Aston Villa Supporter Open Letter: Thoughts on the Current Crisis Enveloping the Club

Subject: Aston Villa Supporter Open Letter: Thoughts on the Current Crisis Enveloping the Club
From: Andy McKeon
Date: 2 Dec 2015

A tell tale sign that things aren’t right at a football club is the emergence of supporter open letters being published in local newspapers and club-related websites. MOMS has had a few emailed in during the past month or so. This very thorough one by Andy McKeon is certainly a great example of the kind of concern Villa supporters are feeling right now and it’s certainly makes some valid points. UTV

With Aston Villa lumbering from one crisis to another I think it’s time that the owner and board were finally held to account for the disastrous state the club currently find themselves in. In any other walk of life in a failing organisation those in charge would at least be expected to explain themselves, yet at Aston Villa the continued silence and lack of communication continues.

Not only are Aston Villa fans being subjected to watching abject losing football, (and let’s not forget football is supposed to be an entertainment business, and a very expensive form of entertainment at that) they are also being taken for a ride by the club’s hierarchy. We have a chairman who never communicates and is very rarely in the country and a Chief Executive and board who are supposedly in charge, who again are never heard from in public.

We all know that Randy Lerner is keen to sell the club, however even this seems to have gone quiet, therefore raising the question if he is keen to sell then what action is being taken to find a buyer? Is Randy hoping that someone will come and knock on his door with a suitcase full of cash?

In the summer Randy stated that if a buyer was not found then he would stand down as chairman and appoint a new man, something that again has not happened with no explanation as to why not. How can an organisation possibly be expected to perform well with an absent leader?

This then brings us onto the issue of Tom Fox, whilst no doubt excellent at his job (he held a commercial role with Arsenal and excelled in this capacity) he is not a ‘football man’, and does not know the anomalies of running a football club. Mr Lerner is a very successful business man, and I’m pretty sure he would not have hired a football manager to run his credit card business, so why then does he think a commercial executive can run a football club?

Randy Lerner has overseen the breaking of nearly every negative record in Villa’s history, and the only thing left for him to achieve is to finally relegate one of the few teams that have been ever-present since the formation of the Premier league.

Whilst I don’t believe that the managers over the last five years have been blameless (there have been some dreadful signings, strange team selections and even worse tactics on occasion), it can’t be the case that every manager has been this bad. Since Martin O’Neil left us we have seen the likes of Gerard Houllier, Alex McCleish, Paul Lambert and now Tim Sherwood all come and go. All have experienced the same problems and this can only stem from systematic problems higher up in the club.

It is my understanding that Martin O’Neil was given almost free reign to run the football side of the club, and whilst we all acknowledge that this led to a degree of over spending, it also led to some of the more sustained success (in terms of league finishes) for the club in the Premier league era. The club now seem to have gone completely the other way and every manager since seems to have been operating with one hand tied behind their back.

With the rumours now that the manager doesn’t even get to choose the players he wants to sign, with Paddy Reilly and Hendrik Almstadt instead in charge of this vitally important area. How can it possibly be conceived that choosing players on supposed potential and the hope of future increased value based on ‘stats’ can be successful? We have all played Championship Manager in our time, but that doesn’t mean we are all capable of choosing the next unknown superstar in real life.

This ‘money ball’ approach also promotes the wrong behaviours from the outset, with all the players in essence sold the idea of coming to Aston Villa to use us as a stepping stone to better things. This does not promote commitment to the cause from players who can quite easily adopt the attitude of ‘ah well, if it doesn’t work I’ll just move on’.

The noises being made by Tim Sherwood and Paul Lambert recently suggest that neither were allowed to pursue their preferred transfer targets, and instead were forced to ‘make do’ with recommended cheaper options. Yet it is the managers that have been forced to accept the blame for the club’s poor performances, with again those making the decisions allowed to hide away in the background, no doubt collecting huge salaries for continued failure.

Aston Villa have been in the Premier league since its inception, however in recent years we have been over taken by other clubs who have been in the league for a much shorter period, have smaller stadiums and less revenue streams (although TV revenues have levelled the playfield somewhat).

How can the current board possibly think themselves a success for overseeing a period in which the likes of Swansea City (reached Premier League in 2011), Stoke City (2008), Crystal Palace (2013) and Southampton (2012), to name but a few, are all now considered a safer bet for Premier league continuity. We can only surmise that either mis-management or pilfering of the clubs revenues have led to us now being out spent and out played by these clubs, in either case the hierarchy of the club need to be held accountable for their actions.

This brings me onto the last point around players (and some degree of blame for the manager and coaching staff) where again there is a lack of communication with fans. We have players that seem to get nowhere near the team some of whom fans would like to see given a chance yet there are no reasons offered for their absence. For example, let’s take Libor Kozak, the highest scorer in the Europa League a few years ago and yet now seems to have disappeared into the abyss not even making the match day squad. Similarly Charles N’Zogbia, Phillipe Senderos and Gary Gardner all seem to have disappeared without trace and we never even receive comment as to the reasons for their continued absence. Tiago Ilori signed in the summer and again not seen since, surely a quarter of a season is plenty of time for a player to gain enough fitness to be in contention.

Adama Traore signed from Barcelona with promise of much excitement, again rarely seen in the flesh and now rumours emerging that a clause meaning his salary would rise after a certain number of games being suggested as a reason for his absence, if this is true then what was the point in signing him in the first place?

Whilst it may be the case that these rumours are not true and in fact there are injuries preventing their inclusion then why can this not be communicated to fans?

The ignoring of such rumours and allowing them to be banded about in the press and on social media only adds to the exasperation felt by the clubs supporters.

Aston Villa fans are realistic, none of us are expecting Champions League football, but what we do expect is to be treated better by a club that is happy to take hard-earned money from supporters but then refuses to communicate their plans or expectations. We do expect to be able to compete with teams with similar (or in some cases smaller) resources and we do expect investment in the team. You cannot continually sell your best players and replace them with lesser quality and expect to improve, this is a complete nonsense.

In the summer Villa sold Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph for circa £40m (in addition to a few other smaller sales) and whilst I accept we then proceeded to spend more than this amount, it was still a minimal net outlay.

So to put it into perspective a team that finished 17th last season sold their two best players and then had a net outlay of less than £10m (source: Sky Sports); meaning we even spent less than all of the promoted teams but expected to see an improvement. This is at best naive or at worst, yet again mis-management.

I would finally like to ask the question in an era of untold riches for Premier League clubs where is the money going? Because it certainly isn’t being invested in the football team.

Yours faithfully

A very frustrated Villa fan

Do you have similar feelings about the current plight of your club? Comment below.

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