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Something For The Weekend (378)

Villa walking on eggshells, in the Easter parade!

Easter always makes me smile, not because I am particularly religious, or even prone to scoffing chocolate eggs, but mainly because; as I feel the chill wind wafting up my kilt and the whip of rain across my face, I am consoled by the thought that I am now too old to ever be persuaded, that a camping trip to Brean Down, over the holiday, is a worthwhile adventure.

But even though I can now escape the delights of trying to sleep on a bumpy patch of sodden ground, while remembering not to touch the sides of a cheap tent because the rain will come in, Easter is not exactly a misery-free zone, despite the consoling sound of heavy rain lashing my midnight window.

There is always some social and sporting grief to be faced; there are fixtures to be dreaded, matches to be endured, and results to regret; especially if your club happens to be operating as a cheap brand in a luxury market.

There is even the irksome annual spectacle of Man United, proving that being the third richest club in Europe, with 300m in income, is no disadvantage when it comes to dominating the cannon fodder of the Premiership and substantiating their monopoly status. It seems that, when the richest club in England wins its 13th title out of the last twenty, we are supposed to be both impressed and astounded, apparently.

Even Ashley Young's magnificent Premiership-winning dive, was a sad reminder of what it takes to be a winner in the modern game.

Happily, Villa's two-bob team didn't do too badly. Villa took their 47m worth of talent to Anfield and did very well against Liverpool's 109m men, and only came unstuck when King Kenny swapped one 11.5m player in Enrique for another of equal value, Aggar, which allowed them to change tactics without weakening the team. They also had the luxury of doing the same, when they swapped Downing for Carroll, which improved their team, while Villa reduced the value of their team by some 5.5m by their substitutions.

It should come as no surprise that Liverpool equalised in the ensuing remaining minutes of the game.

The same happened when Villa took on Stoke and led through a memorable goal by Andi Weimann. Villa scored when they had their highest value team on the pitch and conceded when they had reduced that value by substituting Warnock for Gardner, while Stoke increased the value of their side by bringing on
Crouch et al.

Considering their problems Villa did quite well in the two matches, taking into account their comparatively meagre resources.

Fortunately, for Villa's management, the Villa fans are so obsessed with their dislike of the team manager, and are so apt to being diverted by their sentiment towards young home-grown talent, they fail to see that any club, which consistently fields a team worth around 40m or less, automatically falls into the category of a club which is likely to be engaged in a relegation struggle.

A few newly-promoted teams who have been together through a confidence-building successful promotion campaign, survive this reality for their first season (McLeish managed 9th with newly-promoted Blues), but teams without the luxury of the cohering effects of time, stability and success, can't expect to defy the consequences of fielding a sub 40m team too often in a Premiership season.

For every Swansea and Norwich who manage to defy that predictor, a Bolton, a Wigan, or even a Villa gets sucked in. An exceptional manager may successfully defy the reality of the numbers but truly exceptional managers are so rare that not even Chelsea or Man City can be certain to find one.

Alex McLeish is no doubt a good manager but good does not mean the same as exceptional. Good managers definitely need to be able to field a team worth a lot more than 40m, if they are to avoid being engulfed in the relegation quagmire . Too often in recent months Alex McLeish has not been able to field a team worth more than 40m, and the result of that shortfall has been inevitable.

Amazingly there are quite a large number of fans who believe that should the same meagre resources be handed to Kevin McDonald or some other victim of their choice, all would be well in Villa's Dingly Dell. They bang on about McLeish being relegated with Birmingham City, while conveniently ignoring the resources he had at his disposal, as they present their case based upon half-truths to vindicate their denial about the real causes of Villa's predicament, and protect the sacred myth of the magic manager.

Not even managers who have won a considerable amount of stuff believe in the myth of the magic manager. No successful manager has been known to choose a small club over a big club, based on their belief that their own magical powers can overcome any disadvantage. Even the FA, where money is no object,
have not been able to attract the magic manager capable of casting a spell over England's finest. It has very much been a case of: the same resources producing roughly the same outcome.

No legendary Villa manager has ever been a success when they have left Villa Park, since Joe Mercer. Successful Villa managers have been fortunate enough to arrive at the club when resources were available and either had the sense to resign, when those resources ran out, or were helped through the door by fan-discontent and Doug's realisation that it was the right time for a cull.

The magic manager is a myth, albeit a very necessary myth for club and fan alike. The magic manager myth allows people to believe that if you keep the resources exactly the same but change the manager, everything suddenly becomes possible.

Certainly, Doug Ellis fully understood the function of the myth of the magic manager, and used it very creatively. Once he had grasped the reality of what the fans needed, he would either hire someone with charisma, like Big Ron, or someone steeped in nostalgic memories like Brian Little. Some managers who were associated with happy memories were actually recycled, like John Gregory and Graham Taylor, the second time around. Whether Randy Lerner understands these things is in doubt but if he wanted to distract the fans from his own culpability in the retrenchment, he couldn't have picked a better candidate than Alex McLeish.

So what both the fans and the club have to face, is that when McLeish finished 9th with Birmingham in the first season after promotion, he was getting the sort of praise which Paul Lambert is getting right now (Norwich currently 10th) but ultimately despite that well-deserved praise his team got relegated a year later, because ultimately he lacked both the mythical magic and the resources to defy the reality, that a sub 40m starting-eleven is very likely to get relegated.

Therefore, Villa's owner needs to back their man properly in the Summer, or face the inevitable.

Now that winning the league is an impossibility for the vast majority of clubs, and actually winning any of the domestic cups, is a very remote possibility for any club except those able to field 100m+ starting-elevens, what can the owners of the two-bob teams do to make the prospect of a season, that only promises mitigated failure, palatable for the fans?

In a previous age when teams like Villa, Everton, Forest and Derby proved that anything was possible, every fan could realistically start a season with a tenable dream that it could be their turn this time, but not any more.

Owners can't really expect to continue to trade on tradition and sentiment when the possibilities for such dreams have been snatched away and consigned to history, forever.

The new era of monopoly and vast and permanent inequality, offers challenges unknown to owners of clubs a decade ago.

Providing the essential magic ingredient, to make that new reality bearable for the fans, is going to take some doing.

At present Villa definitely need some investment and a large dose of magic.

Keep the faith!
The Journalist

Writer: Steve Wade Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday April 13 2012

Time: 4:16PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
"40m" is mentioned 5 times, Steve. You clearly believe that mantra! However, I'm not sure where the figure comes from - it probably doesn't include the 25 total fee for Bent (when he's available)? Or the untested market value of Gabby?
Report Abuse
13/04/2012 16:45:00

Does this 'magic' 40million apply tot the start of the season when we were still negative and awful? Let's check... Given - 4.5 million Hutton - 2.5 - 4 million depending upon reports Warnock - 8million Collins - 5 million Dunne - 4.5 million N'Zogbia - 9.5million Delph - 6million (rising to 8 depending upon appearances) Petrov - 8.5 million Heskey - 3 million Agbonlahor - academy graduate Bent - 18 million (rising to 24 million with add on's) This was McLeish's favoured 11 at the start of the season once the window closed and, although I'm no Carol Vorderman, that seens to add up to more than 40 million when added together. But why let that get in the way eh?
heavy d
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13/04/2012 17:03:00

McLeish & staying up or sacking him & going down . Difficult question hmmm
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13/04/2012 17:16:00

Good article. One point though. RedScouse have spent a fortune and yet that hasn't translated into success on the pitch. Look at the situation at Newcastle by contrast. Spurs haven't been big spenders either or Arsenal. There is a lot of truth in stats but not the (italics) truth. The Villa (82) and Forest (79/80) European Cup winning days are probably gone for now. How long football can sustain the financial madness is the key issue. Malaga, PSG and that wealthy Russian club have changed a lot. Chelskov have shown what can happen to a club when a 'sugardaddy' takes over. Barca, Real and the three Spanish clubs in the Europa League make a mockery of the EPL 'Best League in the World' nonsense. There is a place for Villa somewhere. Bilbao, Porto, Sporting and Napoli offer the best indication of what the club could/can be.
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13/04/2012 17:16:00

McLeish & staying up or sacking him & going down . Difficult question hmmm
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13/04/2012 17:18:00

Lergy, Sorry, I understood that you had read last week's SFTW, where I explained how I used Transfermarkt to calculate the value of every EPL starting-eleven, for the week before, which showed a very strong correlation between league position and value of starting-eleven (all teams in potential relegation positions had starting-eleves worth less than 40m, which I took as the threshold). Darren Bent did not play. It was just my attempt to get away from the present orthodoxy and see what the numbers suggested. And, as McLeish was relegated with a side valued at 39m and he is now Villa manager, I was suggesting that if Lerner thinks he is the right man, he probably needs a starting-eleven worth more than 40m. I am aware that the numbers conflict with the orthodoxy but they are interesting nonetheless.
Steve Wade
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13/04/2012 17:56:00

Lergy, Sorry, I understood that you had read last week's SFTW, where I explained how I used Transfermarkt to calculate the value of every EPL starting-eleven, for the week before, which showed a very strong correlation between league position and value of starting-eleven (all teams in potential relegation positions had starting-eleves worth less than 40m, which I took as the threshold). Darren Bent did not play. It was just my attempt to get away from the present orthodoxy and see what the numbers suggested. And, as McLeish was relegated with a side valued at 39m and he is now Villa manager, I was suggesting that if Lerner thinks he is the right man, he probably needs a starting-eleven worth more than 40m. I am aware that the numbers conflict with the orthodoxy but they are interesting nonetheless.
Steve Wade
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13/04/2012 18:02:00

OK, fair do's, Steve. However, whether this man can do anything with a team were it worth 100m is highly questionable!! His tactics do not seem to vary.
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13/04/2012 18:11:00

Lergy, According to the calculations I have made, if McLeish could regularly field a starting-eleven worth 100m, the Villa should finish 7th, between Liverpool 111m and Everton 85m.
Steve Wade
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13/04/2012 18:36:00

Steve Wade -- When you talk about your 'calculations' you sound like Dr Strangelove or Victor Frankenstein. It ain't all about Pounds and Pence....or Euro's. Explain Torres or Carrol? Explain Messi? Why is there only one English club in the last four of the ECL even though the EPlL is drowning in cash? Randy Lerner has been a big spender in the past. Unfortunately, he has never done any serious research with regards to a decent coach/manager. There is no plan or Director of Football. Selling your best players (Young and Milner) is not a good move either.
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13/04/2012 19:45:00

Even when Blues were in the Championship they couldn't score goals under McLeish. I don't expect us to finish high up the table but I do expect us to provide a little bit of entertainment.
Matt B
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13/04/2012 20:11:00

VWRA, Everywhere you look and do the sums the rich clubs tend to win the leagues and the trophies and the poor clubs tend not to. Three clubs most likely to win the Champions League, are Real, Barca and Bayern - 1st, 2nd and 4th richest clubs in Europe. Man United should be there but poor FA regulation allowed a leveraged buy-out, which has crippled them debt. Real are over 4 times richer than Villa and it shows. When it comes to players its not what you paid which determines their value, its what the market thinks they are worth. Liverpool have just sacked their DofF because he paid far too much for Carroll, and its unlikely Chelsea will get their money back on Torres.
Steve Wade
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13/04/2012 20:29:00

SW -- Good points, well made. A few issues though. The 'big' clubs you mention might be the 'official' wealthiest clubs in Europe but for how long? Anzhi Makhachkala, Malaga, PSG and Citeh (to name but three) are breathing down the necks of those clubs. Platini's 'financial fair play regulations' are laughable. As I've said before on this site all these big clubs will do -- eventually -- is start their own league. European Super League or something similar. I'm amazed it hasn't already happened. There will probably be a 'Super League' (Citeh, Barca, Milan etc) and also an 'Atlantic League' (Ajax, Celtic, Porto etc). How Villa will fit in to this Brave New World is not clear. There will be changes though. My issue with Randy Lerner is that he seems to be a re-active rather than a pro-active owner. Villa should be amongst those setting the agenda. Instead the club is just -- for the time being --among the also rans. Pity.
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13/04/2012 22:57:00

To name but four.
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13/04/2012 22:58:00

VWRA, For what it's worth, I think the CL is already a de facto Super League and the ELP has been reduced to a feeder league for the CL. Once the FFR rules kick-in the CL will become a virtual closed-shop and knowing this, the clubs you mentioned are spending shed-loads to try and force their way in before the door slams shut. What I was hinting at was that in such a world where the elite are protected, small to middling clubs are very unlikely to be able to win anything. So if we combine that with strict financial discipline, then the game becomes less appealing for fans and some magic ingredient needs to be found to distract the fans from that reality and concentrate their minds on the romance of their clubs. In short, if Villa are to be run along the strict financial lines of Deadly, then the club needs to offer the other half of the Ellis package, which is to give the fans a manager they can feel enchanted by. Obviously, I didn't state it clearly enough for Villan tastes.
Steve Wade
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14/04/2012 09:47:00

So what your saying is Mcleish had his best season in his second stint in the perm with the blues and his last and his first with us show he is a good manager,what a load of Mcleish wade.
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14/04/2012 10:22:00

mickatkins21, The problem is that to make the case that McLeish is not a good manager, it would require you to believe that his 9th place finish at Blues after promotion and him winning them their first trophy since 1963, had nothing to do with his ability and only happened because Birmingham are such a fine club. I prefer to think he is a good manager. What about you?
Steve Wade
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14/04/2012 10:52:00

Villan444, I don't think you can say someone is doing a bad job, unless you know what that job is. For a fan who thinks that his job is to play attacking football, he is a failure. But for Lerner who wanted to restructure the club, he might be considered to have done a good job. But even if that is the case, it does not automatically follow, that even if McLeish is a good manager, that he is the right manager for Villa. Doug eventually understood what sort of manager appealed to the Villa fans and Lerner has yet to learn that lesson. Calls for a DoF who understands the fans, are right on the button.
Steve Wade
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14/04/2012 12:57:00

Wonder if voth is still up for Poyet after Brighton were caned by the Hammers today? Hope we beat you-know-who tomorrow and derail their title ambitions. Citeh are just behind them now. It'll be great to do that to them especially after Macheda's goal a season or two ago.
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14/04/2012 17:31:00

In terms of a 'popular' managerial appointment, Hoddle, Di Canio or Nigel Clough are a few names that come to mind. They at least know their football (Hoddle has worked with Wenger) and in the case of the latter two, are 'up-and-coming' and would possibly be a 'good fit' with the club.
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14/04/2012 17:35:00

intgeresting names VillaWillRiseAgain. Good thread in 100% Villa forum re: which manager you'd like. Not sure Di Canio or Nigel Clough have cropped up, Hoddle has though, as have 100 others!!!!!!!!!!!
The Fear
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15/04/2012 12:56:00


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