There are few certainties in the Premier League. It’s true that anybody can beat anybody and with Leicester City sat second in the table, only denied top spot by goal difference, even the race for Champions League places is clouded in mystery.
Yet some elements are clear as day. The clearest being that Randy ‘Slow’ Lerner has spent the last nine years ensuring Aston Villa are on a downward trajectory. Now they face relegation and can’t have any complaints.
Deepest sympathy should go to their loyal fans. They have never made outrageous demands or placed any undue pressure upon the club. Lacking the spending power of those like Chelsea, they knew title runs were probably a thing of the past. But it was reasonable for them to expect a push for Europa League football each year. This would have been a good building block for the giant club.
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Instead they have an owner with a different agenda. One that must have welcomed Financial Fair Play (FFP) to justify his lack of overall ambition. Lerner gives the impression all he’s ever wanted at Villa Park is a Premier League existence. He’s more than happy with a mundane mid-table run each season.
First and foremost, Randy Lerner is an entrepreneur. His initial dealings as an owner of a sport’s team came when his father passed away and he assumed control of NFL outfit Cleveland Browns, which he later sold.
He legitimately had an interest in English football sides and had looked into the possibility of buying a stake in several, including Arsenal.
But his interest was weighted heavily from a business perspective. He fits the stereotype perfectly of the foreign owner that thinks they can run a club just because they’ve done well in business but will walk away when bored.
It’s no secret he’s trying to sell Aston Villa. He has previously stated there was interest from all corners of the globe but as of yet nothing solid has emerged from potential suitors. Lerner has even taken the step of standing down as chairman, acknowledging he was unable to fulfil the duty alongside his Stateside business activities. It all points to a man whose heart isn’t in it.
For that lack of care and interest he will now pay the ultimate price. An empty trophy cabinet won’t hurt owners like Lerner, a diminishing financial return will. Even with parachute payments, the drop from the Premier League cripples larger clubs like Villa. A quick look at Leeds shows how the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Coupled with less cash on a monthly basis will be the reduction in the club’s resale value.
His lack of respect and understanding for the game has been highlighted by his managerial appointments. Giving the job to Alex McLeish was deserving of relegation on its own but he swerved a bullet there. Some may argue Paul Lambert showed a fresh approach by hiring a promising young manager. The reality is, he saw a man that had succeeded on a budget and fancied he could do the same in the midlands.
Tim Sherwood was a good decision but was unfairly sacked before he’d even managed to absorb the summer signings into his style of play. Even the transfer spend given to Sherwood was a case of too little, too late and the owner was the one with the final say. A spending policy without direction from a man that couldn’t care less about the club.
Remi Garde may have had moderate success in France as a manager, and as a coach working under Paul Le Guen helped Lyon take two league titles, but it isn’t a CV that provides any evidence he can keep a struggling Premier League side up. What makes his appointment even more frustrating for Villa fans, is that after abandoning a young manager who holds the best win percentage for Tottenham Hotspur in Premier League history, Lerner overlooked Sam Allardyce, a man almost guaranteed to keep any club up.
There’s no shortcut to success and cutting corners will always lead to bad results in the long run. After years of making the long-suffering Villa fans accept nothing better than average, the American has been found out. He’ll finally get his sale in the summer when £100m is wiped off the club’s value.
Hopefully Randy Lerner’s replacement will care more about the health of the team than the size of his personal fortune.