Thanks, but no thanks

Terrace Talk

I realise this may get some peoples’ backs up. The last two seasons are still a sensitive area for many, but I feel they were very important seasons for Aston Villa, and sometimes it helps to reflect on where you’ve come from to illuminate the path ahead. As my first article, I hope you enjoy it and that you will take something from it—even if only a different perspective.

Cast your minds back a year. It may be painful, particularly if you have to visualise everything, and your brain plays the last 12 months back in a series of slow-motion, montaged images of Aston Villa capitulating, conceding set piece after set piece, looking nervy, acting nervy, and ultimately being sat deep in our own half. It will be especially painful if there is accompanying music, perhaps a nice Smiths song to really pick up the mood. “How Soon is Now?” springs to mind when thinking of Villa in the last year or two.

“…And you say it’s gonna happen now… But when exactly do you mean? See, I’ve already waited too long…”

The good news is that I cast our minds back for good reason. A year ago, the club was in turmoil. Fans were in uproar at the appointment of Alex McLeish, and I have always been of the opinion that this was justified; leading a club to relegation for two years out of three is not meeting the criteria that I would set out, especially with the task at hand.

This task seems as plain to some as it is elusive to others. The year was essentially a write-off from the start. McLeish was charged with getting the wage bill lowered and creating a patchwork team from the scraps left in the squad. The money made from Young and Downing, as well as the money freed up by being rid of the wages of several senior players, was not going to be re-invested in the team at the level that it had been in the past.

At this point, I’m using conjecture to say that Alex McLeish was aware of this from day one, that he took on the thankless task in order to give him the chance to work with a sleeping giant and to rebuild and improve them over years, not months. Justifiably, he didn’t get the years he wanted. I breathed a sigh of relief when he left…a huge sigh.

In coming into the club, he made the right noises. He did what he had to do in trying to make peace with the more “challenging” members of the squad by virtue of having little to nothing to spend. If you had to replace the Villa defence with only what you could generate by selling them, you’d have about a fiver to spend on four players…if you were lucky.

He also set up a scouting network. He sent for Arthur Numan, who was charged with scouting the Netherlands and surrounding nations. This smacks of the Newcastle mantra, does it not? I think we would all agree that it has worked out well.

This was set up to give the club the best possible chance to seek talent at affordable prices who have all come from the same place. It should mean that they settle quickly and have a shared understanding of how to play in a style that is not so dissimilar to the English game.

We all know the rest. The season was diabolical in terms of many of the performances, the lack of hope around the club, injuries, and illnesses (still wishing my best for you, Stan). It is ground that has been covered many times over. However, the important detail was that we survived the season. We may have barely survived it, but we did manage to stay in the league. In doing so, Villa managed to upset almost every fan in the terraces. McLeish Out… request granted.

Was last season a success? It certainly wasn’t what I aspired to; I had hoped for many things a year ago, the last of which was that McLeish would be appointed and that we would continue to sell our best players and not really replace them.

However, a year on, things are looking up, and it’s funny, really. Many would attribute this to Paul Lambert. His arrival has signaled a new found sense of optimism and belief.

My question is this; should Paul Lambert be the man who we thank if we have a good season? Yes, he will select the team, buy players, set the team up, and all of the other managerial duties, but is it him we should thank? Take a step back, and the picture looks a little different…

Cast your minds back two years; Martin O’Neil left the club. At this point, it became clear that the spending had stopped. The club had seen the light, and realised things were unsustainable. A new plan was devised, and hastily applied. We were cutting back and trying to rebuild without Lerner throwing hundreds of millions of pounds down the drain.

Nobody was comfortable with this, it was a big risk, and two years later it almost cost us our Premiership status. However, in retrospect, maybe it was for the best. We had two awful years, make no mistake, but would you take that over four or five years of slow, painful, stagnating decline?

I for one am actually rather happy that it only took two years. We are now past the bottom of the curve, we are beginning the climb back up, and we are looking ahead. Had we taken a few years to do this, we would have stagnated completely, our youngsters would have had their formative years set in a side of doom and gloom, and their prospects would have been harmed exponentially.

I also believe that a few years of slow decline would have harmed our reputation much more than two years of rapid decline. The rapid decline showed purpose. A few years would have shown dithering. Mistakes were made, that I will not deny, but ultimately, it was a brave decision and I think it has paid off.

When we think of Aston Villa, some of us see different things. Some see a bumbling idiot in charge, with his lap dog sat next to him, tongue hanging out and his tail wagging. I see this as insulting. These people do not reach their status in life without a fair degree of intellect and passion. To suggest that they are in this only for the money is lunacy.

Lerner has lost more money than my whole family will earn in 10 generations. Faulkner is not a mug; he might not be a football man, but he is a man who understands business principles, and has shown some genuine success commercially. He is the face of the club in his position, and I actually think he projects a decent image: young, improving, becoming important in the context of the national game, and seemingly respected as a CEO. If Villa’s team had a comparable image I wouldn’t complain, and more important, it might be that we are heading in that same direction.

So, should Lambert pull a rabbit out of the hat and lead us to glory, or at least sustained improvement, consider where your thanks go. It is easy to vilify the board for making unpopular decisions, but consider their necessity and then consider where these decisions fit in with the whole picture.

I have to say that I thank the board. They have seemingly avoided melt down, and have provided a platform for us to have another go, with a fiscally responsible plan. I think two years of worry and occasional anger is a price worth paying for long-term strategy and sustainability. More importantly, what do you think?

About the Author

Avatar of Darran Nicholas

Darran NicholasLive in Southampton, love Aston Villa. I have a cat, but I'm sure she's no Mittens, and I'm 27. Since I can't think of anything else to say, I'll borrow some words: Some people are intimidated when talking to large numbers of people in an entertaining way. Not me.View all posts by Darran Nicholas →

  1. UK-BRASIL-SPAINUK-BRASIL-SPAIN01-07-2012

    Good Morning Darran, always good to read the efforts of a new contributor. Whilst I can agree with you on many points, that indeed Paul Faulkner has to be commended for excellent work in garnering new sponsors and a multitude of commercial deals, there is still a virtual vacuum on the football knowledge side.
    If the mission was to stabilize the economics of the club then there were manymanagerial candidates available used to working on a limited budget. One who came to mind was Alan Curbishley for his great work, particularly at Charlton,look what happened to them after his departure, for proof. His ability to work and achieve on a limited budget cannot be questioned, there are and were plenty of others as well.
    To have taken McCleish was a triple horror whammy of nightmare proportions.
    1. Had to pay compensation to Birmingham.
    2. His horrific record as a premier League manager.
    3.The travel across the city comes last, but is not exactly insignificant.
    Mr. Lerner who shows a commendably stubborn streak, which is often an advantage, is joined by Paul Faulkner in their lack of knowledge in the specialist world of Premier League football.
    Many of the car-crash football decisions would very likely have been avoided had a football man been working on the board or as a consultant.
    Sir Graham, Ron Atkinson & Brian Little all of whom spring to mind and I ‘m sure would have been delighted to help steward the club through this radical re-vamp.
    I think the decision to contract Paul Lambert and his coming staff is a great step taken by the club management but I am sure that had a “football man” been available 2 years ago, and appointed, he would have saved many millions of management compensation and more than justified his salary, or fees never mind the supporter’s angst and anguish.
    My concern is that there is still no elder football statesman available and feel that this is not to AVFC’s advantage.

  2. B62 VillaB62 Villa01-07-2012

    Morning all,
    I gotta say I’m in the same camp as UkspainBrasil, you cannot thank the board for having some cunning master plan in cost cutting. The spiralling costs were down to the owner signing off on the players brought in and their contracts. PF was then pushed up the food chain to try and stem the flow of cash flying out the doors. Mon went and we started down a road of self induced madness. Without any football knowledge what so ever we appointed GH, a complete failure and we still spent a decent amount of cash on Bent etc as we looked in danger of dropping out the EPL. GH retired hurt( inevitable) massive compo paid and a disasterous search concluded with ginger arriving having paid the clowns for the privelidge. Last season was an unmitigated disaster, and rightly he got the boot. But it was all so avoidable, their is no football knowledge in the boardroom, it smacks of a scene from trading places.
    Let’s hope they back PL, if not not a great deal will change, we’re still skint stuck with s**te players.

  3. TrinityTrinity01-07-2012

    Darren,
    Congratulations on a well written article.
    First, to answer your question. I think we need to congratulate PL if Villa have a good season. And why not be positive and congratulate the club in general?

    I definitely agree that the board was disrepectful to hire McLeish in the first place and that the current situation is merely a reaction to the fans’ disgruntlement. I doubt they, like many of us, really foresaw how badly Villa would do playing wise.
    Probably, the board overrated the squad and it’s taken this to get it sorted as it were. Well, they’d better get it sorted. I trust them to help PL.

    Hopefully, Villans have it in them to acknowledge that much of the dirty work, lowering the wage bill etc, was done in McLeish’s tenure as gaffer. If the team had won another five fixtures, he’d still be in charge.

    He’s not, and we’re all excited about the new season. Up the Villa!!!

  4. steamersteamer01-07-2012

    Hello Darran,
    Like all your posts, thought provoking and interesting.
    I must disagree about McCleish, obviously cuts had to be made but why Ginger ? It doesn’t take a genius to sell players, any idiot could have done that part of the job AND produced a half decent level of football. McCleish was the worst possible choice for manager.
    The biggest complaint last season, as B62 points out, is no knowledge of footy at boardroom level, still the same now unless Chubbies new position as an FA Councillor has fooled the idiot cowboy into thinking that he’s suddenly become an expert.
    Faulkners bungling apparently cost AVFC £12m to get rid of Ginger and his fellow imbeciles, plus low attendances, dire signings on top, thats over £35m, Chubby should go, no doubt. Lerner is still the same clown he was last season, but were stuck with him, i’m positive for the club now, but the set up is still not great, we have obvious weaknesses and Chubby is the most blatent one. Required one proven DoF ( BFR ), one CEO ( Possibly Garry Cook who i believe is a Villa fan) and somewhere down the line, a new owner.

  5. muz1muz101-07-2012

    Darran,

    Have to agree with others on here that AM was an unmitigated disaster which could and should have been avoided, but was appointed by RL and PF whose footballing knowledge is limited to say the least. There were other managers out there who could have worked on a limited budget and could have, at worst, done as well as AM, but the people in charge decided to go against the majority and appoint him anyway, and as steamer rightly points out have cost the club millions in compensation.
    You say Lerner has put in millions out of his own pocket and your correct, but that is only in loans, so let’s not be under any illusions the club will pay all that back.
    I agree with you that PF is very good in his field of work, unfortunatly that field is not football ,and those decisions should be left to footballing people, and as many others have said the owner needs to get someone with extensive footballing knowledge on board.
    IMO PL is the first step in the right direction,so let’s hope no more catastrophic mistakes are made which will cost AVFC many more millions.

  6. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    How come Ron keeps getting touted as some kind of DoF? He has said himself he doesn’t want that kind of involvement with a club.

    Also, just why are some fans so set on the DoF idea? We already have advice coming from “football men” via scouts, coaches, and other personnel.

    Randy Lerner and Paul Faulkner may not know as much about football as some professional managers, but they are starting to build a team of people who can help and advise the manager on things.

    Which then brings me on to the delicate equilibrium that some seem to have between Lambert being solely in charge or having a DoF above him.

    The significant question here is what advantage would such a position have for Lambert, particularly since no real viable implementation of this system has had great results in the UK?

  7. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    Also when people ask why McLeish was appointed, you have to look at who was actually interested in the role and had applied.

    The reality shows that nobody any better applied or was interested at the time – our selection was limited.

    Thus the only option was picking whoever had put themselves forwards, and it was only in those dire circumstances that McLeish was ever considered, with the only other option being running a caretaker for a period instead.

    That did Wolves a lot of good, didn’t it? Plus there was no way MacDonald would have been considered after his dalliance with the first team role pre-Houllier, with his leaving the club coming after Lerner overlooked him as a candidate to be interviewed when Lambert was approached along with the other candidates.

  8. FremFrem01-07-2012

    Clyne and El Ahmadi to join next week

  9. FremFrem01-07-2012

    also Tom Ince been mentioned

  10. steamersteamer01-07-2012

    Matt,
    ANYONE would have better than McCleish, the bloke is a complete and utter idiot who could have finished this club, never mind no-one BETTER applied, AVFC should have enough pull for 90% of managers in the UK, never mind abroad, the FACT is he was appointed by desperate morons who haven’t a scooby about the game, what worries me is if someone is capable of making that decision, what else are they going to do ?
    Regarding Ron, he has more knowledge of the game than most, ok, he may not be interested in a DoF role but in an advisory capacity liasing between Lerner and Lambert and certainly negotiating contracts, there is no-one better than him at persuading quality players to a club, Houghton, Townsend, Barrett etc. We have a massive hole just above the managers position and the boardroom, Faulkner would never be capable of running for a bus never mind AVFC, get rid and get a professional in or we’ll be in the same s**te that we were in last season sooner or later, no passengers in a successful football club.Regarding the ‘football men’ who are advising the club, they haven’t done us much good so far have they ? Numan, Roeder, i suppose Taylor and Ellis are in there somewhere too.

  11. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas01-07-2012

    Will leave a fuller reply later, I’m taking part in 3 christenings today! Madness! While I have a few minutes, I’ll say this; the fact that they appointed McLeish suggests that there were few options to pursue, they can’t exactly be accused of taking the cheap option, can they? He also met the criteria set out which should always be seen as the bare minimum. This is not a debate about how much they understand the game, but about whether they have actually done right by villa. Looking back, I think they’ve done ok.

  12. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    Steamer,

    The fact is that nobody better applied and nobody better was interested.

    Whether Villa “should” have more pull is irrelevant – “should” is irrelevant, rather that we picked whoever was available.

    Either way, he is gone now so it is not an issue – name any other manager who would have wanted the job under the circumstances?

    Negative transfer spend, poor squad of players, disillusioned team – hardly the recipe for what any manager with any thought for his own career would want.

    Put it this way – I am a fan of the club, but I wouldn’t have applied for the job last year if I had my Pro license.

    Why? What would I get apart from a payout? It would have been career suicide for anyone wanting to develop a reputation, just as anyone getting money after the event and support would look great.

    McLeish got a negative transfer spend in net terms, as opposed to recent managers who have had positive ones.

    After we were almost relegated under Houllier, I actually think McLeish did as well as any manager – he spent less and survived – though it was inevitable he would be sacrificed as the scapegoat of the situation.

    That is exactly what he is – look at the sudden change of attitude now.

    Do you think that is because of plain idio t or actually the result of the board being incredibly calculating?

    I would suggest the latter…

  13. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    We got Montgomery too as part of the deal.

    People can slate him but if the Dutch adventure reaps reward for Villa, then that project started before Lambert came.

    I know how it suits popular opinion to lay the blame at the feet of everyone because of our poor situations, but take a deeper look – it isn’t as simple as simplified views might imply.

    They key part is that the board don’t act purposely in bad faith, and I think this is where some arguments go wrong.

    After all why, in common sense terms, would the board self-sabotage? Who does that benefit?

    Doesn’t it fit the narrative better that they have simply made mistakes and, if so, I await anyone who can suggest they have managed to get through life with absolutely no mistakes, never mind in the public circumstances in which much of professional football pans out.

  14. steamersteamer01-07-2012

    McCleish never qualified on several points of the criteria, it was only Chubbies opinion that he ws the best candidate, not much is it ?
    The negative transfer spend was £20m, the poor squad of players seems good enough to entice PL, the disillusioned team was just that because of McCleish, we finished the previous season on a high which only burst with McCleish’s appointment.
    Yes we can slate Montgomery, one player from a dummy league, they all speak English over there and watch English footy every week. Their is no excuse for Chubby, after McCleish went he spoke about ‘hindsight’, bollox to hindsight, 40,000 fans new he was a dead duck, the knob wouldn’t listen, in fact according to one blogger on TVB he actually told a reporter “Eff the fans their idiots” Thanks to this clown Gingers getting his freckles topped up in Marbella on the clubs millions, if your all happy with the situation, i’m very pleased for you, i’m not and won’t be until the tw@s been booted.
    Bad faith is as destructive as a bad decision and this pair make more of those than is acceptable. These same mistakes are pushing the club deeper in debt, Lerner won’t suffer, he’ll get his ££ whatever, its the fans who suffer.
    As for other candidates, Rijkaard, van Gaal, winners, the yanks are always yakking about winners, then they appoint a third rater like ginger, the mind boggles.

  15. UK-BRASIL-SPAINUK-BRASIL-SPAIN01-07-2012

    Steamer, I’m with you all the way on the point of candidates. Is anyone seriously proposing that a club that had finished 8th in the richest league on planet football wasn’t able to attract a better candidate than Mr McCleish ? I simply don’t believe that and would very much like to see the proof that nobody better was interested or available to be contracted.

  16. muz1muz101-07-2012

    Matt,

    ” The fact is nobody better applied and nobody better was interested”, pure speculation on your part, or do you have any substance to back that up?, if you have then the club was in a much more serious situation than most of us realised, so why waste millions on a manager who didn’t even last twelve months.
    I don’t believe there was no better manager out there than AM who would take the job, as there’s plenty of managers who would see the job as a massive challange and would relish the job.
    IMO AM was appointed in spite of the fans and PL was appointed because of the fans.
    Anyway as i’ve stated before Lambert is a step in the right direction and the hard work begins now and i think he will be the right man to get AVFC moving upwards after the turmoil of the past few years.
    It will be no short term fix but the club needs a complete overhaul and i’m sure the fans will give him time, let’s hope so anyway.

  17. B6toBrasilB6toBrasil01-07-2012

    Afternoon All

    Goinig over old ground,I know…..but I find it astonishing that we are led to believe that AM was the best we could get under the circumstances.I don`t believe that for 1 second,I was born at night ,not last night.He was appointed 16th June 2011,with 2 months to the new season,They (the Board)had not searched high and low for a better candidate,never in a million years,
    McShambles was cheap and conveinient,

  18. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas01-07-2012

    Good evening all,

    Thank you for the kind words at the top of the comments section too, the fact that people have spoken kindly and then disagreed is precisely why I have so much time for this site. There is a respect between members of the community and I value that greatly.

    Onto the article itself, the discussion which has followed has veered away from the overall point I was trying to make, though I think Matt alluded to my point quite well when he said he suspected that the board had been ‘incredibly calculating’. The purpose of the article is to step back and look more at the overall plan, rather than the specifics. I accept, like all of us do (not just in hindsight, I was never pleased with McLeish’s appointment either) that McLeish was a poor appointment. However, my point is that if we look at the purpose it served, it worked extremely well. Instead of taking on Curbishley (for argument’s sake), and witnessing (possibly) a slow decline where the club festered and began to rot slowly but completely, we had 2 years where money was cut and we performed pragmatically and somehow survived. Those are the facts. We performed poorly, but we hit every objective which might have been set on the field. I also accept that the appointment was always going to upset the fans for all of the reasons stated above, but again, did it serve the purpose? Yes. Did we get relegated? No. Are we now in a position to strengthen and progress under an atmosphere of genuine positivity and hope? Yes we are.

    If you look at the last 3 years, Villa have completely transformed, and a big part of that was to strip back and temporarily weaken, as a result of the well publicised over spend. Now we find ourselves at the beginning of a rebuilding project and real excitement. How could it be better? The fans did indeed sway the board to sack McLeish, however, there is no evidence to suggest that we paid McLeish off with millions, we simply assume that. I believe he was paid off handsomely to leave, but I can’t believe there weren’t clauses in his contract to reduce this for the club if he didn’t meet certain criteria, though I stress that this is speculative. I do not for one minute, though, believe that such educated and intelligent folk have fluked their way to the current position of hope and excitement. They always said we were rebuilding, but that it would take time. I don’t know how we can use that as a stick with which to beat them when it doesn’t suit our arguments.

  19. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas01-07-2012

    B6,

    McLeish was cheap and convenient, that was precisely the point. However, it wasn’t unconsidered, otherwise they would have appointed a manager who provided less of a headache and was even cheaper. Why else would they appoint him if they didn’t believe he could take us forward? I know, he didn’t but whether he would was still only a matter of opinion a year ago, whatever our thoughts, and whatever the eventual outcome. These people just don’t make whimsical decisions.

  20. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas01-07-2012

    Muz,

    ‘Better managers’ is surely a matter of opinion, no? There are no facts when discussing best. ‘Best’ is itself a completely contextual concept. The best medicine for one illness could be the worst medicine for another. The best footballer isn’t a matter of fact, it depends on their contribution to their team, and their importance to the system (among many other things), and a manager is just the same.

    For the record, I agree, McLeish was never my favourite appointment to say the least, but as mentioned, look at the whole picture. Did it work out badly in the end?

  21. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas01-07-2012

    Steamer,

    The negative transfer spend was £20 million? What about Ashley Young, Downing, Luke Young? What about the fact he also had to try and replace Carew, Friedel, Reo Coker, et al? McLeish did not spend a vast sum compared to what he was left needing to replace. In fact, he had no way of doing that. I’m no McLeish fan (I seriously can’t stress that enough), but his hands were tied, but I would argue they were tied necessarily. Look where it has got us.

  22. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas01-07-2012

    Frem,

    Where are these stories from? Obviously El Ahmadi we know all about, but Clyne was attracting a lot of attention (West Ham were supposedly close to signing him a week ago). Ince is an interesting one, he gained some rave reviews towards the end of the season.

  23. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas01-07-2012

    Matt,

    I think you summed up quite nicely when you said that you wouldn’t have touched that job a year ago. I know I wouldn’t! That stemmed from the board, of course, and in no way am I trying to say they have been perfect as they clearly haven’t got everything right, but they are responsible for the direction of the club, and now we are all happy with that direction, I just don’t think we can not acknowledge their role. It is easy to slate them, we have all done that in the last year or three, but when they get things right and are ultimately justified in their decisions, however unpopular, why should we not do the same.

    I can tell you that I wrote several emails to the club over the course of last season, slating their choice of manager and pleading them to change course somehow. I have since sent correspondence to thank them for their positive actions. We as fans have a duty to give thanks as well as to complain. We can’t have our cake and eat it.

  24. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas01-07-2012

    To sum up, ignore McLeish, consider the club’s delicate, precarious finances, and what needed to be done; do Aston Villa’s board deserve criticism or thanks for addressing the financial state of the club quickly rather than slowly?

  25. muz1muz101-07-2012

    Darran,

    “Did it work out badly in the end?”, well it cost the club millions to get AM and his backroom staff in, that is fact and general knowledge and, twelve months on our position has hardly changed dramaticlly (now Lambert has been appointed hopefully it will start to).
    Now i don’t know what compensation was paid on his sacking and it would be just speculation trying to guess, but i suspect he got some kind of pay off, so my point was why did the owner waste a season and millions when the club were desperate to make cutbacks, if all AM was ever going to be was a scapegoat why appoint him in the first place it just doesn’t add up, just another very poor decision by the owner, and if that’s the way Lerner operates by setting his manager up for a fall maybe that’s the real reason he seems to find it hard to attract a manager.
    “Better manager is surely a matter of opinion”, well football is a results business and in the premier league his record is not good to say the least, if your a manager of a company and repeatedly fail to meet your targets you will eventually be replaced by someone who can,ie a better “manager”.
    You say these people don’t make” whimsical decisions” that may be correct, but they make very poor footballing decisions.
    Rant over, and I do agree Darran you can have a debate on this site and disagree but it never gets personal, and isn’t opinions what a blog all about, and I am looking forward to the coming season with renewed anticipation now we have a better manager but that’s only my opinion ha ha!!!!!.

  26. muz1muz101-07-2012

    Just watching a game on tv, some side called Spain, maybe we can nick one or two of their players on the cheap,don’t seem too bad, hope we’ve got some scouts over there!!!!!!!!
    Well we can all dream.

  27. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas01-07-2012

    Muz,

    Lambert, a ‘better’ manager? Are you joking!?

  28. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas01-07-2012

    How annoying, my phone just lost the rest of my reply. Suffice to say that my above comment was only a joke Re: Lambert beig the ‘better’ manager.

    I return to the question, are we in a better position now than a year ago? And why?

    The board appointed Eck for whatever reason, but you’d have to think they believed in him amongst a poor selection of managers (I would very much assume). Lerner would probably have had some get outs in the deal that brought him here, and he responded accordingly. The plan was seemingly to cut back on wages etc and to bring youth players into the squad and to spend money once wages were at an acceptable level. I think if Eck had been a success we may have seen some decent arrivals this summer if they afforded him the same budget, because I believe that the dutch scouting system would have been a success.

    The ultimate question, though, is whether Aston Villa are in a better situation now than a year or two ago? I think so, but who do we owe that to?

  29. steamersteamer01-07-2012

    Definitely better nick mate, believe it or not i’m quite optimistic about next season its just Chubby gets on my tripe, he’s full of it, i’m not a fan of Bshitters.

  30. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    Muz1,

    If there were better managers out there, why did we not have any applications from them then?

    The only reason some fans hold on to this “the board are out to get us” narrative is because the other option – that the board are doing the best they can and it isn’t really working – is far more hopeless.

    That is the only reason why there is resentment – nobody can say in common sense terms that the board are out to self-sabotage.

    The situation told its own story – Villa last season were a team asked to work without spending money in net terms.

    This season the board has learned that they can’t do that anymore and have promised funds – do you honestly think Paul Lambert would have took the job if he was given the parameters that McLeish took the role under? I would suggest not.

    Lambert came in because now, after the board have admitted they need to invest cash, the only way is up.

  31. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    UK-BRASIL-SPAIN,

    You say you want better proof that there were no better candidates out there – surely the fact that Roberto Martinez turned us down, and the fact that others didn’t want to come unless they were promised money we didn’t have illustrates that?

    What more do you want? A list of the candidates that did apply? Because even if you had that, what would that prove besides that there were no other candidates with as much experience as McLeish has, as woeful as many of us may think his CV looked.

    Last season, we were lucky to survive, just as we were the season before – hardly the narrative of a club that is “on the up” or a great risk for anyone with anything to lose, is it?

    The only people who want those jobs are the desperate, and so we appointed a desperate choice.

  32. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    Steamer,

    according to one blogger on TVB he actually told a reporter “Eff the fans their idiots”

    Do you really offer this as a suitable set of facts of what has happened because, if I am honest, a) that doesn’t fit anything I have ever heard from Faulkner and b) isn’t such a statement just subjective validation – ie it is only being put forward because it forwards an argument of the board being idiots, when there is no actual evidence to say Faulkner even said it?

  33. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    The other thing is that Rijkaard and van Gaal didn’t apply for the job so they aren’t candidates the board can choose from.

    Yes, they are better managers than McLeish, but they didn’t show an interest in the job, thus they are as about as relevant to the club’s recent managerial search as me saying Pep Guardiola should be a target because he is a) a winner and b) is available at present.

    That isn’t to suggest that he wouldn’t do well, rather that he is as likely to want the job as any other candidate who deemed not apply for the role.

  34. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    B6,

    Except of course McLeish wasn’t cheap (compensation) or convenient (fans were protesting before he even arrived).

    So it doesn’t exactly fit the narrative of an easy option, more a desperate pick of the limited set of people who even gave the job a second thought.

  35. muz1muz101-07-2012

    Matt, you don,t know who we had applications from your just speculating again and I haven,t got a theory that “the board are out to get us” I just happen to think that they have made some woeful footballing decisions and as fans we have a right to voice our opinions.
    I also wouldn,t say the board are out to self sabotage but need to learn from their mistakes very quickly.

  36. B6toBrasilB6toBrasil01-07-2012

    Matt

    I thought you wrote several times that he was cheap(relatively) to get rid of?
    Anyway I am very confused.If AM was so highly thought of by the board,and not appointed on a whim, and did as he was asked-no spending-then why wasn`t he kept on,now that the purse strings have been relaxed a little?

  37. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    I would agree we need to learn quickly and, as you also suggest, it appears the appointment of Paul Lambert is a positive step in the right direction.

  38. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    Cheap to get rid of, yes, not cheap to get in the first place B6.

  39. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    As for why they sacked him – after that season and the threats of lack of renewals – it became a situation about surviving financially.

    The club would have gone backwards financially if McLeish wasn’t sacked and, with a poor finish given the circumstances, there was only one inevitable result.

    After all, could you stand much more of the same atmosphere at the club? I couldn’t, and neither could the board.

  40. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey01-07-2012

    Comparison:

    Lambert may well cost no compensation, McLeish cost more than that by a significant amount.

    Thus McLeish was a bad choice to hire in compensation terms, but a relatively inexpensive one to fire in sacking costs.

  41. southwestvillansouthwestvillan02-07-2012

    We may have to agree to disagree on one point ginger was the worst manager at AVFC for generations his record proved that it is unescapable, most agree his appointment was tantamount to letting a monkey fly a plane and i for one do not believe for one minute that he was the best on offer but purely the boards choice.
    We need to consign this to our proud history and look forward to a brighter future under PL.

    Darren good first article and very successful in stirring the pot, and by the way in regards to your cat you are correct in saying she is no Mittens as we all well know there is and will only be one Mittens, our bereaved site cat.

    RIP Mittens.

    UTV

  42. Graham O'GaraGraham O'Gara02-07-2012

    “Girl Friend in a Coma” more like lol…

    This was always going to divide people… that problem is within football it is viewed as a business now with careful marketing and PR… these are huge co-operations we are dealing with, yet some fans just see the manager and squad and that’s all they are interested in.

    Where as at a first team level Aston Villa have been going backward over the last couple of seasons, off the pitch commercially we have been making huge strides forward…

    Sustainability is now not just desirable it is a must and the very fact we took the short sharp route hurt a lot but it agree it is far better than having a slow painful death like Everton seem to be having with a huge wage bill and ever increasing debt meaning very little money is ever available… and it’s only really Moyes skill to pick a player that keeps them in contention.

    The poor on the pitch performance didn’t have to happen, Young and Downing wouldn’t have been sold had they wanted to stay.

    McLeish came in and had the chance to change people opinions of himself, and proved he can only play one way… defensive. it was an epic failure and many people say that he was destined to be used as a scape goat and just there to take the flack. This I doubt very much, had we finished 10th or so he would still be here.

    Optimism is good, but we now mustn’t all go over board and expect too much…

    Building and solid foundations and in a definate style is what we need… no quick fixes and expensive buys for the now… a slow build utilising what the club develops, remaining within budgets and complimenting with Lerners deep pockets… as I’ve said before once the wage budget is fully resolved I think we’ll see Lerner begin to spend a little more again… as long as we remain within the boundaries.

  43. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas02-07-2012

    Graham,

    I agree with almost everything you say in there. There was no excuse for last season’s poor performances, which is why I was so delighted when Eck was Ecked off. My point was never that McLeish was a good appointment, just that it wasn’t all bad and that it has worked out quite well.

    Your final point is really key, it’s a shame that there won’t be many visitors to the article now, as I think we really need to keep things in focus. The future will not be a repeat of the O’Neil years, that much I’m certain of. We will use what we produce and we will compliment that with bigger signings. Of course, I don’t know this as fact, but it is something that the board have alluded to several times.

    The Young/Downing sales is an interesting point, as without their sales, I wonder whether we would be spending now? Just a thought.

  44. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas02-07-2012

    Southwest,

    Again, in no way am I disagreeing that McLeish was a terrible manager. I happen to agree with Matt that there was almost certainly a lack of good managers, but I think I can understand the footballing vision the board had. Let’s not forget that McLeish wasn’t ALL failure at the sty. He did some things well and with a worse team. However, if I were on the board, I would never have appointed him, for obvious reasons.

    I’m sure Betsie will never be a Mittens, but she does try. Did Mittens ever wear mops on her feet to clean the room? I have been considering them for Betsie, as a USP.