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

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Villa Park Jitters?

THIS was the first home match of the season and yet only 28,000 Villa supporters turned up. Since when did this happen before on the first day of the season? And these brave fans were rewarded with no shots on goal. The best they got for good cheer was 2 close shaves from Zoggy.

After the play in the last 3 seasons, then I suppose I can see where everyone is coming from in their happiness that we have four points, but it looks as though we’ve already forgotten how things used to be at Villa Park!

Yesterday there was an absence of positives unless you sum it up in one word – ‘defence’. There's no denying that the full-backs look good (is this the same Hutton? And why was he locked away for so long?), combined with two sound centre-backs, and the midfield looks stronger with Richardson and now Sanchez at hand. But it's all at present designed to keep the opponents out.

Yes they do it well, but how many shots on goal have we had in two matches? The answer is ONE. And that produced our only goal so far, and one that was partly as a result of a keeper's error.

Yesterday, Villa were crying out for a player to unlock the barcodes’ defence … but we saw none. Anything to prevent defeat seems to be the mentality just now. And this is at Villa Park ... not at Anfield or Old Trafford, where such team placements in the away side would have been understandable.

Yes, it can improve (the squad is good enough and Benteke and Okore are still to return), but I wait with baited breath.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Right ... I Assume The Only Way Is Now Up!

A new season is nigh, and having this year passed 140 years of existence the Villa (surely!) will now proceed to resurrect itself and again become a force to make the 150th anniversary a time of true celebration. They say that Management by Objectives is a worthwhile approach, and it strikes me that a target of the 150th anniversary to be 'back there' is a realistic objective given where the club is right now.

But the events of the past few weeks - particularly the affair of the Lions Clubs - seem to me to indicate that the club's management has been trying to enforce a code of conduct amongst the supporters which amounts to "gentrification" as one ESPN blogger has put it, and it has been met with some resistance. But in this age of deep austerity measures and difficulty in keeping body and soul together for those of this world who are the traditional footie followers, the will to initiate a deep protest seems to have evaporated. Despite the fact that responsibility for the state of the affairs on the pitch in this past three years lies with the owner and his management, there has been an on-going tone of denial from that corner: they have at times inferred that it is the fans that are at fault. And though Paul Faulkner has gone, the club's management seem to continue to believe that by tightening the rules concerning supporters' behaviour they are going to win the support of the fans.

Furthermore, it is clear that the management believe that it is the Lions' Clubs responsibility to generate more fans to the Villa cause. The situation is unbelievable, yet the crucial factor is this: performances and results on the pitch is the main issue that will help to modify the fans' attitudes and also to bring in new supporters. It is this issue which is surely the most important, or else what is Aston Villa about? The club exists for football, not for the careers of the club's management! Traditionally, it has been mainly a combination of the quality of play and individual heroes that has fed the fans' enthusiasm, and in recent years there has been a significant lack of both apart from the upsurge of Benteke and, perhaps, Vlaar, both of whom have been absent from the field for significant periods leaving behind a team of (mainly) mediocrity for the fans to watch.

So, my message to the Villa management would be to get their fingers out and stop concentrating on hospitality and telling people what to do, and provide what the fans come to watch - which is entertainment on the pitch. In fact, the summer's events seem to indicate that there has been an attempt to rectify that not unimportant issue by dismantling the 'bomb squad' and by bringing in two former England internationals. But this has been done on the cheap and the proof of the pudding can only be in the eating.

Despite all, I am in the glass-half-full camp of believing that there is sufficient talent in the Villa squad for us to see some progress being made this year and towards a plan for 2024. The availability of Gardner and Grealish can only add to the positivity of the presence of Benteke and (we hope) N'Zogbia - and maybe the defence will be better too.

But the delivery of Villa's performances is also a management issue, and the underlining question is "Has Lambert worked out how to improve Villa's home form?". 

These appear to be the main targets for this season:

1. A mid-table finish.
2. Inspiring runs in the cups.
3. Much-improved results at home.
4. The development of Grealish and Gardner.
5. The sale of Aston Villa to a good buyer.

Go Villa ... GO!

For a nutshell read up on Villa's history   please click here.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A Roar about the Lions Clubs!

Aston Villa appeared to have ceased dealing with me (selling my books) by not replying to my e-mails and phone calls (following the May letter I sent to Randy Lerner), but a week ago I wrote to my old boss at Villa Park (Lee Preece) and asked him to follow up the matter. 

Lee wrote to me last evening and, hey presto, this morning I happened to receive a message from the Villa Store asking for further details about my Nutshell book so that they might consider selling it. However, after a few minutes consideration about the Lions Clubs matter I sent the following reply: 

Hello Alan [Williams], 

Thank you very much for your reply. 

A week or two ago I would have been very happy to take this matter further – indeed, I was anxious to do so – but matters have got to such a state at Villa Park (the matter of how the Lions Clubs are being treated has pushed the matter over the edge for me), I do not want to deal with Aston Villa any further until it’s got itself in order. 

If that means that I will not have a future association with Aston Villa, then so be it. 

Personally, I wish you, John [Greenwood] and Lee [Preece] all the very best. 


John Lerwill

For more sad details about the Lions Clubs matter,
please see this link. 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Patience Has Reached Its Limit...

Sustainability has been in the news on and off for some time. The revelation that the UK's global ecological footprint is still several times that which is sustainable is a shocker for me, though pretty well every other country has also crossed that threshold now, and the USA's standing is far worse. Unfortunately it is unlikely to be an issue that the major parties will campaign on in next year's general election.

But Randy Lerner had sustainability in mind when he pulled the trigger some four years ago to send Villa shooting for an austerity drive. But from that point it was the only kind of shooting we saw: play has mostly been a yawn since then, and that's been said pretty often on several blogs. And I sent a letter to Randy in May encapsulating that as the main objection to his reign at Villa Park while praising him in other respects, countersigned by nearly 100 brave people. The club acknowledged the letter as "noted" though I doubt Randy himself read the letter.

What has happened now is that the doors have been shut on me down at the Villa store and the club refuse to answer my e-mails. Not totally unexpectedly some might say but, in other words, Villa are no longer going to sell my books. Now this is a pity as over the last two years the club has sold 274 copies of my main book The First Superclub - out of a total of nearly 600 sold - and has thus earned £3,000 gross profit on those sales. Not that such a sum is what keeps the club going, but it's about equivalent to the income from five season tickets. When you add the fact that my website has also induced overseas Villa supporters to order other stuff from Villa Park and not just my books, then I see Villa's action against me as doing nothing more than spiting their own nose. 

Another function of my books, of course, (and one that is at least equally important) is in promoting the image of the club. The fans tell me as such - so again the club is working against itself. Is there anyone else who has researched the club as extensively as myself? It would seem not, as my time at the British Library unveiled far more than can be found locally, apart from statistics. Finds included the identification of the true founders of the club.

I don't pretend to be the only capable Villa historian, but I have long been experienced in historical research and suggest that I have done enough to warrant better consideration by the club.

But I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the club's action. They wanted me there as Club Historian after 12 months working at VP on contract and then chose to sack me early in 2010 over a comparatively trivial issue, just at the time that Paul Faulkner was making his mark: he was appointed CEO at the end of that season. 

I've always thought it highly strange that after being involved in advanced talks about creating a museum in late 2009 it was so soon followed by my sacking. In the light of that it's not too strange that a museum has never seen the light of day, in any permanent or semi-permanent form. Sadly in some ways, I convincingly won my case in the employment tribunal with the club since finding ways to be petulant, including the act of refusing to let me attend Villa Park to participate in a BBC TV item last year. This was despite the fact that they admitted I was the most expert on the topic at hand.

So much for having supported (and loved) the club for over 60 years as a third-generation supporter, apart from my standing as a club historian.

But coming back to the topic of sustainability, the club may be under new ownership before too long and I am also taking off in a new direction. My lifelong deep interest in history of all kinds is next month going to be enhanced by my doing an advanced course through Oxford University. When that is over (in 12 months) I will then be looking at other fields of history in which to work and I fancy that will be going further into the realm of political/spiritual studies, a subject area that is also close to my heart. Having now passed 70 y.o.a. I still possess some sense of life after Aston Villa!

I will soon have far less time to devote to Aston Villa matters. Nevertheless, I have just now published another (yet small) book entitled Aston Villa In A Nutshell. It's only £7, with discounts for multiple purchases. Please see this page.

It's a very handy jacket-pocket size and it is lightweight: light enough to take to the match! It celebrates the 140th birthday of the club.

As the club are not going to be selling this book, I would be very grateful for your support through my webpage. Soccer Books are also selling it.

But, despite all, I still say UTV and will always be interested in happenings down at t' Villa.

P.S. I have just read this article. Just what is going on?!