Aston Villa, you have my money, but not my respect

Subject: Aston Villa, you have my money, but not my respect
From: Dan Bardell
Date: 4 Feb 2016

Mr Fox,

Thirteen months have passed since I last used my Birmingham Mail blog to communicate with you and the powers that be at Aston Villa Football Club.

You invited me to the ground and we shot the breeze about the many issues at the time.

You assured me that Paul Lambert was the right man to take us forward and then sacked him the next week (the right call).

You impressed me, I felt that you had some good ideas and that if we did survive we would be better placed in the coming years to improve.

We survived. Just.

As I usually do, I thought there was no way the upcoming season could be any worse than the last. Sadly I was very wrong.

This season has been a complete and utter disaster, the worst in my twenty-two years as a season ticket holder. Horrific decisions by a whole range of personnel at the football club both on and off the pitch have left us being lampooned at the bottom of the Premier League.

In typical Villa style we have picked the worst time to fall out of the top tier. The financial rewards for being in the Premier League will be there for all to see in 2016/2017.

Teams we were once streets ahead of, such as Stoke City, will now be even further ahead of us.

No disrespect to them, they have been everything we haven’t over the last five to six years (well run) but a club like us should not be so far behind a team that wasn’t even in the Premier League until 2008.

You will notice I am writing like we are already down, that’s because in my mind we have been gone since November.

I used to be the most optimistic of fans; I used to get shot down on social media for choosing to believe in my club, even when things were bad. Little did I know that compared to now the McLeish and Lambert seasons were glorious.

It seems I am not the only one who has given up though, as my three pound lunch today was more money than our manager was able to spend in the January transfer window. And that's without even mentioning the farce of last summer's recruitment or the Fabian Delph contract clause disaster.

The sound bites from the players on our ever repetitive official website are that they haven’t given up, they are still fighting. The transfer window shows me that behind the scenes the club has given up, but not only that once again there is no sign of preparation for the next campaign if we have resigned ourselves to the Championship.

I acknowledge that players have obviously rejected us, this is to be expected.

However, I refuse to believe that there was not a single player that could have been brought in with an eye to next season and bedding them in early.

Aston Villa are always reactive rather than pro-active. We failed to signal that we had any intention of staying up, whilst also managing not to show evidence of planning for the Championship.

I don’t know what is worse, the fact that we didn’t get anyone in or that nobody seemed to be interested in taking any of our players. Poor Remi couldn’t even give away some of the deadwood.

As this disastrous season continues to unfold, leaving me feeling more and more alienated from the club I love so much, there has been a feeling of respect for the way our manager has handled himself.

He has made mistakes and we probably should have won a few more games under his stewardship but Garde has been honest, has not hidden and has stood up to the powers that be at the club.

I fear now that after a few short months in the job yet another manager will leave this football club. Remi Garde already looks broken by having to work under constraints.

Along with the supporters who are also forced to endure the torture of loving a football team unconditionally it is Garde that I feel sorry for. He doesn’t need this. He comes across an honourable man but I am now convinced he will walk at the end of the campaign.

These last few months must have felt like years to him. If he leaves, I couldn’t blame him. The January transfer window was as shambolic as our season to date and will probably be the final straw for Garde as I can only imagine what he has had to put up with behind the scenes.

Last month our club captain was forced to engage with supporters during a game - he shouldn’t have to do that. Trouble is we don’t hear much from the upper echelons of the club, so players and the manager have to deal with things that they shouldn’t.

Will the introduction of a new chairman change this? I’d love to be convinced, however, being referred to as “a customer” in the first instance tells me that there is still a severe lack of understanding at my football club. A slip of the tongue maybe, I can forgive that.

However, after years of frustration it is understandable that supporters already fear the worst.

We want to feel part of the club, like we matter. I’d class myself as a “customer” at the supermarket. I travel 240 miles round trip to watch my team every other week. I wouldn’t do that to frequent Tescos.

So Mr Fox, who is to carry the can for this season? Someone has to. Tim Sherwood lost his job, but as I see it he can’t be the only culprit.

What lessons have been learnt? You have spoken previously about picking up the pieces from mistakes other people made, but on their watch we were never in this position.

It is always “next week” or “next year” at Aston Villa, but it’s the here and now that needs sorting.

If Remi Garde does go, I worry about what kind of manager would touch us. I certainly don’t foresee someone with the class and strength of Remi touching us.

The Championship won’t be a walk in the park. We will be every team's Cup Final. We have lost games this year to some poor teams only playing in second gear. Everyone in the Championship will want to beat us.

I don’t want to watch us play on a Friday night in Huddersfield, but that is the sad reality of where we will be next season. I’m struggling to come up with new ways to to sum up what a miserable existence it is being an Aston Villa fan.

Class may be permanent. Form may be temporary. All the same, this temporary misery feels permanent.

There used to be a burning love inside of me for Aston Villa FC. Don’t get me wrong, I will always love the Ccub. However at this current time I hate everything that Aston Villa stands for.

I will always be there Mr Fox, nothing will stop me turning up at Villa Park every other week, but currently I do it more out of duty and habit, there is no expectation.

I will never give it up, I will be there next season and beyond. You have my money, but at the moment there are few at Villa that have my respect.

My club has been ruined and I fear that it’s only going to get worse.


Dan Bardell

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