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

Thursday, 24 May 2012

How Times Have Changed!

Remember back in 1974? ... "Brian Clough!", "Brian Clough!", was the shout from the fans.

Well, he didn't come and when he lifted Notts Forest to two consecutive EC wins, hearts sank a little. But Ron Saunders (no-one's favourite when he arrived) created the foundations for Villa also to win the trophy!

At that time, Villa were riding high and within touching distance of at least Man U.

So, what days. Fans' expectations were high, and, what's more, they were satiated. It was the time when Villans were saying "nothing is too good for the Villa", and they kept on saying it through the days of GT Mark 1, Big Ron, Little Brian and JG.

So, where are Villa today? Well, though I was intrigued by the thought of OGS coming to Villa, there seemed inherent dangers as a result of that happening ... just more room for another big managerial failure to occur even though OGS is clearly a man of promise.

Expectations have been hugely lowered, particularly in just two years: no longer can we expect a Brian Clough to come through the Villa portals. But, having said that, perhaps there isn't another Brian Clough to be seen - amongst the British contenders at least. And, judging by the level of manager that is being pursued (such as we know) mid-table aspirations seem to be the best that can be hoped for.

Well, so long as the football is good, why worry? We might get to the occasional semi-final.


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A Close Run Thing...

The near-inevitable sacking of Mr. McLeish has created a huge relief amongst the faithful Villa fans. Its timing was precisely right - no opportunity was given for the fans to think that the club's management were in two minds on the matter, and the club's management were also too aware that season ticket sales were not going at all well. Less than 6,000 sales has been quoted - well down on expectation.

So for now, Randy Lerner has been seen to do the right thing and also in his press release he appears to have made a near-apology for the events of this season. However, he didn't say "I was wrong in appointing Mr. McLeish", and neither does he give credit to the numerous Villa fans who knew better. Some of whom even wrote to Mr. Lerner to express their contrary view.

Alex McLeish would have had to do something spectacular to convince the Villa fans that he was up to the job, and I suppose that when the club was unbeaten and sitting in sixth place after a few games, McLeish thought that he had done enough. But there were many wily fans that had observed that the first few matches had been a comparatively easy ride, and that Villa had not done enough against lesser opposition.Those wily fans waited for the inevitable - a near-cataclysmic slide down the table and only one win at home in the final 13 home matches. Even that win was obtained by a fortuitous goal in the 90th minute; but they all count.

The final number of points (38) was less than the number of points obtained by Blews the previous season when they were relegated under McLeish. It was a close run thing. And gates had been slumping; the fans were not at all happy.

Over the next few weeks, eyes will be turned to Mr. Lerner and the action he will have to take in the form of yet another managerial appointment. Aston Villa have seen four managers in the past two seasons; five if you include Gary McCallister's temporary role whilst Gerard Houllier was unavoidably absent.

No more mis-hirings (nor misfirings) are likely to be tolerated. The next one has to be right for Mr. Lerner. And for Aston Villa. And for the suffering fans.

Monday, 14 May 2012

A Tragedy of Near-Titanic Proportions

Exactly 100 years after the Titanic tragedy it almost feels that Villa are also sinking. How we got to this point is mistifying, and I have written a piece that has appeared elsewhere and which tries to address the issue:
    Season 2009-10 saw Villa finish in 6th place for the third consecutive season.The next season it was all musical chairs, which,not surprisingly, saw the club finish in the middle of the table. Just who, however, would have imagined that the next step would be to finish in the bottom-6? In two easy strides, Villa's flag was lowered to the other extreme - it seemed that one moment we were complaining that Villa had lost out on chances of finishing fourth, only then to see McLeish being appointed and Villa's worst ever season unfold in front of our knowing eyes. Even on the last day of the season there was a real danger of Villa finishing fourth from bottom! What a change-around from fourth from top!

    Well, if nothing else, it has taught us Villa supporters to keep our feet on the ground and not be carried away by some good PR work and humanitarian concern for Acorns.

    Going back to 2006, it would seem that there was a sense of euphoria that Doug's reign was over. There seemed to be a feeling that now there was a real chance of the club getting back to something like its status at the beginning of the 80s. A billionaire, we thought, could make that possible. But Madame Reality is a funny creature. Since then we've been hearing about the realities triggered by MON's seemingly profligate expenditure and the need - for various other reasons, it seems - for the owner to tighten belts. We were asked (at a distance) to go through a transitional period whilst matters sorted themselves out. And Mr. McLeish was the man, apparently, to manage that transition on the field of play.

    The appointment of Mr. McLeish has caused even the most serene of us to go purple and to throw out our rattles from the pram. "Nurse!", we cried, "do something! Change the nappy - anything!!" Transition period? No, it was more like a constipation period! And in saying that I am assuming that the club's board has come to recognise the plight that exists and will now usher out the person (though a nice feller, I'm told) posing as a Villa team manager in favour of someone who just might appreciate Aston Villa FC and what it has meant to its fans for nearly 140 years.

    It is not too late for the situation to be fixed, Mr. Lerner. We just ask that something be done in the next few weeks, and that something to be a big step forward away from the maelstrom that we've been experiencing these past two years. If not, then the fans may soon be asking for the club's motto ("Prepared") to be changed to something more meaningful.

In reality, I hold that the club's management from the top down is culpable for the current situation, not just McLeish, but unless Mr. Lerner sells the club there is little that can be done in respect of he and the top executives at the club, who he appointed. 

The business side of the club is one thing - the existing structure can deal with that - but what is needed is someone able to direct what's happening on the pitch, someone who is really able and who can see and feel what Aston Villa is about. Aston Villa Football Club can do a lot better than the Swanseas and Norwiches of this world, and yet at the moment AVFC is way below their standard in the quality of play and entertainment factor. Yes, injuries and Petrov's sad situation has not helped in the latter part of the season, but the sickness endemic at Villa Park originated early in the season in the sheer poor tactics employed by the team manager.

Mr. Lerner can see what's happening at the ticket office. STs are below 6,000 sales at the moment it would seem, and it will stay like that unless the fans can see a very positive light at the end of the tunnel.

I do hope that a new team manager is appointed who has plenty of capability and, in the Arsenal style, an assistant manager who is compatible and a former Villa player, to instill the club's pride in the dressing room.

We wait whilst holding our breath.