It`s okay everyone. Relax. We`re safe now.
We have achieved the worst home record of all time and managed to concede yet another lead, unable to beat ten men, but we`re safe. Mathematically.
What we aren`t yet safe from is another year of uncertainty and the media hoo-hah that usually surrounds the exit of a manager. We`re also not safe from the poker face still being shown by the board.
Failed protests aside, from the last 2 home games the board have been reasonably well informed that the supporters are not happy for Alex McLeish to continue as manager. This is evident by falling gates, team performances (which we`re told are affected by the fans` attitude to the team) and of course, chants of "Sack McLeish, My Lord" echoing around Villa Park.
McLeish spoke after the game yesterday stating that he was glad to relieve the pressure from the players by "showing leadership through adversity" but that next season the players "had better get their finger out".
This may be stating the obvious, but something doesn`t smell right. Rewind back to last summer with the exit of Houllier and the managerial scavenge. Names linked like Benitez, Martinez, McClaren (please insert more in comments if you are aware). As far as I know, Benitez didn`t agree with the financial policy the board was proposing, Martinez refused to have an interview out of loyalty to Wigan, and McClaren`s interview was scrapped because the board LISTENED to the fans` reaction to the news that he might be considered.
Why then would the board then go through (allegedly) dodgy channels to appoint the Small Heath manager??? Why would they then declare that European qualification is the goal for the season if McLeish wasn`t given enough money to rebuild???
None of this makes sense. This season has made no sense at all. This was either an amazingly brave and bold risk taken by the board to appoint an interim to take the flak while we balanced our books, or they really do have no idea what they`re doing and are acting on their own agenda now. I do like to think that it`s the former, mainly because Martin O`Neill was afforded a generous budget during his tenure and we appointed Gerard Houllier and allowed him to spend £24m on Darren Bent. These actions don`t sit with the image of a board who don`t care about the club. Despite what people thought of O`Neill, he believed he was acting on the best interests of the club. Despite what people thought of Houllier, he believed he was acting on the best interests of the club. You`ll find this hard to believe but despite what people think of McLeish, he believes he`s acting on the best interests of the club. Wait, hear me out...
We all know McLeish`s faults and I`m sure the board is fully aware now. Just in case anyone`s been out of the loop, here are a few (deep breath in)...........worst home record of all time, lack of attacking mentality in the team, good first half, poor second half, poor team motivation, unable to hold onto a lead, haven`t scored from corners all season, conceded several from set-pieces, refuses to accept blame for team performances, has overseen injuries to half the squad.......(phew).......there may well be more, but the SMALLEST issue we`ve had with him is that he`s the ex-Birmingham City manager. The SMALLEST. Can someone please tell that to Alan Shearer and Jeff Stelling?
It just doesn`t make sense for the board to believe that they can go from Martin O`Neill, a successful and well-respected manager to Gerard Houllier, a successful and well-respected manager, to Alex McLeish as a long-term appointment. He has Premier League experience but he has overseen 2 relegations in 4 years, something that O`Neill and Houllier have never done. It is either a sign of the times that Villa can no longer attract top managers or a statement that prudence in all areas will be the philosophy in all aspects of the club from now on regardless of quality. Or something else we still don't know about.
From next season our kit manufacturers will be Macron, a team also responsible for the kits of West Ham and Leeds as well as a few mid-table Italian clubs. While this is considered a step down from wearing the famous tick on our shirts, it is expected that Macron will be more reliable in terms of manufacturing quality and supply of kit and clothing. If this season has been an asset-stripping exercise then yes, it has been successful. We have already thinned the herd in terms of wages and players so the club is down to its bare essentials now, surely.
The big question now will be "What next?" After this season, the only way is up. From my perspective it seems that McLeish has been an accepting, willing, amicable fall guy this year. You can`t blame him for taking the job, but you could blame him for staying in it beyond this season. It`s easier to be thick-skinned for one year than it is for three years, especially after what has felt like an eternity already, for him and for us. If the board`s appointment of McLeish has been part of Plan A, it would be nice to include the rest of us in the long-term view for Aston Villa Football Club. With several Facebook groups and web pages dedicated to the dismissal of the manager as well as a message on the back page of the local paper, a justification of action is long overdue. £500-odd is a lot of money to give on blind faith that things will be better next season, especially for supporters with families. Mat Kendrick from the Birmingham Mail has said several times that he has tried to get Randy Lerner to give an interview. Maybe the end of this season will be when he finally breaks the mould and shares with us his master plan. We hope.
To believe that the board has no clue about the direction of the club would be to believe that the club is doomed, a sinking ship with no future but life in the doldrums and lost hopes and dreams. This is the same board that provided the means for a top 6 finish 3 seasons running and our first proven goalscorer since Dwight Yorke. To quote Bob Dylan, it is a lot easier to believe that the times they are a-changin` for the better rather than that the board wants to destroy Aston Villa. Previous evidence would suggest so.
During a transitional period it is usually accepted that things will get worse before they get better. If this is truly the season of transition that has been spoken of since Houller's brief tenure, then things are surely guaranteed to improve from the end of the season onwards. The board has played a dangerous game this season, with many bluffs and calls at our expense and on our behalf; it would be a relief to finally see their winning hand.