What's Up At Villa?
We've all got our views on Aston Villa Football Club (sorry PLC) the vast majority of them being negative in the extreme. It has caused fans to squabble and argue amongst themselves and led to many fallouts and entrenched positions.
This is all caused by our love of the club and it's history and our individual desires to see it live and breathe in a way that would make as all once again to be proud to be a follower of ‘our club' and be envied by the rest of the football world.
We are not Chelsea or Manchester United and I can't ever see us being able to challenge them either, but we should quite properly expect to be making more of the playing resources we have and having something to be proud to support. Let's look at this club from top to bottom.
The Board - We have a Chairman/CEO/Finance Director/Owner who is 82 years of age. He is recovering from major heart surgery and is strongly rumoured to be suffering with inoperable bowel cancer.
The only other executive director, Steve Stride, in charge of operations, is recognised as a highly talented administrator yet he is unable to manage to run a multi million pound business on his own. This was shown in the summer when he relied on Ellis rising like Lazarus from his sick bed to close the on going transfer saga of Baros.
The day to day running of the club is now apparently quite often left to Marion Stringer, Doug's longstanding PA, who was rewarded for her service by being made Company Secretary. She, assisted by other minions deliberately keep things back from Ellis, who still thinks he is in charge. It is therefore unclear who is actually controlling the PLC.
The board is blessed with certain non-executive directors who should be appointed to ‘oversee' the executive board and also protect the interests of shareholders. These consist of Peter Ellis (son of Doug) who is the Chairman of Aston Manor Breweries and runs this business full time. He cannot be called independent especially when he has previously been removed as a non-exec by his father for daring to disagree on policy matters.
Tony Hales seems to be the main power behind the throne at the moment and he has recently been described as ‘despairing' at the way the club is functioning behind the scenes. What has he done about it? Nothing it would appear yet he is supposed to be looking after the shareholders stake, and he owns a good proportion himself.
Steve Kind helps out occasionally with the finance matters and David Owen is, well, apparently glad to bring his wife to the ground for a meal and watch the games.
There was also appointed in the Summer a Sales Director, Stuart Ryan, however this is a director in name only as he does not sit on the board and is in reality a marketing manager.
There have been others in recent years sat on the board as Chief Executives, Mark Ansell and Bruce Langham. What happened to them? Well they disagreed with Doug and ‘resigned' with a confidentiality clause and several hundred thousand pounds each. Nice work if you can get it.
The Manager - Mr.O'Leary came to the club on the back taking Leeds to the European Cup semi-finals and near bankruptcy with George Grahams team. He said he was looking forward to proving to the world he isn't a chequebook manager. However, since the day he arrived he has done nothing but complain about the squad size and how every other club in the universe has ‘a wonderful chairman' and regrets he can't compete with them. His latest theme for his press conferences seems to be targeted at the fickle fans that tell him how to do his job and are affecting the home performances by barracking the players. How dare the paying public have an opinion!
He consistently turns out a team who seem to lack motivation and strength and clearly lacking in tactics and ability. Many times it has been asked ‘What do they do on the training ground all week' and this question is still a valid one as they have no seeming plan to see out a game and lack in the basics of defending and taking of dead balls. This is not due to them all being bad players as the majority of the starting 11 are International players, even captains of their Countries.
Club Staff – There is a definite air of depression emanating from within the club. A feeling of uncertainty brought about by the seemingly non-existent takeover and recent ‘rationalisation' of staff. Very few seem happy in their job and that does not make for good performance. Unfortunately no one seems to care, it is a completely rudderless ship waiting for that iceberg to appear on the horizon.
How about the recent event whereby a very well known ex-player who works behind the scenes on match days was threatened with the sack for daring to eat a small plate of food destined for the bin! Yet the catering staff on match days are given a free food as a matter of course.
The Playing Staff – Some good, some bad, most average. Good young players are being played too much due to the lack of resources. There seems a general air of resignment to mid-table mediocrity in most and their large pay cheques seem to cushion them from any fall out after bad performances. In that respect footballers, like children, need discipline, encouragement and education. There is nothing being dome along those lines as there is no evidence on the pitch that they care or are well motivated. Much of this lies with the management team but there is certainly a lack of self-motivation amongst them. How many I wonder are currently just waiting for the Summer to make another move?
The Fans – As I indicated at the beginning the fans are divided and therefore by default ‘conquered'. Many good people have invested time and money in efforts to rally the troops but this has just led to further entrenched and polarised views. Yet nearly all are in agreement that Ellis needs to go. Unfortunately many who have that view now couldn't see it a few years ago when we may have been able to remove him. But he was allowed to carry on and drag us into the current mess.
The Shareholders - Perhaps in some respects the most important. Without money being invested in 1968 by us punters we may not have had a club for Ellis to takeover. Since then, despite assurances to the contrary, Ellis has installed himself as the club owner and put himself in an unassailable position. 14,000 small shareholders would easily vote him out on a show of hands, as they have at several AGMs but they are treated the same way as the ‘man on the terraces' – with disdain.
I wish I knew the full purpose of this article but it is merely a regurgitation of my views and experiences that has now after 41 years of supporting Aston Villa FOOTBALL CLUB made me ask the question – Why bother? And for the first time I have no answer to that question.
To sum up I have tried to think of the last time I enjoyed a game at Villa Park and then the last time I actually looked forward to one. You know, I am struggling to answer.
By Mr B