Words By: Ben Taylor
It’s no secret that Aston Villa are struggling right now. They are rock bottom of the premier league and have just two wins from 23 league games this season. The transfer window was an embarrassing farce of failed negotiations and rejections from players. The mere thought of interest from the club forced Nemanja Vidic into retirement. But who is really loosing out here? Is it the players, whose reputations are being damaged by the minute, or the fans, who shell out a large part of their pitiful wages to watch players who earn more than their salary in one week, run about with no sense of how to play the game and seemingly no passion for wearing the famous colours of claret and blue?
Of course, its the fans. Aston Villa as a club has become the laughing stock of the premier league this season and so to be a fan of them has become embarrassingly desperate. I find myself getting excited when we score a single goal. We may be 2,3 or even 4 goals down by the time we manage it, but the mere fact that we have managed to finish off a goal (admittedly we have needed a lot of help from diabolical defending at times) leaves me jumping for joy. It’s a sad state of affairs, this is a club that in 1982 won the european cup. We were the greatest team in europe and have been a stalwart of the premier league since it’s inception. Now, we have been fighting relegation for 5 years and are finally almost certain to drop a division, and for anyone who follows the Villa, it is no surprise that we have chosen this year of all years to finally give up. With the new TV deal coming into force next season, this is financially the worst season in the history of the premier league to get relegated, and of course, Villa are certain to do so.
It is a scary proposition to me. Some fans and people in the football world believe that Villa will be well equipped to bounce straight back up from the championship next season. I’m not so sure. With uninspiring displays against lower league opposition in the cup competitions for the past few years, most recently again Wycombe Wanderers, i am inclined to feel that once we go down, we will be down there for a while. I’m looking at premier league clubs from my childhood, Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest, Coventry City and although it pains me to say it Birmingham City, were all premier league regulars when i was growing up, and they all now serve as proof that no team is too big too go down, and it is possible to fall from grace and get stuck in the lower leauges. This is the fate that i fear lies ahead for my beloved Aston Villa.
Many observers will say that this all stems from loosing Martin O’Neil as manager and that the club has never been the same since. And to a point that is true. However, it is my belief that Martin O’Neil left the club because he saw this coming. The hierarchy at the club had begun selling the players with most potential and also those that were tearing up the league for the villa. we were becoming a selling club, a feeder club if you will to the higher positions in the league. O’Neil spotted this, disagree’d with it and with the owners and left. And he was right. Since he has left Villa have been unable/unwilling to hold onto their best players, a state of affairs that was proved twice over last summer with the sales and Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke to Man city and Liverpool Respectively.
Randy Lerner’s reign as owner has been a long line of mis-management and disappointment. Yes, he has invested heavily in the infrastructure at Villa, but the club has been run as a business and not a football club. And it hasn’t changed, even with the threat of relegation a very real and almost inevitable end to the season. A new chairman has been appointed, and to most clubs this would be a great thing. A new figure to spearhead the club and change the fortunes on the pitch. But for Villa, it was another opportunity to hire a man with absolutely no idea of how to run a football club and no football experience or know-how. The new chairman is a local businessman, brought in to make the club a more financially lucrative operation with sponsorships and business partnerships. What doesn’t seem to have been considered however, is that a successful team on the pitch, is a whole lot more attractive to everybody, including sponsors and business partners, than a team that is rock bottom of the premier league and at stages, looked set to post the worst ever points total in the leagues history.
So, how does it really feel to be a Villa fan? Depressing. we have become so used to underachievement and let downs that it is honestly no surprise that we will miss out on the bumper TV deal. We have accepted relegation by christmas and to be honest, are even accepting that the club that we love has become the but of the jokes, some of them are even quite funny now. The only hope is that my fears do not come true, that the club can bounce straight back and live up to the memories we all have of a big club with one of the best and most traditional stadiums in the country that can hold it’s own in the premier league.