Writer: J P Fear
Date:Monday July 17 2006
There have been those that have fallen for the spin from Ellis Towers. I said in an article yesterday that they will deny and lie because that is what they do. Some, as I say, have fallen for it, saying the players weren't involved and actually claiming that people who believed the reports - and especially those that have spoken with the press - will end up with egg on their face for 'falling for it'.
Well, Tim Nash, the reporter who broke the story in the Express and Star, has quite rightly fought back following the denials from the club, the claims that Doug Ellis is 'furious' and Phil Mephams understandable defence saying reports of a statement weren't correct.
As the papers are now sold, the sites have the quotes and the word needs to be spread that we are lied to far to often by people at Aston Villa, I've used almost all the comments by Tim Nash as below.
The players statement vindicated what many of us fans have said for years, the same fans who have often been lambasted as being miserable, not real fans etc. This issue doesn't look like it is going away and we can only hope that the eventual outcome will be the departure of the real problem at Aston Villa. Stand up Mr Doug Ellis, take a bow.
Tim Nash in today's Express and Star wrote:
It is no surprise that Villa's spin doctors are trying to devalue my story of player unrest over the club's driection. They have hit back with their own statement in which media and communications boss Phil Mepham describes as 'ridiculous' my assertion that the players' statement represented the collective view among David O'Leary's squad.
Fair enough. It's Mepham's job to try to limit the damage of what I was told on Friday afternoon within the enclosed walls of Villa's Bodymoor Heath training camp.
But it's also a classic case of shooting the messenger.
And if anyone out there thinks that the views revealed in our story on Friday afternoon are the ramblings of one disgruntled player, they are kidding themselves. If anyone out there believes that the dismay and disenchantment reflected in my story is not widely-held by the bulk of senior players at Villa Park, they are guilty of foolish complacency.
Yes, Villa have a crisis on their hands - and I'll tell you why.
Because after all the spin and propaganda that has followed the Express and Sar's exposure of the players' anger at the way things are running, I will now tell you what happened on a Friday afternoon which may have changed forever the region's flagship club.
It began when sources at the club alerted me to the fact that senior players wanted to 'break cover' and bring to the open forum their growing anger at Villa's pre-season prospects.
I was already aware that the grumbles within the dressing room about the team's declining profile were gorwing in volume, but as one senior player led me through the training ground dressing rooms to a communal leisure area, I could not have imagined the scale of frustration and anger which greated me.
There waiting to speak to me was another senior players, while several others - clearly aware of what was about to happen - sat nearby and listened.
It soon became clear to me that what I was hearing was dynamite.
The actual content was explosive enough; the fact that these players were willing to break club protocol and put their name to it was astounding. Such dissent at Villa - espescially directed towards the chairman's office - usually ends with blood on the carpet. And it's never Doug Ellis'.
You will be familiar now, perhaps, with what was said. Complaints about the cutbacks, the shut-down on training ground development, the story of the physio who was denied an expense claim for a cup of coffee while waiting at the airport before flying to see Martin Laursen.
The chairman, these players told me, was not behind the club, but working against it.
And as I sat and made my notes, it was obvious that this was not a lone view. As I said, the interview with these two seniorplayers was conducted while several others listened and more wandered by, stopping for a moment to monitor the conversation, clearly aware of what was going on.
At one stage, as one of the interviewees hesitated over just how critical to be, another well-known Villa team-mate shouted ' Come on just f**ing say it. Let's get it out in the open.' Another said 'What's going on here is shocking.'
I knew what I was hearing had the capaity to drop a nuclear bomb into Villa's pre-season preparations and send shockwaves through their fan base.
I also felt that I had to do something to try to protect the players. So, yes, it was my idea for them to issue it as a collective statement.
Did these views, I asked, represent the general feeling running through the first team squad?
'Yes' was the unequivicol reply. I then read back the notes I had taken and checked witht he players that they were happy with their 'quotes'. Again, there was a nod of approval.
And then there was only time to tush to the phone and get the story into the Express and Star's Sandwell editions.
Now I have no doubt that Phil Mepham could ring several players and discredit the statement. Of course not every member of the squad was there. Of course there are, shall we say, more 'timid' members of the first team group who would be happy to toe the club line.
But, anyone with an ounce of knowledge about a football club will know that within a dressing room of 15-20 professional sportsmen, there are always the stronger and more powerful figures. Those who lead the rest of the group. And I have absolutely no doubt it was to those figures that I spoke that afternoon.
And even less doubt that what they were saying represented a generaly held view among the players. To try to blur the story by quite rightly pointing out that it was not a statement approved by all the players is a legitimate tactic on the club's part. But I do not believe it serves Villa any purpose other than in trying to bury some uncomfortable truths.
The identity of the players who spoke to me will remain locked in my notebook. Although several newspapers have guessed at them, it is never my intention to reveal their names.
But what they feel, what they are angry about is deeply worrying for Aston Villa fans and needs to be brought to the supporters' attention.
It was bound to trigger a response from the club's media department, all of whom I consider to be friendly and excellent professionals.
It's their job to try to gun down the story. I accept that as part of our business. But please don't shoot me. I'm only the messenger.
Indeed, if anyone is going to start shooting, maybe they should start with the man who has brought Villa to it's knees because he is to pig ignorant and weak to let go.
Beware the menace of B6.
I for one feel proud of the players for doing this and am impressed with the reporter for sticking his neck on the line and standing by his report.
Date:Monday July 17 2006
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