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Author Topic: How Do You Solve A Problem Like The Villa  (Read 776 times)


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How Do You Solve A Problem Like The Villa
« on: December 07, 2019, 09:30:49 PM »
Wembley, 28th February 2010. The final whistle goes and Villa lose the League Cup final. We’re seventh in the table, but four points behind fourth-placed Spurs with two games in hand and an FA Cup quarter-final the following weekend. Seems a lifetime ago doesn’t it? Yet it was less than three years. That defeat was painful, but it marked the start of the decline to where we find ourselves now, third from bottom and facing an uphill battle to retain the Premier League status we take for granted. The momentum built up by Martin O’Neill and Randy Lerner seemed to vanish with that defeat; the realisation that for all the investment and hard work, Villa were destined to be another nearly team. What’s happened since has been a catalogue of errors, naive mismanagement and bad luck. So what went wrong, and how do we rescue this horrible season? It’s hard to step back and take a logical, impartial look. But we need to see how it happened, and how it can be fixed. The most common accusation is that Randy hasn’t invested enough to make us competitive. Yet under O’Neill, net spend was around £82 million on transfers alone. Since then, although we’ve sold Downing, Young and Milner we’ve also signed Bent, Makoun, N’Zogbia, Given and Benteke while recouping virtually nothing. When added to the colossal wages still being paid, one thing Randy cannot be blamed for is not wanting to invest more money. Even the most optimistic would say we’re no better than when he started, so how has this happened? Basically, the club has been mismanaged – look at the managers we’ve had, and how they’ve run the club. Lerner’s first, and biggest, mistake was to allow the club to be run to the whims of Martin O’Neill. Few complained about it at the time but, in hindsight, O’Neill wasted our best shot of the modern era. Take the transfer fees and contracts for players subsequently allowed to leave for virtually nothing. Meanwhile, Gary Cahill and Craig Gardner, two players we could do with now, went cheaply. When Lerner eventually demanded O’Neill curbed his spending, he left us in the lurch and with no contingency plan. He did transform the club, bringing a level of success unlikely to be surpassed for a long time and most fans will look back at the O’Neill era very fondly. But O’Neill’s departure undoubtedly burned Lerner, and it’s easy to see now why Gerard Houllier then appealed. It was clear that a different approach was needed, one that didn’t rely on spending huge amounts. Here was an experienced manager, with knowledge of the global game, who would establish the worldwide scouting networks, strong youth policy and tactical flexibility missing under O’Neill. Houllier’s problem was trying to inflict too much change too quickly; his reign was marred by infighting and dissent from players and supporters. Performances and results started to improve, but his health caused him to leave the club. Again, Lerner had backed his man (£30 million in less than 12 months) and again, he was left looking for a new manager. With the benefit of hindsight, the board took account of the tensions of Houllier’s tenure and tried to rectify them by appointing a manager more in tune with the senior players, although it’s also clear that any manager who took charge then would have to improve the club without significant backing. Alex McLeish may have been the only candidate





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