracting “top-class” signings.

The whole article is basically opinion or guesswork as to what will be and how things are. Now there's nothing wrong with you doing this, but to claim it as anything other than guesswork and conjecture is to me a bit off, frankly. You might end up being completely right about all of it, but I'd "conject" that you won't be. Interesting read, though.

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Oh dear what a panic the writer of this article has got himself into! Its all for nothing though.

People seem to forget that the wage structure we have here at Villa Park under HDE and now under Lerner is set with the intention of keeping us out of debt. There is no point paying excessive wages (which is what the big clubs and most of those trying challange them are paying) to players that will accept a lower wage (refering to GB), or to past their prime players.

MON has adopted a very workable strategy of investing in young hungry players, young players at any level cannot expect to earn as much as proven players in their prime. Therefore our current wage budget is very workable. Second do you not remember Darren Bent turning down an £80,000 a week contract from West Ham to play for Spurs at £50,000 a week!

Another point is do we really want to be signing injury prone players, who are past their prime like Dyer on £60,000 a week contracts? West Ham are paying ridiculous sums in wages to secure players unlikely to take them further than mid table. Do you want villa to do that? Plus people must remember that Villa have spent 9.5 mill on Young and 8 mill on Reo-Coker, each one of those transfers is more than what West have spent on a single player, and in the case of Young he represents more talent than any of West Hams recent signings.

In comparison to Man City, their highest transfer fee was the 8.8 mill on Bianchi, very similar figure to Young and Coker's fee. Man City have also invested heavily in Youth, however their young players are from the continent which makes sense, as Sven's work for the England national side has shown his style does not suit that of the English player. We must remember that MON is a British manager who is excellent at getting the best out of British players.

Another point is that the hungry players, hungry to play football and win titles will alway chose the big clubs over the smaller ones even if the smaller one's offer more wages. The players that chose money over success are not welcome at Villa Park as far as I am concerned. In addition players that want to play football above all else would much rather come to a team like Villa where there is a greater chance of first team football then your Tottenham's and Newcastle's. Curtis Davies for example is likely to find himself stuck on the bench once Dawson and King return (if he were to go to Spurs) plus they have 4 other CB's, whereas at Villa we have Laursen (who won't be able to play twice a week) and Cahill who has yet to threaten Laursen or Mellberg for their places. So maybe, just maybe having a small squad makes us a more attractive option for young players as it means a little less competition and so a greater chance of winning a first team spot. As hungry players alway want first team football.

The first two seasons of the five year plan is surely to achieve european qualification, that will allow us attract a higher class of player and to invest in Young player that can become future greats, as the last thing we want is to be signing up average players to long expensive contracts and then not being able to unload them as they will not accept a drop in wages (Remember to problems DO'L had getting rid of players like Hadji). This is why the investment in Youth has been the focus, None of the players we have been linked with are over 25, with the exception of Defoe and Wright-Phillp's who are better than your average and still only 26.

We have every right to worry, but the fact remains MON and Lerner have done nothing wrong. The only player I was unhappy to see leave was Davis, but he didn't want to stay, he wanted first team football and was probably tapped up a little by Laurie Sanchez. All the rest that left were either not good enough (McCann), lazy (Djemba Twins), or whingers (Samuel). So we don't have a deep enough squad, at least we know the atmosphere in the dressing room is good, all the players want to play for Aston Villa and are hungry to do well. Getting the right players must be our focus, any players who are report to have a little class won't do. Almost every player in the Prem has class, but class means nothing without, hunger, desire and team spirit.

Remember you don't suddenly became a top four Team overnight. People seem to forget that Chelsea were already in the Champs League and had their to two most important players when Abramavich's money came along, not to mention the only other club that had big spending power at the time was Man Utd.

Judge the transfers situation on the 1st of Sept and stop bloody panicking! As that is our only real worry.

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Blandy-so do you have the opposite view on the points you claim are conjecture? ie 1. after this transfer window is closed, we will not have the smallest squad on record? 2. Barry earns more than £45k per week 2. The Club does not have a ceiling on wages. 3. The Club is prepared to carry a wages bill of £60mill pa or more in wages and pay its top players up to £80k per week 4. Our pay structure is not a barrier to attracting top-class players?

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Philosopher-I'm not panicing but just trying to get across to VT'ers where I believe the Board and/or O'Neill have got it wrong. I'm pleased to see that only a small % of total readers thus far, have "poo-poohed" a fairly contraversial post as being rubbish. I genuinely hope I am proven wrong on any of the main points that I have made but lets now just wait and see how things shape up.

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I'm not so sure £45k a week is the cieling for the next five years. I'm sure if we could get a top player but had to pay £60k then we would. Gareth Barry probably has a clause that automatically gives him pay parity with the top earner so he'd get a pay rise too. Wouldn't surprise me as he's the club captain and similar clauses are becoming more widespread these days.

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