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Club in Transition: The Ever-Changing Face of AVFC

Club in Transition: The Ever-Changing Face of AVFC

Since the dawn of the Premier League in 1992-93 we`ve seen promotions, relegations, administrations, allegations and for most clubs, frustrations.

We`ve gone from David Seaman to David de Gea, from Gary Pallister to Gary Cahill, from Stuart Ripley to Stewart Downing and from Andy Cole to Andy Carroll.

Clubs have risen and fallen spectacularly. The demise of Wimbledon. Financial ruin at Portsmouth and Leeds. Astronomical developments at Chelsea and Manchester City.

Allow me to use a metaphor. It`s fair to say that in a Premier League classroom full of teacher`s pets , unruly children and no-hopers, Aston Villa has always been one of the pupils that the teacher recognises with potential and has rewarded with a couple of gold stars to bring up the performance. Regrettably, thanks to several substitute teachers over the years, Villa has always had a tendency to become easily distracted and pre-occupied with keeping up with the bigger boys as opposed to building on its own knowledge and experience in previous classes. Even lessons taken in Europe and overseas have failed to impress over the long-term. The education received has been faultless but the learning process has been very much a stop-start experience, particularly frustrating for the millions who want this bright claret and blue prospect to start hitting the higher groups of the class on a regular basis.

For as long as has been recently scripted, Aston Villa has been "a club in transition". Since the start of the Premier League we`ve seen Ron Atkinson, Brian Little, John Gregory, David O`Leary, Martin O`Neill, Kevin MacDonald (albeit briefly), Gerard Houllier, Gary McAllister (also briefly) and now Alex McLeish at the helm. Taking the 2 interim men out of the equation, that`s 7 managers in the last 20 years and only 3 of them won silverware in that time (John Gregory`s team lofted the Intertoto Cup high and proud back in 2001 and maybe technically doesn`t count, but every little helps). The closest we`ve ever been to winning the title was back when we finished runners-up to Manchester United at the start of the Premier League. John Gregory took us to the top of the table for 5 minutes several years ago and we haven`t seen it since. Also notable is the fact that Blackburn, thanks to Jack Walker`s millions, won the title in 1995. Since then they have also been relegated and face a struggle this season not to be relegated once more. Has so much changed in the last 20 years?

Actually, it has. The power of the media has a major influence on how fans see the game, agents take their cut and turn players into money-hungry slaves with no loyalty, diving is as common in the penalty box as it is in the Olympic swimming pool and running Premier League clubs is now the hobby of corporate businessmen, Arabian princes and oil tycoons. Villa have sampled a taste of this power via Doug`s dimes and Randy`s riches but time has proven that it hasn`t been enough to sustain us for the long-term. We crushed our previous transfer record of £3.5million for Savo Milosevic to lash out an almighty £7million for Stanley Victor Collymore in 1997 - say no more. We paid £6m for Bosko Balaban. We`ve paid £9.5million for the much-loved Juan Pablo Angel, who started to come good after his first couple of seasons but never delivered on the 20+ goals a season we were led to believe would come. Fast forward to recent times and we paid nearly £6m for Nicky Shorey and around £10m for Curtis Davies to sit on the bench, as well as £24m for Darren Bent to get us out of trouble.

It`s fair to say that despite the many years of us being a "club in transition" the main issues we have are that we have wasted large amounts of money on players who haven`t improved the team, we`ve had instability due to several managerial changes and we haven`t fully utilised our great academy system until recently - thanks to injuries. These days it`s expensive to buy British, what with players like Gareth Barry, James Milner, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Gary Cahill taking such giant strides in their careers. Then again, these are players who (with the exception of one servant who got us £12m after being with the club since he was a teenager) have now got as much loyalty as mercenaries. However, who`s to say that Gary Cahill wouldn`t still be here now as captain if things had been different?

As time has gone on we`ve done the top teams in the Premier League a great service with our ability to pick a single star player and let him shine in our team. Now the media is finally recognising the quality we have in our academy and the way they are uniting on the pitch for the Villa cause. Sadly, it appears to be about 20 years too late. It would be amazing to see our young lions showing the character and resolve to improve our league position before the end of the year, maybe even win a cup next season and eventually emulate Fergie`s Fledglings at Manchester United, which seems to be the plan going forward.

A club in transition is one of instability, uncertainty and unpredictability. Hopefully soon our club will once more have a name, face and football that everyone recognises.

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Writer:Turkish Penguin
Date:Thursday April 19 2012
Time: 4:46PM

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Amen, nicely put. And yes, watching Cahill last night for Chelsea v Barca made me want to cry! Welcome on board
The Fear
19/04/2012 16:52:00
Suberb article -- Some of your comments on Villa reminds me of the old saying about Brazil (the country); 'Brazil is the Country of the Future.....and always will be'.
19/04/2012 17:06:00
One thing, though. If Villa haven't fulfilled their potential then 'we' the fans and supporters have to take a share of the blame. We have more power than we realise. Some, The Fear or voth, appear to have been there in good times and bad. What's needed at Villa is a change in the culture of the club. A more outward looking approach. As the writer has observed, playing 'catch-up' with the so-called 'big' clubs is a road-to-nowhere. There has to be a plan -- with realistic goals and youth development at its core -- so that -- two decades hence -- we're nor reading about 40 years of underachievement in the EPL.
19/04/2012 17:14:00
I've sort of 'had it' with the PL... I hate the quest (not just us) for 3rd loser. I'd be happy with a manager I like, some good players WITH our young local lads coming through and some entertaining football. If nothing else followed, due to the mad state of the PL, I think I'd 'settle' for that + some cup runs.
The Fear
19/04/2012 18:01:00
Yeah good article. Our yoots will be sold as soon as they prove their worth. Rumour has it that there's a 40k wage limit at the club. Half will be too good for that and they won't want to hang around at under acheivers like us!! Still reckon that the Bosko Balaban purchase should be blamed on MON somehow though.
19/04/2012 19:18:00
WOW that was a great read and spot on! Also reminded me of my school report saying ''easily distracted'' and all that LOL serious flashback from my shool hey days then ;) But how true is it the prem has just got greedier greedier and the money as said in this article Villa has waisted over the years is sickening.
19/04/2012 20:04:00
Really well written, mate. Take a bow.
19/04/2012 20:47:00
Nice article, normally I don’t make it to the end (side note – I remember that first PL year, travelling away to Everton and singing all through the game including half time(might have been the last game of the season), we had already lost the title to Man U but the future look oh so bright, I still wonder what would have happened if we came first instead of Man U)
19/04/2012 21:38:00
Very good article. We could all go on for ages about wasted opportunities, failing to invest at critical times under Ellis, mis-management of the club by Lerner and MON, etc. Personally, I just hope we still are in the Prem next season and frankly, I hope it is what will be regarded as yet another transitional season, because I a) hope it is with a new manager (I truly hope that with all my being); and b) I don't have expectations that it will automatically lead to us being anywhere near the top, so I can only agree with ol' Fear that we just have a team that can entertain us along the way. I too have 'had it' with the PL, and if someone could guarantee me a happy ending then part of me would love a season away from it all in the Championship to be honest! But, alas, no-one can guarantee it and therefore, I just hope we stay up (I personally have my doubts), re-group and have a much better season next term.
Sheriff Kimbo
19/04/2012 23:54:00
Agree with the Fear. The Premier League is now not so different from general society. The rich keep on getting richer and the poor keep on getting poorer; and just maybe, if you're fortunate enough, you may just be able to drag yourselves out of the lower levels and into middle-class, mid-table mediocrity. Lost in the masses and just another pawn to feed the rich. The only hope for clubs like the Villa is the creation of a European Super League, that sees the top team migrate into that. Only then will we have a chance of becoming top dog.
20/04/2012 01:26:00
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