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Which Path to take...?


LancsVillan
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Life as a a Villa fan is never easy, as a club we swerve from side to side and upon reaching a crossroads and never know which way to turn.

It has been the same all through the years that I have supported us. The team that won promotion in 75 was soon broken up to create the swashbuckling one from 1977 (Gray, Little AND Deehan all getting 20 goals in the same season!), that in turn was broken up with the sales of three better players - Gray, Gidman and Deehan, to allow Saunders to create that side.

A side with a couple of kids from the youth and reserve sides and some quality professional to which team meant more than the individual, that proved to be the most successful for decades past and to come.

And so it went on through the 90s - coming 2nd and selling Platt. The league cup winning teams of 94 and 96 with no 'star' names unless you were a Villan, the promise of the Yorke, Collymore and Savo forward line and into the 21st century we have been there or thereabouts, looking up at a stronger and stronger glass ceiling.

Only for 19/09/2006 to come around and the club being bought by one Randy Lerner and three years of competitiveness towards the top of the table, beating those we should and giving a bloody nose to those for whom European nights were not something to cherish (Ajax 2009 anyone) but something they fit in every year.

Then two shocking seasons though not as disastrous as some would have us believe, I write this with the utmost confidence that come May no-one will be able to link me back to it with a smirk.

So where does the fault for the demise of the last two years lie - Houllier? McLeish or as a lot believe MO'N? For they have all agreed to work for AVFC under whatever constraints the owner has put in place (well OK as soon as some restrain was pointed in the direction of MO'N he walked, but you see what I'm getting at) OR does it lie at Randy's door?

As much as I too blame the initial manager for an awful lot of what has happened recently, I often read that Randy too has to shoulder a good amount of the 'blame', especially in the modern internet crazy world where someone has to be blamed for everything that happens, to anything and especially something as emotive as a football club. But what can I personally blame him for let's see:

I can 'blame' him for taking a gamble that never paid off. I refer of course to the monies spent chasing the that 4th place and CL football. Then again it is his club - as much as we believe it to be ours that simply is not the case - to do with as he see fit. For supporting his manager with money that he resolves himself of any blame though as that is what I as a fan wanted and agreed with at the time.

I can 'blame' him for giving MO'N too much freedom, almost unchecked, in the transfer market, for allowing him to sign rough diamonds and ne'er do wells as opposed to nurturing the talent available in the youth team. Again he was supporting his manager in that manager's plan, was it wrong, I felt so at the time and still do. Too much of our youth was allowed to walk out through the door whilst being replaced with players I felt no better in the short or long term. Beye for Cahill; NRMediocre for Davis / Gardner just two examples. Again though Randy was doing what a good chairman does - albeit rather naively concerning the finacnes - supporting the manager.

I cannot blame him for Houlliers ill health, at the time of GH agreeing to be our manager I thought him to be a good choice out of what was available. Towards the end the football was coming on, we had changed the way we played, we looked better and I'm sure if things had been allowed to continue would have improved further this year. Again Randy supported the manager with funds - Makoun and Bent.

Can I blame him for getting in McLeish - well as opposed to a lot NO I couldn't and didn't.

On Alex McLeish, people point to 2 relegations in 3 yrs / 3rd in a 2 horse race but forget that he took over when Rangers were in a shocking position post Advocaat (the money was gone - sound familiar) and took them to cups and titles too, add in the fact that the 3rd in a 2 horse race season also saw Rangers being the first Scottish side to get out of it's CL group, only going out on away goals to Villareal and you can see that maybe his record isn't as bad as some would have us think.

He came from small heath - so what.

He got them relegated - for me again, so what. He never played that cup final side again after the final such were the injuries they endured (and we enjoyed).

Out of those with hats in the ring at the time he was, to me, at least their equal. Martinez; Coyle; McLaren; Curbishley and FSW all held nothing I wanted to see at Villa Park. And although I stand in an increasing minority I still feel he can turn it around, though if he is given the chance has to be seen.

Away from the managerial position I cannot blame Randy for taking the club into the 21st century with the changes he has made to the way things work in the background, from our excellent ticket office, to the Holte Pub and the ever impressive Bodymoor. It was something that had to happen, some of which although not directly impacting on the football side do help the club to function better as a business anda bloody big one at that.

I can 'blame' him for taking his eye off the finances, though it may well be that he thought the 'success' of 4th (something I will forever hate UEFA, Sky and the 'Champions' League for) would bring in finance that justified the gamble. As fans it was what I guess all of us would do, the emotion and need for success overriding everything, including common sense.

I cannot, especially looking around at the likes of Pompey and Rangers, blame him for looking to take hold of them. Indeed, there is an excellent article out there on the interweb that I read today that breaks our finances down very well, please look it up (there is a thread about our finances and a link on page 18 Here

Have the 'cuts' gone too far - quite possibly but I think foundations are being laid from where we can grow, Not everythnig in football is easy, see our last two seasons, but it doesn't mean it is wrong thing to follow the right path.

If I were Randy I would look to do three things:

  1. Instill stability, another change of manager although gaining popularity with the fans, could actually destabilise things further. We've had four(counting KMac) in 18 or so months.
  2. Increase the football awareness aspect of the board, who although good at the administration and business aspects may require a little expertise and knowhow every so often. For fan acclaim I would expand Ian Taylors role into maybe a NED.
  3. Stay with the club, it's now in your blood do not walk away, the ride as I said initially will be a bumpy one but it's one we can succeed at.
  4. (ok I said 3, whatever as the kids say).. Talk to the fans, through the OS, twitter, Facebook whatever but talk to us regularly, we know you are a quiet man but it is nice to hear from you what our plans are and how we are moving towards achieving them (and/or the reasons why not).

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A nice article, Lancs, though I'd take issue with the line that says he's entitled to do what he likes as the owner of the club (paraphrase).

Though that's technically true, he himself said that he arrived as a "steward" of the club. To me that infers a lot of care and (I would have thought) sensible management. The major problem is that I don't think he's been sensible often enough. But I like your final 3 (er, 4!) points.

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A very good article, but I disagree on final point number 1. Clubs might well improve initially under McLeish, but they then regress under him too.

That is proven in his past, but point 4 is definitely something I would welcome more of from Randy. If we were kept up to speed a bit better, there might be a better understanding as to why certain decisions are taken, and the thinking behind it.

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can't agree on the manager, much as I'd like stability. It's more likely to set us back further and we'll lose what good players we have left, and other clubs will steal more marches on us, and the journey back will be even greater. Also, with sub 30,000 attendances ( quite possible with any extended longevity on AMCs part ) RL will lose even more money that he'll have to get back somehow.

communication is a disaster though, needs improving.

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Thank goodness for some sense here at last.

Spot on LancsVillan! Alex McLeish? Not my choice, but another change now will be totally counter productive. We are not going down this season. Give him a chance. See what he is allowed/able to do in the summer. Hold on to the raft!

As to your other points LancsVillan. I totally agree also. Spot on.

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Disagree with virtually every word of that

I had a go at Ellis for doing with the club as he saw fit, I will not allow Lerner that luxury especially when their actions are detrimental to succes on the pitch. That includes appointing pthe worst managaer we have had in 25+ years. To excuse him for that is , in my opinion at least, laughable

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Disagree with virtually every word of that

Me too. The flimsy defence of McLeish is laughable at best, and it skirts over the fact that Lerner's running of the club from a financial standpoint has been abysmal. The Swiss Rambler blog indirectly referred to is a resonable analysis of the accounts from an outsider's point of view, but doesn't take into any account much background knowledge that Villa fans will have. Lerner is a busted flush, and under his ownership we aren't going to recover.

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Disagree with virtually every word of that

Me too. The flimsy defence of McLeish is laughable at best, and it skirts over the fact that Lerner's running of the club from a financial standpoint has been abysmal. The Swiss Rambler blog indirectly referred to is a resonable analysis of the accounts from an outsider's point of view, but doesn't take into any account much background knowledge that Villa fans will have. Lerner is a busted flush, and under his ownership we aren't going to recover.

Me three.

I just can't believe that there are still Villa fans that would argue against replacing McTool. Stability is a great concept BUT only if accompanied by an administration and a manager that can take advantage of that stable environment.

Ask Sours fans how happy they would have been with stability when Ramos was in charge - a manager with a significantly better track record than McTool.

We have a squad that, whilst not capable of challenging the top 6 consistently at the minute, should be more than capable of playing good football and competing with the likes of Norwich and Swansea!

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Good article, Lancs.

I agree with all of it - except for the stability bit with McLeish.

We are unstable at the moment, granted, but McLeish cannot play the kind of football we should be aiming for. You mentioned that Houllier had changed the way we play by the end of last season and I think it has regressed under McLeish.

While we are in this "unstable" situation, the time is ripe for a positive change with a more progressive manager in charge.

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I cannot blame him for Houlliers ill health, at the time of GH agreeing to be our manager I thought him to be a good choice out of what was available. Towards the end the football was coming on, we had changed the way we played, we looked better and I'm sure if things had been allowed to continue would have improved further this year. Again Randy supported the manager with funds - Makoun and Bent.

We decided that we weren’t going to hire a manager in a ‘job’, yet we hired Houllier who did have a job. He wasn’t the best manager available. Sadly we decided to take the lazy route, as we did with McLeish and went for the easy target. Why didn’t we go after Moyes with all guns blazing? Rather than paying another team compensation to get a decent manager, we end up having to pay off Houllier and SHA. And in the summer we will have to do it again....

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A nice article and I agree with a lot of points, I just think you've missed a big trick in not mentioning the John Gregory era at all when you outline the club's big turning points over the years. I thought at more than one point over that time, that we could really go some way to joining the domestic elite, if we only had taken a bit more of a chance at the time. For that, I suppose I'll always blame Ellis.

I actually think this has been a heck of a strange season for Villa. You can see it in the way the players, coaching staff, and indeed the fans, are.

I do totally agree with you that, with Houllier, the football was improved and you can't legislate for the circumstances in which he walked away. Then, out of the realistic candidates talked about in the following weeks, I suppose McLeish seemed at least on a par with the likes of Coyle, Martinez, Curbishley etc.

This season all the change I think has just taken a bit more out of us than we all gave credit for back in August. We lost 3 very good players in Friedel, Young and Downing, and we have to realise that Petrov and Dunne are year older and closer to retirement. Like most, I thought N'Zogbia was an exciting signing, and maybe naively, I honestly thought he would soften the blow of Downing leaving - certainly more than he has done this season anyway. Think that Bent, Agbonlahor, Ireland, N'Zogbia, even Given - all these names you may have highlighted as being our 'big' players in the team - have been disappointing this season. So many off-colour performances, and failing to make a difference in tight games. Added to this the seeming non-existence of people like Delph and Makoun, 2 other players that I thought would go on to be really important to us.

The point of my post I guess is to say that if we had just a bit more rub of the green, and big players finding more form next year, there's no reason why we can't be much more of a premier league force next season.

I don't think McLeish is totally clueless, if a bit too negative. He can be forgiven in thinking the players, maybe with the exception of Petrov, have let him down a wee bit this year. Just my opinion anyway.

I echo someone else's post also that out of all those big earners that will prob leave - Warnock, Heskey, Collins, - we wouldn't miss any of them too much, and some younger blood with more form may just kick us on.

I'm going to judge this time next year, then again I guess power of the majority may topple that concept way before then..

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Ask Spurs fans how happy they would have been with stability when Ramos was in charge - a manager with a significantly better track record than McLeish.

We have a squad that, whilst not capable of challenging the top 6 consistently at the minute, should be more than capable of playing good football and competing with the likes of Norwich and Swansea!

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