The Blame Game
For the record I am of the opinion that the marriage between Aston Villa and McLeish is not going to work. A lack of tactical nuance and the burden of history have undone whatever possibility their might have been of the relationship working out; a relationship most of us did not want to see. Most Villa fans begrudgingly resigned themselves to his appointment but were prepared to see how things panned out. Alex McLeish would be the first to tell us that things have not panned out well. Circumstances have not helped, whether it be our top striker doing his ankle or our heroic captain developing Leukaemia and, of course, hindsight is always a wonderful thing. Providence or an ability to plan accordingly would perhaps have been better.
However, as much as I disagree with his appointment and the football direction in which we are heading, I have nothing but personal respect for the manner in which Alex McLeish has dealt with with his situation, one in which he has been met with personal abuse and hate. Although accountability should be part of the concept of management I respect and recognise the integrity he has shown in taking it all on the chin nonetheless. He has undoubtedly being the focal point for all of the fans anger in a season when difficult decisions needed to be made. No wonder then he is receiving supportive texts from the board and the chairman when it is he who is taking the bullets. They must be relieved it isn't them but then perhaps that was the whole point of the appointment in the first place.
It is quite obvious from yesterday's post match comments that the manager is aware of the situation and will not proceed with the same hardiness and protection that he has shown to the players, in taking all of the ire on to himself. They must "pull their finger out," he said. I could not agree more. This is undoubtedly aimed at many of the senior players (Stan excluded) who have let the club down with some of their performances this season. Yes, it his job to motivate them but they have, at times, failed to motivate themselves or respond to what is being said. That is until it began to dawn on them that contracts might not get renewed and that they might get relegated. Whether it was key players disappearing in games, defensive lapses, lack of focus in front of goal, or collective apathy, the famous Claret and Blue shirt has taken an utter battering this season at the hands of some of those who wear it.
The players would have known, that with both barrels aimed at the manager, they would go largely unscathed and so have avoided overt and direct criticism which seems ludicrous when you consider how badly some of them have played. Week in week out players are put under the microscope across the media yet not our players? They have obviously been well protected, ducking for cover as their beleaguered manager took the brunt of it all. Yes he deserved a large slice of whatever was going to come their way though not the entire cake. To be a gentleman about it, it seems darn right unfair.
As stated earlier he has made some baffling, woeful decisions at times though I couldn't knock the man's mental fortitude, belief and fight; his professionalism and integrity. Most mortals would have walked away. He didn't, which is ironic to applaud when many of us wish he would have gone before the situation became practically untenable.
Interestingly, when our academy graduates came in they took their chances by the scruff of the proverbial neck. They showed a lot of the above values under McLeish. Indeed, it seemed as though he had no problem motivating them but then they had no problem motivating themselves either. They are a credit to the club. Whether it was Herd's goal against Liverpool, Baker's coolness at the back or Weimann's killer goal against Stoke, they have done their bit for both gaffer and shirt. Do we not offer him some credit for that or was that simply down to a combination of Kevin MacDonald and magic?
However, those young starlets have unfortunately witnessed the bile that has come the managers way. I still wonder as to the psychological effect of this and their perceptions of what it is to be part of this club given all that has happened. For example, many of us (myself included) were up in arms over the recent "Gatecrasher" incident yet seem to think abuse is acceptable as long as it comes from the fans. Is it? I'm not sure it is. Alex McLeish is certainly not responsible for what comes out of my mouth or what I write no more than he is yours. If that is the case why do some give themselves permission to be abusive?
I love this club as much as the next fan and driven by tribal feelings I often spring out of my seat, offering verbal jousts to the players and managers though there is a line because none of the above gives me the right to offer foul mouth discriminatory abuse to anyone. I try (though sometimes slip) to speak and express myself as if Eck was listening. I would like to think I would have hard questions and some things to say though I would want to put this over in a way that was reasonable and appropriate. Sadly, some of the things I have heard shouted and seen written are not appropriate in anyone`s language. To see grown men with young children spitting the most vile foul mouthed hate as though that were a normal thing to do bothers me; keyboard warriors tapping out anti-Scottish obscene bile as though it was acceptable makes me feel the same. Unfortunately, anonymity breeds contempt and in some cases obscenity.
The fact is we're ALL representing our club and should do so in a way that honours the badge and shirt. Let us remind ourselves that Alex McLeish is a father, a husband, someone's son and a friend and work colleague to many. He is a decent human being. I may not want him to manage my club but I have nothing but respect for the way he has personally conducted himself; the qualities he has shown in that regard even if I am angered by some of the footballing decisions he has made. So "McLeish out" but let us show the man the door with dignity.
As we do lets us all remember where the doors are. They get you in as much as they let you out. The report I heard this morning suggested we have currently sold somewhere in the region of 13,000 season tickets for next season. With the club required to set back 5% of our 42000 seats for match day tickets (Premier League Rules: Ticketing 4.9) with 7% allocated to away fans (Premier League Rules: Ticketing 7) and taken in to account complimentary and corporate tickets I'm sure the club would like to see season ticket sales double at least. Though to suggest that the decline in sales is solely down to McLeish is just plain wrong.
There are times when I haven't gone through the Villa door owing to health, personal circumstance and finance and if that is your situation or you live many miles away then fair enough. It can be an expensive business and this is a financially austere age, the worse economic period since the 1930's which has left us in a double dip recession. Without doubt this partly accounts for the decline in our average gate, a fact repeated across the country not just at Villa Park. However, we have also lost some of the 'hangers on' who only want to associate themselves with an Aston Villa Football Club that is successful and wins; for whom a match day experience is a product they are buying into. Of course, I want to see Villa win and I would practically levitate in celebration if we won silverware though I'll be there regardless because Alex McLeish doesn't determine whether I support the club or not. I determine that.
Surely the best place to protest and effect change is from within and for that to happen we must be the heart and soul of the club. It is difficult to do that from an armchair or a computer, regardless of how strongly you feel. Just ask the 36,000 crowd who turned up yesterday to watch our rag bag outfit battle for a point. They sang, cheered and proclaimed their loyalty and commitment to the team through 90 gruelling, nerve jangling minutes. The game was as much a credit to the supporters as it was to the team and I have no doubt that when ire cools over the summer that passion will turn into "acceptable" sales because when all is said and done we love this club don't we? A club involved in the greatest soap opera on earth: football.
As to yesterdays "McLeish Out day": It seemed less of a tub thumping coup d`etat and more of a damp squib, with people opting to support the team rather than campaigning in their thousands. In electoral terms it just doesn't seem to carry so I am unsure why it keeps getting plugged other than it being a juicy story. I respect the passion behind it though maybe the mass majority realises that it is more than the fault of one individual? Even if he, as manager, is accountable problems will still persist whoever is in charge. If only the world was simple.
In the back of my footballing brain, creating a vilified scape goat and throwing him from the city walls will not solve our financial and resource problems. We will not be top eight next year or be challenging for anything other than stability and improvement, as our new financial philosophy chugs forward. Yes, we can improve and do better than McLeish. That much is obvious. Though anyone who thinks Paul Lambert or Roberto Martinez is going to take us to a top eight finish is setting themselves up for a season of unrealistic expectations in what is the worlds most unforgiving and competitive league.
Previous from: Villa_Grizzly:
An End To Villa Boom And Bust?
Far From The Madding Crowd
A Dirty No Good Villan
Going Through The Change
When The Fat Lady Sings
Listen Carefully, I Shall Say This Only Once....