Doug Ellis once had security remove me from his office. Did I tell you that story? Probably not. And it’s too long and involved to go into here. The once upon a time Chairman of Aston Villa was very experienced at sending people packing. He sacked more managers than even he can now remember.
Yesterday, at an increasingly gloomy Villa Park, ‘deadly Doug’ watched on as Villa failed to score again. One goal in their last six matches. 11 goals scored all season. You have to drop down to level ten of league football to find a team that has scored fewer goals this season. That dubious honour goes to East Cowes Victoria in the Wessex League (7 goals).
You don’t have to have a grasp of mathematics to know that level of impotency in front of goal might lead to relegation for a fine club, Aston Villa FC.
At the moment there is plenty of talk about how there will be three worse teams below them and that should ensure Villa stay up. I agree, there are. But I can also see why the dedicated supporters are of the opinion that Aston Villa will go down. If they carry on firing blanks, they will be in the Championship next season.
Who is to blame?
All the attention is on the current manager, Paul Lambert. I’m not a fan of demanding managers be sacked. It rarely works long term. But you have to say Lambert would have been long gone had Doug Ellis still ruled at Villa Park. Whatever system of play Lambert is trying to instill, it’s not working.
Randy Lerner, the now reluctant owner of the club wants rid of it. He has done so for a long time. Villa fans thought he would be a philanthropist and spend lots of money on players and wages. He would likely say he has and point to the money he gave Martin O’Neill when that manager had Villa finish in the top six season after season.
Incredibly, there are many Villa fans who blame Martin O’Neill for what has happened since. They even blame him for what is happening now. I cannot agree.
Those of us who support clubs that have fallen from the highest division are now more realistic. We know that there was a time when we truly never had it so good. Only we didn’t realise it at the time. Or we didn’t appreciate it.
Villa fans who saw a Ron Saunders led team win the old First Division title in the early eighties, and a Tony Barton managed team win the European Cup, will say those were the best days. Fair enough. But we all know football was different then.
When it comes to the modern era, should Villa fans have not been satisfied with successive top six finishes in the Premier League? In this day and age, when Chelsea and both Manchester clubs spend millions upon millions, surely a top six finish for a club the size of Aston Villa is as good as it gets.
But Villa fans were not content with two Wembley appearances and top six. Many of them yelled all manner of abuse at Martin O’Neill. He left. The Chairman quietly, and the fans more vocally, said O’Neill had wasted a fortune on average players.
When I watch Aston Villa under Paul Lambert, the players Martin O’Neill bought don’t seem so average now.
There was one big change at Villa a few weeks ago. Weary of being told some home truths, the Villa players rebelled against how Roy Keane was talking to them during and after training. Keane’s role as an assistant to Lambert was always a tenuous one. He really belonged with Martin O’Neill and the Republic of Ireland squad.
He had one confrontation too many with certain Aston Villa players and, as is the way these days, they or their agents ran to the headmaster. It’s the ‘you can’t talk to me like that, don’t you know who I am’ infectious disease that is so prevalent in dressing rooms at the highest level. That virus spreads quickest among squads who are losing games. Those players spend more time trying to secure their next transfer, and exert less effort putting a shift in on the pitch.
There are players at Aston Villa right now who have given up. They either want the manager gone or, preferably, themselves gone. The supporters know who they are. Body language doesn’t lie.
Earlier I posed the question: Who is to blame for the terrible state Aston Villa football club is in right now?
The answer is: Everyone.
Randy Lerner, for sure. Some players, undoubtedly. The current manager, certainly.
But it’s also you, the fans. When it was good as it could be, you refused to acknowledge that fact. You wanted more. And more can often mean less!