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

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Hasn't Villa Been Just A Business Pawn To Its Overseas Owners?

We’ve got away from the main topic. Bruce is an area of discussion but that’s not where the real focus should be i.m.o.

No matter how Lerner or Xia have trumpeted their connection as fans to the club, they have both failed to understand that to be such a fan means more than treating the Club just as pure business.

Both owners seem to have singularly failed to make the connection as ‘real’ supporters. I cannot but refer back to Fred Rinder and how he would have gone about things. Rather differently, and rather better, I would think.

Yes, different times now to when he was around, but that’s part of the point. The basics now seem to have been dispensed with. And at what cost?

Now, with the added dimension of Keith Wyness having been slung out (apparently for the temerity to speak his mind), the club is in a right pickle. How Xia’s idea of an “investment” is to work is somewhat mind-boggling to me: who on Earth wants to invest £30m with no big say in how the club is run? Is Xia promising big financial returns? He must be, unless the investors are showing interest out of pure love.

Unless Wyness is replaced by someone equally as good – or better – and unless leadership at the club gets back to basics, the future of Aston Villa is now in jeopardy in my view. And allied to all the uncertainty is the threat that all the tradition that we have held dear (like the ground being called “Villa Park”) will go through the window. After all, it’s business … innit?

When that horrible guy (?) Doug Ellis and his cortege arrived in 1968, one of the first things they did was to officially make the name of the ground “Villa Park”. Since 1897 it had been registered as “Aston Villa Lower Grounds”, but the regime of 1968 wanted populism to ring out through the club.

That approach didn’t last too many years, of course, but at least there was some attempt and fans seemed to think they mattered at that time, and that they had a big right to have their say. The fact that Doug worked his bedsocks off to keep the fans in their place caused all kinds of sour reaction. Doug was (gladly) ousted, and now the fans have no real say at all. Except over relatively minor issues.

The club had its spots changed some time ago in reality. The Supporters Trust is a joke, really.

We – in reality – are not fans but ‘customers’ so far as the owner is concerned, despite his cosy chats. We haven’t mentally taken that in yet.

I watch developments in fear. But if Germany can get ousted from the World Cup so soon, perhaps anything is possible!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

What Is Villa's Future?

Following the very recent and unwelcome gleanings concerning finances at Aston Villa, I have to say that it was completely absurd that the chairman should take the financial and managerial gamble he did over the last 2 years. The only excuse he has is that it's his club, but if he'd had a clue about the sufferings Villa fans have had over the past 50 to 70 years (with a few highs, but not too many), it's a route he should have bypassed.

What should have happened, of course, is what many have wanted all along: the appointment of a manager that could have developed the younger players into a promotion outfit and as a true investment for the future.

However, not realising at the time that Xia was taking his so-risky gamble, I thought the appointment of Bruce was a sound one (a good option 2 if you like), and in view of the performances from December to May he was very unlucky not to steal promotion.

But the fact remains that at Xia's outset the policy should have been based on youth development with the very minimum of purchases. A big problem would still have been the dressing room issue, but with what I'd call a "proper manager" installed that could still have been dealt with.

In the light of the recent financial disclosures, a big question hangs as to how Xia intends to meet the future, even if his money becomes available. Or maybe he's intelligent enough to have learnt from all this.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Villa's State of Affairs Right Now

Wow, what a pickle Villa are in.

What I read into the financial situation is that:
  1. The economic situation in China prevents the Chairman from shipping funds directly from there to deal with the upcoming financial challenges (i.e. bills, including Tax, Wages and FFP).
  2. It is alleged that CEO Keith Wyness had a big fall-out with the Chairman after it was discovered that Wyness had taken certain actions of his own to seek a remedy for the financial state of affairs. It seems to be the case that Wyness was suspended because of that and it would appear he's now left the club.
  3. Trevor Birch (a football accountant and heavily involved in the transitions of Everton, Chelsea, Bolton, Portsmouth and Leeds in the past) is advising Aston Villa.
SkySportsNews (SSN) further states:
Members of the executive board will meet on Wednesday to consider how to solve the club's financial crisis and discuss how to raise the funds needed to pay the £2m outstanding tax bill, which could prompt a winding-up order within days.
Of potentially greater concern, however, is the prospect of paying a series of bills due to be settled on June 23 including wages for players and staff, which is thought to total in excess of £8m.
Despite the club's motto being 'Prepared', few could have predicted the speed with which Dr Xia's gamble to reach the Premier League would appear to have come unstuck.
SSN understands the Midlands club have been taking insolvency advice for more than a week, with insolvency expert and former Chelsea CEO Trevor Birch continuing to advise the club.
The question Villa fans will have is whether Dr Xia has the resolve - and the resources - to continue funding a club that is believed to be costing him around £6m a month to run.
After suspending chief executive Keith Wyness for, according to the club, issues unrelated to the HMRC notice, it was announced that Dr Xia would take over the day-to-day running, but SSN understands he remains in Beijing and the meeting will be chaired by his assistant Rongtian Ho - known at Villa Park as 'Mr.Ho'.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The Potential For Season 2018-19 - As It Stands

The Birmingham Mail reveals that the following players are either gone, going or could be on their way soon or by June 2019.

Loans: Sam Johnstone, Josh Onomah, Robert Snodgrass, Lewis Grabban, Axel Tuanzebe. All almost certainly not to return. 
For some reason, Snodgrass is missing in the list, but he is surely gone.

Contracts expiring (this month): Gabby Agbonlahor, Alan Hutton, Mark Bunn, John Terry, Chris Samba.

  • Gabby is certainly gone.
  • There's the tiny possibility of Terry being here for another season.
  • Hutton may have his contract re-newed.
  • There's no clue as to the situation with Samba.

Contracts expiring next summer (June 2019): Jed Steer, Micah Richards, Ritchie De Laet, Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Jordan Lyden, Easah Suliman, Carles Gil, Oscar Borg, Mitch Clark.
  • Ritchie de Laet is on loan but appears to have left permanently.
  • Carles Gil appears to be a confirmed transfer after a loan period.
  • I would think that either Jedinak and Whelan might be retained (but both may go because of age) and Jed Steer may prove himself to be the answer to Johnstone this coming season. I see no point in selling Jedinak or Whelan before the start of 2018-19 as they would not fetch a lot on the open market, but Villa may be forced to sell to save on wages.
  • The others may well obtain new contracts.
Looking further, big questions have been raised about the future of both Grealish and Chester, but my feeling is that every effort will be made to retain the crown jewels.

Of the above players that have played significant parts in the 2017-18 campaign, I would expect the following to be available and in the front rank for team selection come the start of 2018-19:

Jed Steer, Alan Hutton, Oscar Bog, Chris Samba, Mitch Clark, Chester, Easah Suliman, Mile Jedinak, Jack Grealish.

Other players that had significant input to the 2017-18 season and which I still see as being potentially available for 2018-19 include:

  • El Mohammedy, Taylor, Bree (though maybe one of those three will be sold);
  • Bjarnasson, Hourihane, Lansbury (though maybe one of those three will be sold);
  • Adomah, Green, Davis, Kodjia (I would think that all these will be retained).

I don't really see a future for Hogan at Villa Park, but his sale may not raise much. And we have the on-going saga of McCormack. Two strikers who have cost Villa dearly.

Any gaps will surely be filled from further promising young players in the reserve squad, and some of those may well make good.

If it transpires that the departure of Chester and/or Grealish takes place then the task this season will be quite difficult. However, rather than worrying about whether we will have enough star individuals, the game is mostly about teamwork as well as the quality of football.

Season 2018-19 is still full of potential!