You could forgive Aston Villa fans for not buying into the chest beating, defiant spiel from their new chairman Steve Hollis last week, following his appointment to the board at Villa Park.
The respected local business man (how Mafioso does that sound?) told BBC Sport:
“If unfortunately we do have to go through a relegation phase, we have no fear of that.
“Randy is committed, he’s going to support the board, the executive team, to take the actions that we need to put us in the best possible position so that we can come up as quickly as possible.”
Rally those troops Steve. And why wouldn’t Villa fans place their trust in a newly appointed head honcho who was kind of a big deal down at KPMG – a company who specialize in takeovers? Isn’t Randy Lerner actively trying to sell the club? Isn’t Steve an expert in that kind of thing? What a wonderful coincidence! Not only have they appointed someone who will “help drive the changes that our fans rightfully demand and that our city can be proud of.”, Steve can also lend a hand should Lerner manage to find a buyer for the club he has been trying to wash his hands of for a while now. I’m sure he would be in line for a few quid out of it too. Everyone wins.
It must be reassuring and comforting to those sitting in the Holte End to know that Hollis is on the same page as them in terms of the club’s transfer policy too:
“As we have witnessed in the Premier League this year with other clubs – money no longer buys success. Randy has consistently provided financial backing no less so than last year.”
In fairness, that £7m or so net spend from last summer was probably too much of an outlay. They should have spent less to get closer to the Premier League summit.
Randy’s consistent “financial backing” sees Villa 15h in the Premier League for net spend over the last 5 seasons. Their average league finish for that period is approximately 15th too. You get what you pay for. Villa had the 3rd lowest net spend last summer, which would see them relegated in 18th if the same sort of rules apply.
That same “financial backing” has historically included the stripping of assets by selling their best players, initially by choice, but that flawed formula eventually and predictably lead to their best players routinely forcing moves away of their own accord. And who could blame them?
Whenever Villa looked like they had something to build on or players to build around, Lerner pulled the carpet from under them. Six managers since O’Neill have come and gone and Villa have tumbled down the league. Lerner has taken the “How not to run a football club” guidebook handed to him by Doug Ellis and added his own expertly written chapter on how to sabotage a much loved institution. Maybe he will have a stand named after him too?
If Lerner’s boardroom shakeup is a genuine attempt to get the club’s organization on better footing, it’s all too little too late. It all stinks of lip service, delivered drenched in disinterest, from the other side of the globe. Lerner has put even more distance between himself and club through this hollow delegation of administrative duties.
If Lerner’s words are indeed genuine, then he will back up his statement with a lump of January cash to somehow try to save Villa from relegation. That seems about as likely as Jack Grealish going teetoal.
Behind the rhetoric and bluster of Lerner’s, Chief Exec. Tom Fox’s and Hollis’ quotes last week, the message is pretty clear from the Aston Villa boardroom:
“We are going down, but we aren’t worried”
And if that is true, if they genuinely feel Villa can bounce straight back to the Premier League next year, then the delusion is deeply rooted.
There is absolutely nothing to suggest that the Lerner lead mess at Villa could get their shit together enough over a single summer to negotiate a notoriously difficult and competitive Championship. Right now they are far more likely to do a Leeds, Bolton or Wigan.
That thought should frighten everyone at the club to death – it should frighten them enough to act now and do everything in their power to claw back the current 9 point gap to safety.
Unfortunately for Villa, their owner already has one foot out the door, passing the buck and the responsibility for his failings to a couple of patsies on his way out. If you want to try to put a positive spin on things, relegation could offer the chance of a clean slate – an opportunity to clear the decks and start over. But starting over from scratch takes time, money and plenty of patience. A decade in the Championship is the stuff of nightmares for Villa fans, but it looks as though it could be the final and fitting parting gift from Lerner’s miserable legacy.