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Don't Tell 'em Your Name Pike!


blandy
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Everyone will know by now that on the 9th of August 2010 Martin O’Neill resigned from his job as manager of Aston Villa. Since that time, how has the club kept us informed (or not) on the search for a new manager?

The first obvious point to make is that the resignation clearly came as a surprise to the club. Indeed on 10 August General Krulak said on this site:

Martin's decision to leave was just that...his decision. He quit 5 days before the start of the season. He was not pushed out. Martin's decision was a surprise to the Club.

So not an easy point from which to start - caught unawares at the worst possible time and therefore with no pre-prepared plan for announcements, or a strategy for addressing the worries and hopes of the fanbase.

But the early strategy was to get some sort of message across as to why Martin had left - The explanation given was a difference of opinion over the need to cut costs, and that the Club had some concerns at board level that players not being used needed to be moved off the wage bill.

General Krulak said on this site:

There is no question that if ANY Club has players that are on the payroll but not playing on the pitch...it is prudent to sell them if possible.... a Premiership Club must balance wages vs. revenue...cutting the wages must include the sale of some players

He knew full well about the need to bring wages in line with revenue...the same as every Premiership Club.

The reality is that the wage to revenue issue was not addressed and Martin apparently was unwilling to help address it.

no one person is bigger than our Club...not me, not Randy, not Paul, not Martin. What is interesting is that, apparently, only three of those named understand that fact.

So job done there, to an extent. It should also be pointed out that the General also spoke well of the good work MO'N had done for the club. Also apparent was that the ambitions of the Club have been reigned back a tad, sensibly so, perhaps, given new rules and the world financial situtation. “Spend spend spend” is no longer an option.

The following day, 11 August, Randy Lerner broke his normal silence to tell the press:

As for explaining why Martin left, I can say only that we no longer shared a common view as to how to move forward.

So line drawn. So far so good. Well handled, by and large, by the Club. What next?

The Club at this point were eager to appoint someone quickly - The General on 10 August told readers of VillaTalk

We recognize this is an important decision and one that needs to be done rather quickly but, equally important, in a manner that gets the right man

More good stuff. Nothing earth shattering, just a recognition of the priorities.

Unfortunately things then went very quiet for 10 days. Far too long. Supporters anxious to know what was going on, and seeing the sale of James Milner and a couple of poor showings on the pitch were becoming exasperated by both events and the silence. Speculation and fears filled the gap.

Aug 20: The General returned to tell our readers

General Krulak here: I think I have answered this question many times but....there is NO deadline on bringing in a Manager. We want to get the "right" person...not "a" person by a certain time.

Hmmm, Nothing about the type of candidate the Club is looking for, nothing about anything really. Just a sort of "we're in no rush". Unsurprisingly this didn’t calm people down. If anything it made things worse from the fans' perspective. "Sure they say they want the "right" man, but what does that mean?"

Two days later, Aug 22, and The General also starts to become exasperated at the ferment building up on the messageboard: I am not going to answer MON questions...he left and that is that. What I will say is that MON did NOT have funds removed at the end of July....The idea that we must run out and get a Manager just to say we have a Manager does not make sense.

The thing going wrong here is not just the lack of information, of reassurance, but also that the tone had changed with it. The information from the General was becoming reactive to the storm, rather than feeding us anything new. 12 days after saying the Club recognised an appointment needed to be made “rather quickly” there was now no sense of urgency, and no detail as to why timing was less important than quality. What sort of manager might we be looking for?

It’s harsh to put the blame for this vacuum with General Krulak. He undoubtedly does his best to pass on what he knows and what he can say, as often as his schedule allows. The problem is nearly 2 weeks elapse and the Club has basically said next to nothing about anything in terms of the next man. Sure, maybe we fans should be more trusting, but on the other hand perhaps silence is not the best policy at a time when reassurance is badly needed. With the transfer window close to closing - just a week to go, and clear weaknesses within the squad as well as the stated and widely accepted need to cut the wage bill, fans wanted to hear of progress - even if it wasn’t in the form of a name or shortlist of names, they wanted to know how the process was going, who was involved in deciding the criteria the new man would need to meet and so on.

This message was something the Club maybe seemed to begin to understand

Aug 23 General Krulak

..we are looking for a Manager. Please think about the issue...our previous Manager left us 5 days before the season. MOST talented managers are already employed...they have jobs...they are not sitting at home waiting for us to call. Yes, there are some out there that have great talent but they are currently doing something for someone else. This means digging deeply into the pool that is available...getting feedback and info from advisors on who and where. This is NOT something that is done in two weeks...yet that is what you expect. I am telling you it doesn't work that way but most of you will just gaff me off and say it is all PR.

And then another gap in communications, until, finally on 28th August, the General started to say something with a bit more meat to it - the sort of thing that the Club could and should have trailed 2 weeks earlier.

When MON left, the Club absolutely made up a list of Managers that we would approach. ...a new Manager is not something that happens overnight....we did not, in any way, stop the search/effort to research and talk with potential managers. That effort is ongoing....

Sometimes it would seem that the fans think that nothing is happening... Nothing could be further from the truth. Not a day goes by that we are not working this issue. ...Yes, we could get a Manager in...but we are not interested in "any" Manager, we are interested in the right Manager. It is as simple as that!

We have spent MANY hours looking for the person....we have traveled and we have talked...JUST because it isn't spread all over the London Times does not mean that we haven't been working.

How much better would it have been if that had been said well beforehand? - for example something along the lines of:

Immediately MON left, the Club made up a list of Managers that we hope to approach. Obviously a new Manager is not something that happens overnight, but we will not, in any way, stop the search/effort to research and talk with potential managers. That effort will be ongoing. Clearly we can’t make public all that is happening with regard to the process, and at times you may think nothing is happening, but that won’t be the case. Not a day will go by that we won’t be working this issue. Yes, we could get a Manager in tomorrow...but we are not interested in "any" Manager, we are interested in the right Manager. It is as simple as that, so please bear with us and trust that we are doing everything in our power to make the right choice. And remember that we will be traveling and talking and just because it isn't spread all over the London Times does not mean that we aren't working.

Would that kind of information and reassurance have been helpful? What would have been the harm in it?

Anyway, they didn’t go that way, but by just short of 3 weeks after Martin left we had the following from the General:

I believe that Randy and the Club will be putting out a statement either today or tomorrow re. the efforts ongoing to find a Manager. Please don't misunderstand me, I am not saying he will announce a Manager. He does recognize, obviously, the concern of the Fans and will want the Fans to know essentially what he has done and when. As I indicated, he started taking action as soon as MON turned in his resignation and left 5 days before the beginning of the season. Randy has not stopped working the issue since that date. He has refrained from putting out a statement for many reasons...the two key ones are simply 1) that it is not good business to articulate your plans in the media...it causes too many problems and 2) it is not good for the Club to wake up every morning and read another article about another Manager that the owner is interviewing

Personally, I think the arguments for saying nothing are to an extent nullified by the fact that the press will not stop printing stories and speculation about the vacancy just because the Club says nothing, and that there’s a happy medium between silence and “revealing your plans”. 3 weeks is a long time to wait for a statement on the search for a new manager, isn’t it?

Below is a slightly shortened version of the statement from CEO Paul Faulkner, on the OS

Following the departure of our manager on August 9, the Club was left with very little time to react and to prepare for our opening fixtures.

Our first order of business, looking immediately ahead to our games against West Ham, Rapid Vienna, Newcastle and Everton, was to ask Kevin MacDonald to step in as caretaker manager...

As such, we felt he would provide a critical degree of stability and continuity in a turbulent period and give the team the best opportunity to succeed in these early games.

We are conscious that we have steered clear of openly communicating our thoughts on the search for a permanent manager until this time, as we felt that to do so would undermine both Kevin's and the players' efforts to focus on preparing for these games.

To date, we have immersed ourselves in the process of appointing a new manager and clearly identifying the key criteria this person must meet.

Two of the traits we believe are of crucial importance are that candidates have experience of managing in the Premier League and a strategy for building on the existing strengths in our current squad.

We have thoroughly researched potential candidates and have reached out to a variety of contacts we have within the game for advice and guidance, as well as keeping key staff at Villa Park informed and focused.

We will now start the process of interviewing candidates we believe meet the key criteria required to manage Aston Villa with a view to making an appointment in the near future.

Kevin MacDonald will continue as caretaker manager until that time...

We would not expect to make any further statements until such time as we are in position to make a definitive announcement on the managerial situation.

That’s a bit better. Again, though, much of this statement could have been said weeks before it was finally made.

In my judgement it would have made little difference to media speculation - they could have left out the part about Prem experience and said all this much earlier, with no ill effects, but with the advantage of looking a lot more in control and professional to the paying supporters, sponsors and media. The explanation for saying nothing as it would undermine Kev MacDonald is both rather peculiar, and perhaps revealing of some naïvity.

Meanwhile the General has kept up his posting on our message-board over the last few days

Aug 30: discussing the Manager and the criteria is NOT something I am going to do. There is NO value in such a debate...for the Fans or for me. Randy has said he will announce the name...and I will just wait for that to happen.

Aug 31

Randy will find the "right" Manager for the Club. He cannot and should not react to every thought of every fan or every thought of every Board Member. At the end of the day, he needs to do what he feels is right. Some will agree with his decision, some will not....but it will be his. I can honestly say that names in the media are just that....names in the media.

sep 03

...You have no idea who we are looking at other than reading the papers...and those that you have guessed correctly, you have something negative to say about all of them. Suppose we happen to pick one of them...or suppose we are trying to get one to come to the Club...I am sure they enjoy reading the blogs to see how our fans react to their names...and rest assured, anyone we would want is smart enough to do some due diligence on the Club and Fan base. Simply put, there are some Fans who have just turned on Randy like pit vipers... I have done all in my power to keep you all informed as to where we are...and there are some that just discount everything I say....we are continuing to work towards a resolution of this issue. WE didn't quit the team 5 days before the start of the season...WE didn't leave the Club high and dry. If you think that it is easy to go find a Manager, think again. You have mentioned some high visibility Managers...do you really believe we haven't spoken to them? You say we should throw money at them and they will up and quit their current Clubs...you know nothing!! For those who understand the issues we are faced and support us...thank you! For those who don't, I would only ask that you try to fathom the depth of the issues and the effort we have been expending since this all started.

I am not sure what "naming names" will do...now or after the choice has been made. What I will say is that there is not a single name that I have heard that hasn't been the brunt of VERY serious discussion. Simply put, we have discussed every name I have read on this Board and have done more than discussed with the VAST majority of them....We have interviewed and met with a significant number of people...spoken, written, etc. To think that we have only looked at two or three people is simply dead wrong.

Now those 3 posts are a very mixed bunch, and betray a frustration that fans have become impatient and fractious and in some cases sceptical and distrustful, even. A reluctance to name names, and then confirmation that all those names the fans discussed were or are considered at some point. By now neither the General, nor many fans seem to be posting as rationally as perhaps they might wish.

To be frank much of the frustration and anger, even, has been caused, or at least exacerbated by poor communication from the Club.

It might be different in the real world, but on planet football, at a crucial time of the season, perhaps the most crucial - the transfer window - it is simply not possible to go without a manager, sell your best player, suffer an absolute shoeing to a side just promoted and a home cup defeat and say as little as they have about the search for a new manager, and not get a fair portion of the supporters concerned and angry about the lack of information, lack of squad reshaping and lack of direction and an apparent drift.

My concerns and complaints are not so much about what they have or haven’t done, but what they haven’t said, and the large gaps between when they have(n’t) said it.

In a world where communication surrounds us - internet, TV, radio, press twittering and all rest, people, fans, have become accustomed, for good or bad, to having information readily available. When the people are also your paying customers keeping them so much in the dark is a bad move.

There’s no need for a blow by blow, daily account of progress, and the point about not revealing too much is taken, but equally some sort of formal weekly progress report from the club would have saved a lot of grief for the General, a lot of anxiety for supporters and would have enhanced, rather than diminished the Club’s good reputation for talking openly and honestly to its fans and customers.

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I'm not sure I understand the importance or relevance of this article; I personally am not at all frustrated with the manner in which the club has dealt with the situation. In fact, I find it comforting that our internal business is not being discussed and disected by the idiots involved with sports media.

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What seems to have been lacking is a clear strategy from the start about how to manage the information to fans about the hunt for a new manager - something we would obviously have a very passionate interest in.

It seems pretty clear that General K is firefighting in a situation where no communications strategy exists.

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Excellent post once again Pete.

The club have certainly done themselves no favours in terms of communicating with the supporters over this issue. No one expected them to name names but more structured information should have been forthcoming, rather than the random ramblings from the General, especially as this issue as dragged on for so long.

Lessons will hopefully be learnt from all this. Although given Randys long time association with the Browns I'd have thought the naivety the club have shown should not have happened.

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I'm going to have to disagree with you, Blandy, and I'll do it by using your own quote:

Personally, I think the arguments for saying nothing are to an extent nullified by the fact that the press will not stop printing stories and speculation about the vacancy just because the Club says nothing, and that there’s a happy medium between silence and “revealing your plans”.

The same principle applies to fans.

Even if the club had released a statement earlier, it would nothave stopped the wild speculation and knee-jerk reactions we got from fans after losing Milner, dropping out of Europe and getting a pasting from Newcastle. The club is in a no-win situation. Personally, I prefer they actually do their work rather than worry about how that work is perceived by the fans. Nothing talks like actions.

Regardless of communication from the club or the lack thereof, only time will tell if they have done that work. Taking a look at the track record of Randy, The General and Paul, I have enough reason to trust that they will deliver. I'd suggest other fans should take a moment and truly assess whether that is the case.

As for the General - I don't think fans realise just how good his communication is. It's not the usual spin that you get from official releases and gives a far more candid insight into what those who run Aston Villa are thinking. That he takes the time to post anything is not something we should be taking for granted. Nor should we be overly critical of his posts if they somehow don't meet our expectations.

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I'm not sure I understand the importance or relevance of this article; I personally am not at all frustrated with the manner in which the club has dealt with the situation. In fact, I find it comforting that our internal business is not being discussed and disected by the idiots involved with sports media.

Wot 'e said.

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Which other PL club has it's management directly interacting with the fans/supporters and make the effort to keep them placated? None , to the best of my knowledge.

As far as I am concerned , I think the situation was handled perfectly well and in a professional manner, as it should have been. Why should the media be fed every scrap of information regarding the inside working mechanism of finding a manager , the criteria for selection , experience etc etc? Overall , Randy and his team are sound businessmen and they know that is not how you conduct your affairs , in public through the press.

I partly agree the situation could have been handled in a slightly better manner in terms of the communication from General Krulak , but you cannot blame him for being frustrated , seeing as how some supporters have forgotten the fact that MON was the one to walk out 5 days before the season commenced and it was an 'emergency' situation for the club , if you will and they are doing their best under the circumstances. We should appreciate the fact that Mr. Lerner has made an effort to make a direct line of communication with the fans , which cannot be said about other clubs.

They have made mistakes , yes , but remember this was a contingency of sorts , it was but obvious they were not going to flawless in their handling of things.

And some of the posts about Gen. Krulak and RL have been plain disrespectful , over the top and wildly accusatory in nature in my humble opinion. We can still make our points effectively in a respectful but straightforward manner without resorting to cheap shots and petty jibes at the management team.

Don't intend to come across as patronising , apologies if it sounded that way.

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i agree with the post but general is a bit rattled as opinions are good and he may be trying hard but end of the day he's American and has not got a lot of experience of english football fans, i agree with a few points MrWeedMcGrass has made above in there defence but all we want is for Villa to be one of the best because we love the club passionately.

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...some of the posts about Gen. Krulak and RL have been plain disrespectful , over the top and wildly accusatory in nature in my humble opinion....
Absolutely. I completely agree. I think at least some of them might not have been made, or made as strongly, had there been a little bit more information provided by the Club, at the right times.
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end of the day he's American and has not got a lot of experience of english football fans

Which is what makes the exchanges on his thread interesting.

Personally I like the fact he puts some feeling into his posts. I would rather have his style than a series of bland, dispassionate, "corporate communication" type responses. If he was weighing up every word he wrote to ensure that he caused no offence to anyone, it would make for pretty boring reading and tell us nothing.

Not that he shouldn't be a little bit careful in what he writes, of course. But I don't think he's said anything 'over the top'.

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I'm going to have to disagree with you, Blandy, and I'll do it by using your own quote:

Personally, I think the arguments for saying nothing are to an extent nullified by the fact that the press will not stop printing stories and speculation about the vacancy just because the Club says nothing, and that there’s a happy medium between silence and “revealing your plans”.

The same principle applies to fans.

Even if the club had released a statement earlier, it would nothave stopped the wild speculation and knee-jerk reactions we got from fans after losing Milner, dropping out of Europe and getting a pasting from Newcastle. The club is in a no-win situation. Personally, I prefer they actually do their work rather than worry about how that work is perceived by the fans. Nothing talks like actions.

Regardless of communication from the club or the lack thereof, only time will tell if they have done that work. Taking a look at the track record of Randy, The General and Paul, I have enough reason to trust that they will deliver. I'd suggest other fans should take a moment and truly assess whether that is the case.

As for the General - I don't think fans realise just how good his communication is. It's not the usual spin that you get from official releases and gives a far more candid insight into what those who run Aston Villa are thinking. That he takes the time to post anything is not something we should be taking for granted. Nor should we be overly critical of his posts if they somehow don't meet our expectations.

Entirely agree with you there.

I think it's just the explosion of internet forums etc and a general culture of wanting updates yesterday - see the amount of drivel posted / chased / followed on social networking sites for this.

Perhaps a statement could have come out sooner, perhaps not. Either way it's way down on the list of priorities the board should have right now, and that's getting the right man in.

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Perhaps a statement could have come out sooner, perhaps not. Either way it's way down on the list of priorities the board should have right now, and that's getting the right man in.

This is a board that has made a point of direct communications with the fans and has assigned one person to communicate frequently and openly with fans on internet forums.

So why is it not legitimate to comment when, over one of the most important issues the board has faced since Mr Lerner bought the club, the designated person does not seem to have had any plan about what, how or when he was going to communicate by way of information, and seems to have been drawn into an increasingly irascible series of slanging matches with fans, to the extent that he has evoked comments in the press.

If communication with the fans is "way down on the list of priorities", fine, but maybe they shouldn't ever have given the impression it was high up the list.

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Indeed, Briny. It's not an either / or situation - it is entirely possible to get on with the job of looking for a manager and also to give updates with a bit more than "it's not easy" and "we WILL get the right man" in them.

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Its easy to look at things retrospectively and say "well if this was said at this point it would have been better", but not so easy when you dont have hindsight

I think its also easy to forget that The Gen was acting as a gloryfied ITK really, he was not in his office with a PR team deciding what should be published to the fans, he was letting us know in an informal way in essentially his spare time, so to then take his post and display them as "Exhibit-A" and "Statement-B" seems a little harsh

Its also a little naive of The Gen not to expect the press to take his statements on here and manipulate them, especially when Randy is less than forthcoming with them

This bit did make me smile though...

.... Simply put, there are some Fans who have just turned on Randy like pit vipers...

..were not fickle :winkold:

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