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Thank you World


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At last, the season has a highlight.

It's sad of course that someone has to lose their job, but let's be clear, the decision to appoint big 'eck was a huge mistake. An enormous error of judgement that still completely astounds me.

After an entirely predictable season of dire football, unambitious, joyless incompetent drivel, at least the axe has fallen quickly and decisively, and furthermore the words from the Club for once actually seem attuned to the thoughts and feelings of the supporters

"We need to be clear and candid with ourselves and with supporters about what we have lacked in recent years.

"Compelling play and results that instil a sense of confidence that Villa is on the right track have been plainly absent.

"The most immediate action that we can take is to look carefully at our options in terms of bringing in a new manager who sees the club's potential and embraces our collective expectations."

So perhaps the penny's dropped, perhaps the lesson has been learnt, perhaps experience has been gained, albeit at some cost - financially, in the loss of the trust and bond that there had been between the fans and the board.

So a cloud of depression has been lifted, sunlight is bursting though. While we stand here, blinking happily at the release of it all, lets just put a few things straight

  • While it's true that his previous employment at small heath alliance upset a number of fans, overall we did give 'Eck a chance. Go back to the first home game, and he was warmly welcomed by the crowd. We all wanted him to do well, because it would mean our team and our Club doing well. Yes we were sceptical, but there was no continuing tide of instant opposition once he'd been appointed. It was the football and the results that did for him.
  • It took until Wigan away, many months into the season before the fans started to turn against him. By this time we'd suffered months of tedious football. Exactly as we said we would.
  • Most fans have some respect for McLeish as a person. Although as the pressure began to tell he uttered some fairly bizarre words and excuses, overall he handled the flak with a degree of dignity. Good luck to him wherever he goes next. He was just the wrong fit for Villa.
  • The media, until very recently seemed to wilfully avoid looking beyond "he was at the Sty" as the reason for our antipathy towards his presence on the bench.
  • Villa fans are no more deluded than the next set of supporters, and in many cases a lot more realistic. We accept the need to balance the books, we accept that in the current climate that we aren't going to win the league, challenge for the top 4, we just want some joy and entertainment for our hard earned. We want the players to play for the manager, for the fans, and for each other. We haven't seen that this season on more than very small handfull of occasions.

Here's what I said to General Krulak back in June when the rumour of McLeish being appointed surfaced

we're seemingly on the cusp of appointing a seriously unpopular choice as manager…I'm concerned that the whole picture around ALex McLeish is a bad one - the Club statement seems to be a model of defensive walling - a lot of "if we don't do this, then bad things'll happen" not much he's the right guy and worth talking to because of X, Y and Z"

It might seem like we want a lot, but we really don't. We want someone to manage our team with a bit of style, to represent the Club and make us feel proud. You guys say so little, present such a private image that we want the manager to be your "face" and thus our face as Villa fans to the world. Full of enthusiasm for Villa, for the team, the shirt, the ground, the players and the games. We want someone who looks like they love the place like we do. Who respects the Villa. They need perhaps to be a bit extravert, a bit outgoing and have a dash of style about them and their footballing ethos.

We may not even get all of those things, but a good handful would be nice….I'm not sure that Mr McLeish really has too many of the things going for him that the club really needs. It seems an ill match and a bad situation to me…I hope that…you don't make a bad choice because of a feeling of desperation to get someone, anyone, in place…

There were many more posts making similar and better points, some supporting the decision, some furious and some willing to wait and see. It wasn't a wall of anti small heath abuse, as the media made out.

By the end of the season, unanimously, we wanted him gone. It wasn't a small minority, it was everyone. There was just no way b ack. It looked like the players wanted him gone, too, from the way they played.

  • Anyway, where to next?

Supporters are desperate for a manager who can bring them something to be proud of. Given where we are, a Club who narrowly avoided relegation, with a squad that needs some serious overhauling, no one expects us to suddenly morph' into Champions league place challengers. We want a manager who can inspire the good crop of young players, give them the confidence and framework to express themselves and to, in Randy's words, instil Compelling play and results that instil a sense of confidence that Villa is on the right track. We want our club to make us proud.

Aside from a new manager, there are a few other things that need sorting out. It has to be said that some of the players have, at times, been a disgrace. Others have been exemplary. There's been much talk of the wage bill being too high, and it is. Some of the players seem to think that in return for their huge salaries they can just trundle along, go out on the lash and generally be assured of their places. That has to be stopped immediately. By all means good luck to them in earning money their talents can bring, but they have to put in the effort and act professionally and in the best interests of the club. It's a privilege to play for Aston Villa, don't abuse it, relish it.

And the board. There are two weaknesses - football experience and communication. I believe they are good people, but also that the make up of the board is too narrow. They need to add, not a shiny suited opportunist, but a genuinely knowledgeable, experienced football administrator who can help with negotiations, organisation of scouting and handling agents and players. Someone to complement the manager. The communication needs to be clear, honest, realistic and when talking to supporters to speak the same language. It needs opening up a bit from a small team of long trusted colleagues to something able to deal better with the areas where they have fallen short. They've done pretty well commercially, with much of the background stuff, but they let themselves down with the last managerial choice.

Finally, having sorted out overpaid players and the wage bill, the board need to decide what the club is actually for, where we want to go in the next 3 or 5 years, tell us the truth and back the manager to achieve those aims.

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I'd like to believe that Villa had a clue as to who to replace him with, adn that there was somewhere in all of this a football strategy to move us forwards. past experience makes me somewhat skeptical about this.

What do we need from a manager? We need someone young, someone hungry, the kind of person who will take the flak that will inevitably come his way with humour and strength of character. We need someone who's teams play football what modern commentators call 'progressive' football but have that strngth of purpose and willingness to fight for their shirt. We need someone that properly understands the complexities of how to develop the brilliant young talent we have coming through and someone who, given teh current austerity that seems to be our lot at the moment wjho is canny and clever in the market and can unearth the gems that can move us forwards.

We also need someone who understands that 1982 isnt a millstone hanging around our necks, an impossible to follow dream, but is for the fans of thr club an icon for pride - someone who understands that pride from the terraces and instills that same pride in the players. They are playing for a club that has won the European Cup, a genuine giant of the world game famous in all four corners of the globe.

To whoever the next manager is, we dont expect to win everything, we just expect our manager and our players to understand the privelidge that pulling on that claret and blue shirt conveys and act and play accordingly.

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