Friday, 17 June 2011

17 Days in June - A Villa Park Farce

It has been an absolute shambles.

Ever since the men in command at Villa Park made the not unreasonable decision to relinquish Houllier of his position due to his ill health, they have presided over a comedy of errors which has resulted in probably the most extraordinary managerial appointment in the club's history.

When Houllier was let go with a severance pay on June 1st, little could anyone have guessed that his replacement, some 17 days later would be the manager of second city rivals Birmingham City, Alex McLeish.

The Candidates
There was talk of former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti being linked to the post but his severance conditions with Chelsea ruled him out from managing a Premier League club for 12 months.

There was talk of David Moyes and he was my favourite as I blogged here at the time. But nothing came of that.

Who'd have guessed it?
Alex McLeish - Manager of Aston Villa

The early money was certainly on Mark Hughes who resigned his post as manager of Fulham very suddenly although apparently as far as he was concerned, the timing was merely coincidental. Had the Villa Park suits been talking to him before hand and tempted him away from Craven Cottage with the nugget of the hot seat with the Villains? It's quite possible but after the bad press that he got after he resigned at Fulham, they seemingly went cold on him. As I said in my blog post then, though he was no David Moyes, he wouldn't have been a bad choice. He is however still available but has been passed over and it would not be wholly inconceivable to find him in the hot seat in St Andrews next season.

Then there was Steve McLaren - apparently the least wanted manager in the running amongst the Claret and Blue faithful. Indeed, having booked an appointment to meet with him to discuss the vacancy, the Villa Park suits then cancelled the appointment when it became clear on-line and in the footballing chat rooms that he was not a welcome choice amongst the fans.

So then we had Roberto Martinez in the frame which I must admit really surprised me. But he then amazed everyone by turning down the role to stay at Wigan Athletic. He's been called principled and a man of integrity as a result of his decision to stay up north but just ask any Swansea City fan whether they feel that Martinez is a man of principle and integrity and they'll give you a different answer...but that's a different story.

With Rafa Benitez another name out of the frame, the whole situation began to turn Villa into a laughing stock and then, suddenly, Alex McLeish walked out on a shell shocked Birmingham City and the comedy of errors began to turn into a farce. Despite apparently listening to the fans furore against Steve McLaren, club owner Randy Lerner and Chief Executive Paul Faulkner clearly decided to ignore the even greater agitation, days later from the faithful, at the possibility of McLeish at the helm.

Alex McLeish - Sinner or Saviour?
No Villa fan, and certainly not this one, could have envisaged barely a fortnight ago when all of the names above were being bandied about that the man who would be given the top job at Villa Park would be Alex McLeish.

This isn't to take away from what is a decent record. Having played in over 500 matches for Aberdeen and won 77 Scottish caps, he began his managerial career with Motherwell and Hibernian before he led Rangers to the domestic treble in 2003 and a total of 2 league championships and 5 cup victories in 5 years. He then became manager of the Scottish national side and in a group comprising of France and Italy, only narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2008 European Championships.

He then moved to Birmingham in late 2007 and in the past 4 years has seen them relegated, promoted, win their first major trophy in 47 years and relegated again. He did well at Birmingham and yet, he still has those 2 relegations on his footballing CV and whilst he did well with Rangers, it isn't exactly the most competitive of footballing leagues is it?

Words to the Wise
It's the the former Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor, who led the team on two seperate occasions who for me has summed it all up. He said:

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"It just doesn't appear to have been thought through and for the first time the ownership of the club is coming under severe criticism.

"When Gerard became ill it must have occurred to them that he may not come back, even if the signs were that he may have returned.

"This is not being disrespectful to Gerard in any way, but once he became unwell then you have to immediately start exploring what you might do if he does not come back.

"It doesn't appear to me and many others that this has been done. They seem to be going from name to name.

"Villa don't seem to have grasped that nettle at all. It is disappointing. I still live in the area and have a special feeling for them as you always do about clubs you have managed, but I have been surprised and disappointed at their handling of this."
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Club owner Randy Lerner has been seen to be one of the more astute and learned of the foreign Premier League owners brigade and has not put many a foot out of place since he took over from 'Deadly' Doug Ellis. However, both he and the Chief Executive Paul Faulkner must be found to be culpable for what has been a woeful passge of time in the club's history.
Time will tell if this is the big mistake that many believe it to be.
Where for art thou Martin O'Neill?
It's not that I question McLeish's managerial credentials for he has many. But is he of the calibre and stature in the game to take Villa up the league table? I very much doubt it.
I worry because we are losing senior, top quality players from the team and we need a big name manager to bring in the replacements necessary.
The moment that Villa gave up any pretence of being a top 6 club fighting to break into the top 4 for mewas when Martin O'Neill walked out of Villa Park last August. I can remember the shock and delight that I felt when I heard on my Orange Mobile internet whilst on the bus going through Aberporth that he'd taken the job at Villa Park. One of the best managers in the country was coming to the Villa! He took us to new levels of performance and we were on the edges of the top 4 with class youngsters being brought up through the ranks. With a Wembley Cup Final to his credit as well, it was an exciting time to be a Villain again.
But suddenly, whilst on holiday in Prague last summer, my footballing world fell apart as I read the news on our hotel computer, that because of differences with the Board, O'Neill had left the club. I knew then that it would be a tough season ahead and indeed for a period, we were even in the relegation zone.
With top players leaving for what they feel are bigger clubs with greater potential, it is an ominous marker for the season ahead.
It's going to be a very bumpy year ahead I feel and with McLeish at the helm, anything's possible.

But am I hopeful? Absolutely not.

1 comment:

  1. You'll love him, as will the masses, when he wins a derby game v wolves or brom, or beats a top side.
    All fans including you are unbelievably fickle, I would also normally fall into that category had i not supported Man Utd under the greatest manager thats ever lived, Sir Alex Ferguson, for 25 of my 29 years on this earth! Sir Alex allows proper Man Utd fans to relax and take things in their stride by his record alone.
    McLeish has done well wherever he's been, and I'm sure if the villa fans afford him the time and patience he deserves he will serve you well!