Disaster, dreadful, depressing, devoid and delusional.
All begin with a “D” and all refer to Aston Villa this season. A Villa fan on a radio phone-in show attempted tell the listening audience that Villa are a big club. Deluded came to mind and this article is not the first to suggest that some Villa fans live in the past with a slim grip of reality.
The club that was founded in 1874, can never have felt as low as this. Their decline has been coming, as season after season their form has dipped alarmingly. Not even an unlikely FA Cup final appearance last year can put a smile on the faces of Villa fans.
Relegation looks odds on, the great escape from the gaping trap door looks a sure bet and then humiliation in the weekend’s FA Cup game at the weekend. Will the real Aston Villa, please stand up…
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The game on Saturday against a rampant, free-scoring Manchester City was so easy for the Citizens, that Pellegrini even played teenagers. The crowd of 23,636 (17,500 approx were Villa fans) didn’t even fill a stadium that has the capacity to cater for over 42,000. This is a sign of the times and although Remi Garde steered them through an unbeaten five match run, it didn’t last long.
According to transferleague.co.uk, Aston Villa spent £52.5million during the summer and sold players worth £44.25 million – giving a net spend of £8.25million. Where are the players? None seem to have stood up to the rigours of Premier League football. None can be regarded as stars – their names have faded from the general memory. Only Brad Guzan gets a mention he is the last line of a dodgy defence and that means him picking the ball out of the back of the net more often than not.
Villa are no longer a big club, but a dinosaur. They reached last year’s cup final, but haven’t won a major trophy since the League Cup in 1996. Of course, without doubt, their finest moment came in 1982 when they proudly won the European Cup, but that was ages ago and it is beginning to feel like it.
Seven times winners of the old First Division, those halcyon days are a thing of the past, yet there was, at the beginning of the season and towards the end of last, a hope of a new dawn. Tim Sherwood replaced Paul Lambert in February 2015 before Garde came in in November 2015. Sherwood kept them up and got them to the FA Cup Final. Then came an opening day win at Bournemouth and they were the high points. Another”D” – downwards.
Aston Villa will have to accept their fate. Two league wins all season, ten points from safety and actually more victories in the cup than in the league.
For a club that has been an ever present in the Premier League – only six other teams can boast this honour – it will indeed be a shame to see them fall from grace. To say it is any one person’s fault is wrong. Collectively, Vila haven’t bought the right players, have gone through managers like there’s no tomorrow and under Randy Lerner’s ownership, the funds have been tight to say the least.
Seven managers, since Martin O’Neill in 2010, have tried to guide the good ship into better times, but none stayed very long, bar Paul Lambert. Since O’Neill, the club have finished 9th, 16th, 15th, 15th and then 17th last season, just three points clear of relegated Hull City. In May 2014, Lerner put the club up for sale at a reported £200million. Lerner still has the club, but I wonder what the value is now?
And then on Monday’s January transfer deadline day, Villa’s attempts to sign Seydou Doumbia ended in disappointment as the striker decided to join relegation rivals Newcastle Another issue for the club is trying to attract good players to the club – their failure to sign anyone across January suggests they can’t even do that right now.
It seems as though there is an air of inevitability about the next few months, but they need to take the situation, re-build and go again – many clubs have. Maybe Villa will once again become a big club, but right now, they are not and relegation will mean an enormous amount of lost revenue for them. It may take time for them to recover, or they may bounce straight back up, but so many Championship teams have tried that and are still, annually, trying to win promotion from what is probably the toughest division in the land.
It seems almost poetic that the club badge has the word “Prepared” emblazoned upon it. Therefore, Aston Villa, with sadness, be prepared to endure the realities of The Championship next season.