Writer: J P Fear
Date:Friday May 18 2007
The comment made on the Breaking into top 4 thread seemed worth expanding on.
Villa breaking into the top 4, or 5, or 6?
This is a huge question and not one that can be summarised in a few sentences.
What Villa fans have to come to terms with in my opinion, is that we aren't, even with Randy Lerner as owner, anywhere near a big club, able to hold our own with the present top 4.
If you look historically our level of success has always been at best mediocre, even when we have peaked, in 57, 79,80,81,82 we have never managed to build on this, which when you consider our location and local competition is surprising.
The ground is decent but short on capacity, but then we have never consistently filled it or got near to filling it. We have a huge tradition, true, but its not a recent one, like Arsenal, Liverpool, and Man Utd. or even Chelsea. If you consider the opposition we have locally, there should be a huge fan base to tap into, but its either not football crazy enough in comparison to most other parts of the country, or there isn't enough on offer.
If you look at those competing to beat us to that top 4 spot, Spurs for instance are at capacity and have been for years, even without much success, Newcastle have huge gates and a huge fanbase, most of whom are fanatical. Everton, similarly, although they too are looking to a new ground, new finance and have Liverpool on their doorstep as competition. Others like Sunderland, the Sheffield clubs, and so on have as much if not more available potential than us to be bigger than us, simply because they seem able or have more fanatical fans.
So no matter how much O'Neill spends of Lerner's or the new Premiership money, achievements on the pitch are only a part of the sustainable needs required to keep us as a top 4,5,6 club. The owner knows and is addressing it, but its probably a bigger problem long term, than O'Neill's to achieve success quickly.
Before long the Premiership, even Europe will contain an elite group of clubs, tradition, past history, fan belief, will be an integral part of being in that group, but sustainable finances from big capacity, always
full grounds, will be the essential requirement, that brings in the revenue elsewhere too.
One of the desperate needs to rid the club of Ellis was to avoid being left behind, in the race to this new Premiership. Thankfully he's gone, but its going to be a huge fight to get us into the leading pack let
alone sustain it, success on the pitch is a major part, but removing the complacency within the local area of support is equally if not more important.
Will it happen?
Well as one who rarely missed a match for too many years, who now because of circumstances, travels down 5 or 6 times a year due to circumstances I can appreciate the problems involved in attracting
enough fans to achieve 60k supporters each week and a list of waiting fans keen to jump in if you vacate your seat, and that's I feel what is needed to sustain a top of the Premiership team, unless a benefactor is willing to finance without question or prices rocket.
First off its 43 k each match that's required 60k will maybe come and its not going to be easy.
Times have changed of course, there is a greater desire to go to football, despite or because of the plethora of it on TV, and a more successful side with bigger names in it will attract more, I'm sure.
Lerner I know, is keen to bring a change to the viewing experience, to one more in line with the NFL experience, but will he succeed. My own experience of such can testify its a great idea, but then the 3 matches I have seen were in sunny Miami and a warm New York.I don't fancy a cold, dank and dismal Villa Park such an ideal location, especially when its a pain to park, not the best entertainment before the match, the catering is both expensive, and a brawl to obtain, the toilets basic and always crowded and often cold, and of course the after match battle to get away, heart destroying, especially when you are frozen, starving, thirsty and like me knowing you have to face the M6, M54, A5 and so on for the next 2-3 hours to get home.
That of course doesn't apply to those around the ground, those within easy walking distance of the ground, or those on a single bus route from the ground, how many of them are not regular fans.
You and I know not many, the ethnic mix of the surrounding area isn't that keen on football I'd guess, cricket maybe, and that's a huge challenge. Not that those in walking distance of Villa Park are the only
potential, as a kid I walked with a stream of fans from Kingstanding, the bus money went on chips and leftovers, how many of those in Kingstanding, Sutton, even Edgbaston, Yardley, and Solihull could be
persuaded, Blues have less to offer, surely.
As I said its a hard task Randy Lerner has set himself, success on the pitch, will bring a bigger profile to the club and revenue from further afield, worldwide imaging and such. Filling the ground each match remains the basis of the bottom line success, the revenue from regular crowds is the single biggest none commercial, ie TV and such, contributor until Villa become a global entity.
Turning the club into one able to hold its own long term in European football is for me a much bigger prospect than many fans appreciate. With new overseas owners taking control daily, the competition for those top spots is and will become even harder each season, Newcastle have the ground, the history, the fan base well beyond ours, a decent basis of a squad, have attracted a decent manager and have Sunderland back to spur them on, thankfully they still have Freddie in charge, but you get my gist.
Chelsea have been able to buy themselves in, albeit with two half decent managers help and have an, if wealthy, judging by their prices, fan base able to fill their ground, Lerner isn't able to repeat that, so its
going to have to be done another way. I'm sure he's up to it, I'm just not confident even those who are cosset Villa fans are, I'm even less sure there are enough viable newbies that can be converted
Remember getting them down is one thing, getting them to come down ,and fill the ground year in, year out, like I used to and many of you do now isn't easy, if it was, we would have well before now.
Days and nights like the 82 day out like the evening wins against in cup competitions are what we want, what we will need not once in a while each season, but every other week. Here's to it, although being honest, I hope it still means I'll be able to pop down once in a while without, as I sometimes have to, get in on the back of a corporate do ;)
Will changing the viewing experience work, what other ideas are there in the pot, its hard to know.
Good luck Randy you can do it, I hope, I still don't believe without question..
Date:Friday May 18 2007
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