Something For The Weekend (294)
Its true, we could have had class, but it looks like it ain't our night, day, year or even decade, and we're gonna take a dive for the short end money.
Who's a Charlie now?
Too bad, it was a happy delusion while it lasted, what with Lerner handing out those Dumbo feathers and all. I really thought we were going to fly there, somehow. But its back to the good old days, reality bites hard and we must settle for unadorned mediocrity and live on a belief in miracles.
All Villa fans await to see if the club can, for a third season in a row, find a third world-class player, they can sell on, as they struggle to find the entry-price to the Premiership's top-six.
Man City jumped in the pool and Villa suddenly became a tiddler once again, and all my hubris about Liverpool finding themselves beached, has come back to bite me on the arse. It turned out that what has been slightly toxic for the Reds, has proven fatal for Villa, as the bean-counters have decided that enough is enough.
Since Man City got in the water, it looks like we need a bigger boat.
The squad is not so much limited by numbers or transfer fees but by a turnover-determined wage-cap. The club decided to sell but Milner's departure was not enough to free up sufficient slack in the finances,
to buy a replacement.
Harewood and Bouma won't be replaced either: how bad must things be?
Villa's multi-award-winning midfielder and one of a very few England players who emerged from the World Cup with his reputation intact, is to be sold and not replaced, while we are expected to believe Villa
are still an ambitious club.
Such a determined and premeditated decision to sell Villa's star player, renders all reassurances to the contrary, unbelievable. It was always going to happen.
Rules is rules - someone had to go. Who next?
What emerges is that the Villa management team broke its own rules when it signed the likes of Dunne and Collins, and that even if Villa had won trophies last year, then players would still have been sold off. Any success last season, would not have been the starting point for greater things to come, it would have been just another season, where success was inevitably followed by consolidation; just as it was under Doug Ellis.
It seems that the two players who proved crucial to the success Villa enjoyed, were luxuries the club could not afford.
There's the reality and there's the misery - the same old retrenchment, just like after the 2000 Cup Final (a manager walked then too).
Its quite a step back for Lerner - he bought the club for £62m and will receive £24m for Milner. This looks like an expression of some doubt about his Villa Champions League project.
But what now? Where's the dream and where's the hope? We're back to balancing the books and talking big with no bollocks to back it up.
Villa's challenge has run into the sand, as the team has out-run its supply lines.
But, as we retreat from the unassailable logic of the masterplan, there is one uncomfortable fact we have to wrestle with - changing the manager is going to be expensive and the team and club must go backwards, in the process. Unless there is a manager out there who has exactly the same ideas as Martin O'Neill, many players will necessarily have to be discarded and at a substantial cost.
That cost will be far greater than replacing Milner; of that we can be sure.
Players will be sold at a loss, or loaned out to clubs while Villa continue to pay the wages, just like Deadly Doug's last economy drive, when Graham Taylor was last handed the sow's ear and told to make a silk purse out of it. There were players scattered across Europe, playing for other clubs, but still being paid by Villa. The ultimate logic of sound accounting principles.
Some things do not change. And what are principles for, if you can't make others suffer for them?
Like the spin and circumlocution, which is a fairly thinly disguised signal, that none of this is the fans' business. We'll never know the truth but that won't stop the gush and guff.
If the present situation has arisen because of the rules the club sets itself, then it was always going to happen. It has to be assumed that while the club continued to insist to the fans that money was available, O'Neill would have been expected to shoulder the blame and the resulting flak from the fans, for failing to spend that rhetorical money.
It seems that Martin O'Neill didn't think that outcome was quite fair or just, and who can blame him?
Lerner says he and Martin do not share the same vision but he offers no clue, as to whether that vision has actually changed.
Making O'Neill the villain is their only real option, as the Lerner management team, attempt to preserve their reputation and convince the fans that Villa are the exception, when it comes to breaking into the top-four on a decreasing budget.
There is the usual stuff about players on high wages languishing in the reserves, but one thing is certain, players won't come to Villa unless they get extra pay. Read the quotes from Harewood (£4m). He knew he was less likely to get in the team at Villa, than at Wigan, but he came because of 'Martin O'Neill'. For the last part, read: Because The Money Was Better.
Logically, it must therefore follow, that if a club needs to pay above the market rate to get even ordinary players, then they are going to be impossible to sell and the players won't leave until they've pocketed every dime their contract allows. As might be expected, no fan can imagine that any player would not want to play at Villa, and so when these players turn out to be not all that is hoped for, then they assume someone is guilty of bad judgement.
Harewood (£4m) would have had to have been the bargain of the century to have earned Villa the 7 points needed to have shoved Spurs out of 4th spot?
The truth is that Lerner's new coat of paint has not made Villa substantially more attractive, when it comes to attracting new players.
As every ugly guy knows; if he wants to date a beauty, its going to cost him. How much did Franck Ribery need to pay out, for the privilege? Conversely, Kaka had to turn to Jesus, just so he can get some sleep at night.
If the rules about turnover were applied as presented and we assume that the team who got to the League cup final isn't the most over-paid bunch outside Manchester, then the implications of those rules, are that Villa can only afford twelve or thirteen senior players and twelve kids, in a squad of 25.
There is no doubt that the PR is of the highest possible order but the question now, is does Villa do what's written on the tin?
Every fan is holding their breath and every fan has their own personal nightmare appointment in mind, as to who they least want. For many, it is Sven-Goran Eriksson, for me it is Gareth Southgate, the guy who craved glory but chose money instead. For him to return would be a personal affront but the fact that he played for Villa and has been on the telly, makes him look like a candidate. Svennis the menace would at least have the advantage of being so defensive-minded, he could probably use the present squad, but he would certainly count as many people's horror comic.
The fans want Martin Jol and certainly his career at Hamburg, where he had every decent player he discovered, sold from under him, while he achieved 5th and semi-finals in domestic and UEFA competitions would seem to make him just about perfect for Villa fans and management alike. He plays good football, is tractable and not too expensively ambitious, so he fulfils just about every known criteria for the Villa job.
But whoever it turns out to be, the candidate should at least promise the fans some kind of amusement, during the expected years of transition when their team will be languishing hopelessly in mid-table, while the accounts slowly align themselves with the masterplan for world domination.
Kevin Keegan, might be a good option too, as he's another manager, who never gives a club the bother of sacking him and just walks, either when promises are broken, or ambitions fade.
Which, lets be honest, they often do.
Fade to black.
Keep the wrath!