Writer: J P Fear
Date:Friday October 6 2006
The press are clamouring for information and interviews with the new Chairman and club owner Randy Lerner. That is understandable and is only to be expected as it is their jobs are to fill the column inches.
However, I think they'll find that they get short change, especially in the short term. Some are frustrated at the lack of interviews and yet they don't seem to understand that what most Villa fans got sick of was the 'soap opera Villa' created by leaks from within the club as well as the spin and bluster and unfulfilled promises that we got during the Doug Ellis era.
What would you as a fan rather, loads of empty words about the fact we are aiming for the Champions League whilst aiming for the opposite in actions and deeds OR see real and considered action taken to guide the club towards that aim?
Would you rather a chairman who was in the press every five minutes talking it large but not delivering or one who will shy away from the press and tv but actually look to put things right? That isn't to say that Randy Lerner won't communicate with the press and fans, of course he will but it might not always be directly. However as illustrated at the Cleveland Browns, he knows precisely how important pr is to any business as I believe the media department is the second biggest department at his NFL club. I for one love the fact we are now owned by someone who doesn't want to be jumping up and down with comments and saying 'look at me' all the time. I thought his understated entrance at his first game showed the man to be very classy indeed, if he had wanted, the whole occasion could have been about him and if that had been some arriving, they'd have been pulled around the pitch on a golden chariot by vestal virgins. Still, enough of my fantasies!
I'm surprised more of the press - and to some extent fans - didn't pick up on the recent news that builders were already looking at making the old and beautiful Holte Hotel structurally sound in order to re-furbish and use this magnificent Villa asset. The last man in charge - and this isn't about bitterness or harping on about the past - was good for the press with quotes, albeit ones that often put the fans noses out of joint or led to much embarrassment but he also allowed this bit of our heritage to go to wrack and ruin. The new guy comes in, takes a bit of advice, looks around, and takes action. So the reason I'm surprised is because if you read between the lines of this action (no words needed, it is action that counts) it spells out what, in my opinion, Randy Lerner is all about.
Here we have a man who is only just learning about the heritage of Villa. He could with his money come in and completely ignore the history if he chose but instead he has quickly identified that things like the Holte Hotel mean a great deal to the fans, especially of a certain age and to the history and glory of Aston Villa. It was certainly mentioned in the Villa Forward document I sent to him and I'm sure others have also identified key areas that can so easily help restore Villa both as a team and a brand. So instead of false promises or words, he has set the builders to work. Action speaks louder than words and this one action shows me we are in good hands. You've only got to ask yourself, if the Holte Hotel is the start of things, what other delights do we have in store?
One of my contacts at Bodymoor also sent a text not long back saying that people have been looking around the archaic training ground facilities. The very next he sent another text saying 'bloody hell, the builders are here already!' Action totally opposite to the last board who told us at the 2005 AGM that £8million had been 'ring fenced' to re-develop Bodymoor only to see the promised work grind to a halt shortly after.
When you don't provide the facilities, when you make your groundsman part time, when you refuse to allow training pitches to have sprinklers and insist on hoses instead, when you penny pinch and refuse to invest and when you take on staff and then stifle them with the 'I know better' attitude, you get mediocrity and no amount of words can hide those facts. We now have people in place who know that there is a very long way to go in order to make Villa great again but intend to do their utmost to make it so. THAT is the reason I believe the fans will also now pull in the same direction and that ultimately we'll have a full engaged club all working towards the same aim.
So what is happening at the moment? Well, for one they have key people assessing the whole club. Due diligence only goes so far and really only illustrates to potential suitors to a company how the accounts are looking and whether there are any major problems within the companies structure. That wouldn't have shown up what needs to be done to re-build Aston Villa and restore us to our 'rightful' place amongst the European elite. So we have an in depth assessment at what is required happening and audits like this aren't done over night and until that is completed, how can the new owner and board possibly give the press or fans the sort of information they are hungry for?
Put simply, how can you give the answers when you aren't sure fully what the questions are yet?
I for one am excited that we aren't being bombarded with bullshit and that in fact, we have top business people looking at every nook and cranny at Villa Park. I'm hoping my suggestion of a cushioned seat with an automatic drinks dispenser and pop up umbrella for myself is in the revue, although having been so disgracefully overlooked in my application to be the Villa manager, somehow I have my doubts!!!
What you can be sure of is if you read articles like the ones recently about a £120million sponsorship deal, unless it quotes someone at Villa Park, it will just be press talk. There is no way the new guys are going to whisper thing to the press or allow information to be leaked like we've seen in the past. What they will do is assess what needs to be done, what can be done and what will be done. They will then fully communicate that to us. Sounds good to me. I'm convinced we are in safe hands.
In the mean time, if anyone knows what I should do with 5000 Ellis Out leaflets, please do tell, there are only so many paper aeroplanes a man can make!!!!
Date:Friday October 6 2006
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