Thoughts and issues regarding the past and present of a great football club by "The Chronicler".

Friday, 30 September 2011

Pre-launch Last Opportunity ('The Inspirational William McGregor' )

May I send you a gentle reminder about The Inspirational William McGregor (authored by myself and Peter Lupson), which is now available.

This illustrated hardback with dust cover is available from my website where you can order and pay for it by PayPal. Price is £9.99 sterling.

And, until a specially-extended date of October 7th, all UK purchasers can acquire it free of postage costs. The postage costs to all others outside the UK are reduced by 20% until October 7th.


The book is also available at Waterstone's (Birmingham) and I also expect it to be available shortly at W. H. Smith's local stores and at the Aston Villa stores.

However, although it is available for purchase through Amazon, their pricing structure means that every copy we sell through them is sold at a loss. Therefore, if you are purchasing at a distance from Birmingham, may I please urge you to order and pay through my website link and PayPal facility as given above.

... Or (alternatively) please ask your local bookshop to order it for you - the ISBN is 978-0-9569833-0-5.

A further note: There is a review of the book by Steve Carr (a football researcher and author) on my website.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Inspirational William McGregor

I am pleased to inform you that the book "The Inspirational William McGregor" (authored by myself and Peter Lupson) is now available.

From 1877 to his death, William McGregor was a committed Aston Villa man and was an important officer of the club until 1888. By then, however, he had become vitally concerned about the organisation of the national game and this caused him to instigate a movement that led to the creation of The Football League in 1888.

There is a Foreword by the Director of the National Football Museum.

You can see an image of the book's cover on my website where you can order this illustrated hardback and pay for it by PayPal. Price is 9.99 sterling (and equivalent in other currency).

And, until October 3rd, all UK purchasers can acquire it free of postage costs. The postage costs to all others outside the UK are reduced by 20% until October 3rd.

Happy reading!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Reality Football

The Daily Mail's report on the state of finances at Villa Park seems to put a halt to the notion that Randy Lerner is on the point of selling out. The paper's report states:

    Top level discussions have taken place that will lead to cutbacks in the playing budget during the course of the next 12 months. Not huge chunks of money, but a significant amount, nevertheless. Manager Alex McLeish is aware of the need to make savings in this area - which explains why he has gone to such lengths to promote Villa’s youngsters since arriving in the job.
    Times are changing: Villa are about to embark on an economy drive When owner Randy Lerner arrived at the club five years ago, the aim was Champions League football. Funds were made available to manager Martin O’Neill to realise that ambition. But the financial landscape has changed since those days in the summer of 2006. It is a fact that Lerner has spent a small fortune to bankroll the top-four push. I estimate his commitment, including the original purchase of the club, now stands at over £200m. Clubs across the country are now tightening their belts in anticipation of rules coming into force under UEFA’s financial Fair Play banner.
    Whether this is a convenient smoke-screen is a different debate, but several among the Barclays Premier League are now looking to scale back the wages on offer to any in-coming players. And Villa are among them. I would estimate that at least half-a-dozen members of McLeish’s first-team squad command yearly pay-packets in excess of £2.5m. At least two, possibly three, earn in excess of £3m. It is an attempt to rein in the spending.
    It leaves McLeish ­ as if he wasn’t in a delicate enough position ­ having to perform a fine balancing act. But it emphasises once more the difference between the haves and have-nots in the Premier League. Personally, I think it is in danger of becoming anti-competitive, but that’s a different story. The sad truth of the matter is that Villa are now even further away from the top four than they were when Lerner took over.

The last para sums up the reality of the club's plans. It has been a very sad piece of PR that the club has not explained themselves adequately and expected season ticket holders to re-invest even though (a) the expectations have been lowered and (b) the quality of football so far seen has not been inspirational. For a season ticket holder to re-new for himself and his 2 or 3 children is prohibitive as it is in these dark economic days.

Gates will almost certainly continue to be disappointing except, perhaps, for the 'big' games.

Daily Mail link.


Friday, 9 September 2011

Revelations Not So Revealing, Perhaps

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish admits the club and the majority of the Premier League cannot compete with the growing new breed of "super clubs".


Also see:

I think I've come to the conclusion that as the board don't know football - or are not confident in speaking about it, hence the dry communications from head office - they're leaving the football chat to AM. Effectively he is the board's football mouthpiece to talk in real speak about what the board obviously has difficulty in saying - about no longer being able to compete at the top.

It would seem it follows the same pattern as per MON; team manager does everything football while the board sit back and financially manage. They're there just for the business: the so-called professional managers.

And presumably, PF's talk about AM being in tune with the business ethos means they leave him to do the buying and selling knowing that he'll work within the strict parameters the board has set and presumably agreed with AM.

I suppose that's all fair really - but it leaves the board looking distant when they're called upon to communicate and can't talk the talk. And can't apologise for raising expectations and dropping them without explanation.

Anyway, it looks as though all this confirms the board are just business people and managing the club towards profit, despite all the hype about tradition and heritage.

We'd be naive to think otherwise I suppose, but the lack of 'heart' being displayed is disappointing.

Acknowledgments to Mike Mooney for the links.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Evaluating Where We're At

Sadly, but understandably, a good deal of criticism of Randy Lerner and the board has lately been developing, and I feel it’s all exacerbated by the lack of intelligible communication from them as to why certain things have been happening.

The issue that I have the most difficulty in dealing with is the fact that expectations were raised so high for the best part of 4 years, and that now it shows a danger of going pear-shaped. I hope that apparition is just that – that it’s a figment of fear on my part. Who knows, fortune may turn in the chairman’s (and Villa’s) favour, though our experience of the over-careful management of the 1960s, 1980s and the early noughties may tell us something different.

It is easy for us in hindsight to say this is wrong and that is wrong, but businessmen do make mistakes, and Randy’s had his fingers burnt – possibly through not understanding enough about what football in the UK is all about. Not least that, football-wise, the West Midlands is different to London and the North West.

The General has previously indicated that Randy is appreciative of Villa’s heritage and its value to the fans, and Randy duly pumped in a good deal of money to try to bring back the good days to Villa Park – I think we all recognise his efforts in that direction.

But where do we stand now – at this moment? I feel that the club is very much at yet another cross-roads. Not only has the chairman retrenched on expenditure but there is a national and world-wide economic problem that shows signs of not going away. Although (amazingly) employment levels have improved in the West Midlands, there is not a secure economic situation, and the current generation of young people (the future supporters of Aston Villa and of football in general) have largely been sidelined in the employment stakes. Therefore, how will Aston Villa be able to prosper in future with the prospect of fewer paying supporters?

It’s in the tackling of that question that is the key, in my opinion. And in tackling it, Randy should be getting some expert medium and long-term advice from people who understand enough about these issues. A think-tank of such expertise – possibly including Graham Taylor – may be the answer.

Perhaps the chairman has already done this or is in the process of doing it. Alas, we don’t know.

There was a very well-known writer-historian named Jack Urry who wrote in the 1880-1926 period, particularly about the Villa. He stated (and I believe him) that one very major factor why the Villa were successful almost entirely throughout his period was because they kept faith with the fans. They were in tune with what the fans were looking for and delivered - successfully.

That attitude persisted through to WW2 in fact (except for that notorious dip in the mid-1930s).

That's the kind of world I believe in - not the consumerist world - which is about to die on its feet. Even Doug Ellis had a better sense of what the fans wanted, I believe. All you have to do is look at Doug's regime in early 1969 to see what kind of response he got - because they communicated in a way that the fans wanted!!

If that's not the world of today then it's going to get it's uppance - believe me. Good faith is the glue and the clue to how society properly works. In fact, in any form of marriage!

Meanwhile, frustrated fans sit and wait. We have no choice but to wait and see what transpires over this season.

In the meantime, should the message from Villa fans to Randy be along the lines of: “We’re not happy, but we wait with baited breath to receive your half-term pronouncements for this season and beyond”?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Requiem to The Five ... or Six!

Tis a long time since Gareth was claret and blue;
Ten years at Villa Park: phew, that time flew!
Last eve the Bulgars felt his form resurgent,
had Stilyan forgotten that left foot pageant?

But look, he was not alone in those shoes:
Cahill's point reminding us of him and Blews;
And Young's sweet pass across the box,
giving Wayne a chance, bless his socks!

And two more ex-Villans played last night,
For Villa fans, that was quite a sight ...
of Downing 'upping' his game,
and super-sub James much the same.

Five old Villans: half an England team;
Their like in Aston no longer seen.
Will Bent, Villa's last England piece,
soon go on to grab a new lease?

Friday, 2 September 2011

What is going on?

After all the PR from RL’s henchman since 2006, for the club to suddenly freeze up and not say anything that is meaningful to the ordinary fan is a big mistake i.m.o.

What is also of concern is that – accepting all the arguments why Villa have to be less profligate – players of the ilk of Parker, Cole and Hargreaves (players who are good but probably past their best) this week chose to say ‘no thanks’ to coming to Villa Park.

And with the lack of in-depth cover for the first-team players of any quality that we do have, this could be a rocky season – again.

And will attendances recover?

We saw how many attended the Wolves match - a derby for goodness sake! - even Wolves' fans stayed away.

To bring in the crowds, better signings were badly needed, and not only signings to put us higher in the League (for morale purposes at least) but also to help Villa win a cup or two. By "better", I mean creative.

We keep talking about League, League, League, but the cup competitions still mean something - in the fans hearts at the very least, I suggest. Until 2009-10, it looked as though Villa was willing to give up on cup competitions in the 21st century, but I say Villa need to get back into that theme.

I still clearly remember those four cup years between '57 and '61 (1 FA Cup win, 1 League Cup win and two FA Cup semi-finals), which greatly helped to raise the fans' morale.

More of it please. Whether we can with the squad we have remains to be seen. Bolton in the League Cup may provide a glimmer of whether we can.