Lern By Doing
Forgive me for my absence from here for a while, I`ve had pressing uni commitments which have prevented anything being written sooner than now. Season`s going well........!
Looks like we`re back on the old bus again. For the third season running, our great club is being put through the wringer and seemingly for no reason. What`s going on? Is this really the new start we were being sold when Paul Lambert took over? 15 goals on 3 games? Cup embarrassment at the crucial stage? Key players omitted from the team?
It hurts to say this (well, it hurts to say any of it, and especially with such increasing apathy) but we are no better off than last season under Alex McLeish. Money has been spent, players have arrived but the same frailties exist: positive first-half, lead taken/established. Poor second-half, inability to kill off games, goals conceded, heads drop, leads lost, games lost, points lost. The same staunch Old Firm confidence and statements that things will be fine. They won`t be. And they`re not. The blame game has gone on for too long now and it needs to stop somewhere. But where?
Is it with Lambert? Has he bitten off more than he can chew with a club of our size? Is he naive in believing that this team has the confidence, discipline and motivation to keep us in the Premier League? Is he arrogant to shrug off 15 goals in 3 games and suggest it`s just a blip? The answer of all of those is a resounding "yes." But can he be to blame for the last 3 seasons? No.
We saw Lambert`s abilities as Norwich manager and seemingly made a unanimous decision that he`d be the ideal candidate to manage us to success. He may do still, but at the minute it could be argued that his hands have been tied by an owner with his own vision of how the club should be run. Mr. Lerner, step forward.
It`s one thing to have an ideal, but it`s completely another thing to just run with it without thinking it through in the long term, or even the short term as is being proven. Don`t get me wrong, it`s great that we want young, ambitious hungry players. I mean, Sir Alex did it and look what happened. The chairman obviously saw David Beckham`s goal against Wimbledon back in 1997 and heard that Beckham was a YTS product. He is now waiting for Barry Bannan to do something similar.
The argument here is that our chairman has turned us into the Mighty Ducks. Young, hopeful, lots of heart, talented but raw with no real aim or direction except to go out and do what they do. Poor but honest. It`s becoming deafeningly clear that Mr. Lerner no longer knows what to do with Aston Villa Football Club. He tried the "spend-all" policy: it paid off in the short term, we got up to 6th, made a cup final, lost a manager and subsequently all of our prized assets. He is now trying the "success on a shoestring" approach. We are in the same predicament as last season despite spending more money on players. Houllier was experienced and influential enough to convince him to spend £24m on Bent. Does he not care that a large chunk of transfer money is now regularly sat on the bench or frequently injured, and that he can currently expect to make a huge loss on him in the summer or even before the end of the window?
You`ll notice from the title of the article that Doug`s name has been mentioned. Doug Ellis` tenure as chairman didn`t sit well with many supporters, but no-one can say that he would have let it get to where Lerner has gotten us. He managed to spend money, keep us competitive, mostly top 10 finishes and with more than 40 points in every season since the start of the Premier League. We finished 16th twice in 14 years. Under Doug, our lowest points total was 42. That was in the 2005-6 season, the season he stepped down. Under Doug, we also finished 2nd, 4th and 5th despite his continued reluctance to shell out huge transfer fees. Granted, it was a simpler time back then, but it was still a remarkable achievement.
Compare this to Mr. Lerner`s reign, in which we have finished 11th in his first season, 6th place for 3 seasons in a row and then have managed to find mediocrity in finishing 9th (thanks to Bent), 16th and now languish in 17th with no clear direction, philosophy or statement of intent from anyone high up that suggests we will turn this corner smoothly and that things will improve. Some words from the chairman would not go amiss. If he doesn`t grasp the concept that he has a duty to (we`ll say it in business terms because football is evidently no longer his passion) provide the best possible service for his customers, then this relationship is pointless. Under Doug we were an aspiring club which always wanted to achieve success in the most economic way possible. Admirable. We were safe and secure at his bosom because he loved us and wanted the best for us in every way possible. Under Mr. Lerner, we have become a rotting apple which tastes worse with every bite and is currently lying in the bottom half (where else?) of a rubbish bin.
Take a lesson, Mr. Chairman. The last guy loved this club as much as we do. He spent money when it was important and he took action when he needed to. He listened to the fans, he responded to the fans and the fans knew he was Aston Villa through and through. He also trusted you to do right by his club. We know nothing about you except that you`ve spent lots of money, seen it wasted and have taken a back seat ever since. It might be time to stop pretending to be someone you're not.
If you love the club, treat it with respect or let it go to someone who will run it properly.