Tag Archives: Aston Villa

The Aston Villa Gamble

Relegated as one of the worst sides in Premier League history, despite being a league member since its inception, many believed at the end of the 2015-16 season that Villa were destined to jump on the Pompey highway and tumble down the divisions.

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Their relegation came following the initial optimism of management under the enthusiastic Tim Sherwood, which quickly turned to realisation that his management skills were limited to jumping around the touchline wearing a fashionable club gilet and trying to motivate his players to perform – a task he failed somewhat miserably at. Sherwood was replaced by Remi Garde, a man linked with every vacant job in the Premier League since his successful stint on the coaching staff at Lyon with Paul Le Guen during which they won the title. Garde brought with him a sense of optimism that they could get out of the struggle they found themselves in and potentially aim higher with a bright young manager in future seasons. How wrong they were – the rot continued under Garde, at arguably a worse rate as they failed to muster any sort of fight to stay up; if only Villa’s performances had been as impressive as Joleon Lescott’s ability to unlock his phone and post a picture of his Mercedez all whilst being in his back pocket. By mid-April their fate was sealed, following the sacking of Garde who won only 3 out of 23 games he took charge of, with Eric Black taking charge until the end of the season.

So Villa tumbled through the trap door and in to the Championship, manager less and with a mixture of experienced players on high wages, and youngsters who had looked somewhat out of their depth in the top flight. A worrying time for Villa fans as the scaremonger’s circled and hinted at a bigger demise. Villa turned to Roberto Di Matteo to get them back to the Premiership or at least stop the rot – a Champions League winning manager and manager who had previously got local rivals out of the Championship (remember the last time they appointed a local rivals’ manager?).

Since appointing Di Matteo Villa have spent approximately £38m on the signings of McCormack, Chester, Jedinak, Elphick and others; whilst selling £15m-worth of players in Gueye, Clark and Sinclair – a net spend of £23m; not a lot, but a significant amount in the second tier.

Thus begins a cautionary tale:

In 2012 Blackburn Rovers were relegated from the Premier League with a relatively good squad and decided that in order to get back to the big time, and fast, they had to invest in players. That summer before the 2012-13 season they spent roughly £14.4m (a considerable amount in the pre-mega TV deal days) on transfers and a hefty amount in wages to free transfers like Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu, all in an attempt to jump straight back up using the money left over from the Premier League and the money to come from parachute payments. The gamble didn’t pay off and by the turn of the year the club was facing a double relegation following 3 managers and a court case. They didn’t get back that season, the following season, nor the season after that, and they now find themselves propping up the Championship in +£100m debt.

So are Villa walking a tight rope and is their spending reckless? On first glances you would say it is a massive gamble which is heavily reliant on the managerial expertise of a man who most recently guided a talented team the Champions League trophy, getting the most out of a relatively average squad of players, bolstered by some big money signings. Dig a little deeper though and this is a different scenario all together to the one at Ewood in 2012.

When Blackburn were relegated they stuck with the man who took them down, Steve Kean, a man who fans had turned on many months earier and a man who defiantly insisted he was the best man for the job despite evidence to the contrary and a man who argued he still had the support of the fans (which he definitely did not). At Villa they have brought in a manager who has experience of the division and of English football in general, who has successfully gained promotion before – he is a gamble, but a measured one given his experience.

Aston Villa followed relegation by being sold to a new owner with enthusiasm to take the club back to the top, and who has backed-up his enthusiasm with finances to potentially achieve this. At Blackburn, the Venkys were already well established for not really ‘getting’ football, the realism of transfers or the fact that relegation can happen (we’re still awaiting the arrival of Beckham and Ronaldhino), and in the summer following relegation it is rumoured that they put the future of the club in the hands of others to agree transfers. It might have looked like ambition and promise at the time, but it soon became clear the problems at the club were far more deep-rooted than the playing staff. At a time when the supporters wanted dialogue and communications with those running the club there was a deafening silence from Pune, which only soured relations further. At Villa they now have an owner in Tony Xia who tweets and interviews and tells of his ambition for the club. At Blackburn we struggle to get a press release from the owners when a viable, fan backed, takeover bid is put forward.

The investment in players and the appointment of an experienced manager at Villa won’t guarantee success in terms of promotion or stability in terms of survival but they are making the right steps, and by keeping the fans on board the new owner has given the club a chance – whether they have the players, talent or mental capacity to achieve either of these is still to be seen.

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A week in the managerial life….

They say a week is a long time in football – this week could not be more relevant, particularly in the position of Manager (or Head Coach as its often referred to on the continent). In the space of 7 days there have been: two sackings; one slanderous comment which could result in the sack; a caretaker manager bidding to win the Champions League but is not likely to continue that role even if he wins; and the task of replacing a manager who has left to manage the national side. And to add to this, just weeks ago, the most successful manager in recent times has also left his post at Barcelona.

So, starting with Aston Villa and the departure of Alex McLiesh. He was never taken in by many of the fans from the start due to his Birmingham City blue nose history. But in my opinon, more importantly, he hasn’t had the best Premier League record, with his relegation with Birmingham City at the end of the 2010-11 season being the second time he had taken them down. This was proved when Villa finished the 2011-12 season with less points than Birmingham City got relegated with, but due to their being 5 worse teams, they survived. Early rumours are that Villa are looking at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Paul Lambert – but my advice would be stear well clear of the job. The Villa fans crave the success of the past, and in recent years have spent a lot of money on the likes of Darren Bent, Ashley Young, James Milner and Stewart Downing, only to sell them on a couple of years later (I think it is only a matter of time before Bent follows suit with the others) – and the money raised has not been reinvested, with the owners preferring to utilise the youth academy system instead. My choice for the job would be someone of the ilk of Bob Bradley from the USA, the homeland of owner Randy Lerner, or someone like Alan Curbishley who has been out of the job for a while but has a proven track record. The only thing standing in his way however, is that that record has been in keeping clubs in the division, and not winning trophies – but at the minute perhaps this is what Villa need.

Liverpool. King Kenny. Who would have thought he could even get the sack, never mind, have to travel to the owners territory and back again to get the dreaded boot. Hi stats speak for themself though – over £100m spent and no top four finish. Although they have won a cup and hit the woodwork more than anyone else in the league – the Champions League is where the money is at. Again, like Villa, I think Liverpool need to understand that they are no longer one of the big hitters of the Premier League who are feared and almost guaranteed a top four finish each season. Since the days of Rafa Benitiz Liverpool have somewhat stalled and if anything gone backwards under the Kings stewardship, with Manchester City and arguably Tottentham moving ahead of them. With regards to Kenny’s successor – the yanks have in the baseball world adopted an approach of taking in a youngish manager and sticking with them for a number of years and eventually reaping the rewards. For this reason, and mostly to the discontent of most Liverpool fans, I think the replacement will be either AVB or someone of the ilk of Didier Deschamps.

Chelsea – I’ll keep this review short as to get inside Abromovich’s head is almost a mission most impossible. If Roberto Di Matteo wins the Champions League tonight I still don’t the he will keep the job, as Roman will have intentions for someone else. He is known to go for big prominant names, however, the appointment of AVB to marshall the end of the careers of cult heroes such as Terry, Lampard and Drogba backfired, with their omissions leading to poor results (Mereiles isn’t fit to tie Lampards boots!) and ultimately his exit. My tip for the Chelsea managers job is Fabio Cappello. Two weeks ago I would have said possibly Mourinho, but his success in La Liga I think will drive him on to go for the Champions League next season. An outside bet would be Harry Redknapp as I believe Spurs may be at the end of their tether with his off the field issues and disappointment at their poor finish to the season from what looked like a certain 3rd spot.

WBA – this is perhaps the most intriguing of the managerial merry-go-round as they have had their hand forced – had England not taken Hodgson I think his job was the safest in the leaue behing Ferguson, Moyes and Pardew (this season). His work there, an at Fulham, has been nothing short of remarkable – steering both from relegation against the odds and in following seasons pushing them towards european qualification. He will be difficult to replace. I think we could see another cross midlands move with Chris Hughton leaving the blue noses for the Baggies – he, like Hodgson, has again worked wonders and over achieved at Birmigham getting them in to the play-offs before the shear volume of games took its toll (not forgetting their european exploits earlier in the season) – and not forgetting the work he did at Newcastle before his face no longer fit with the owner.

And finally, Blackburn Rovers – who, as I write this, are not managerless, however against the odds this is. I must admit I am biased on this topic with myself being a life-long Blackburn fan and season ticket owner – but the days of winning the league and european qualification are long gone. The question at Ewood is – how has he still got a job? His record is very poor (he can’t be far off the worst win percentage in the premier league now – a record I am sure Tony Adams will be hoping gets broken soon); his tactical knowledge appears to be lacking; hs transfer policy is questionable; and his knowledge of the law appears to be absent. This week he has been seen filmed back in the summer of 2011 sticking the knife in the back of Allardyce and twisting it between the shoulder blades; predicting a cup success; and boasting about his exploits of finding hidden talent at the club. Rightly so, Allardyce has taken legal advice under the accusation of him being a ‘f****** crook’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xcB9XfLjL8), add this to the drink driving prosecution Kean has already faced and he is building up quite a reputation. What frustrates the Blackburn fans most is his lies. Even in the videos the lies still spout out about how he found Olsson (who was playing under Hughes) and how he plucked Jones from the academy (people at other clubs were aware of Jones then as well as fans of the club), and the last nail in the coffin – following relegation, admitting that these were ‘exciting times’ for Blackburn Rovers. I wonder if that offer for Ronaldhino is still on the table. Unfortunately, as it stands, Kean is still in a job and it doesn’t look like he is going anywhere – but the real problem, which most Blackburn fans realise, is the owners, the Venky’s, who have ripped the club to pieces yet shown no interest in running the club. The fear of many is that they will take the parachute payment, sell the prized player assets and then head for the hills – although in the short term this would be devastating, in the long term, this may be the best option. Survival next season is already in doubt.

Predictions: –

Bayern Munich 3 – 1 Chelsea

West Ham 3-2 Blackpool

Aston Villa – Alan Curbishley

Chelsea – Fabio Cappello

Liverpool – AVB

WBA – Chris Hughton

Blackburn Rovers  – Steve Kean

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