The Decline of Aston Villa
Where did it go wrong for the boys in Claret and Blue?
February 14th, 2012
Just three years ago Aston Villa were several points ahead of Arsenal sitting fourth in the Premiership, looking a dead cert of breaking the top four stronghold of English football. With Martin O’Neill at them helm, two Wembley trips on the horizon – where did it go wrong for the boys in Claret and Blue?
Since then Martin O’Neill has left Villa Park (with a very large wage bill may I add), and we have been graced by a French man with a weak heart, and a Scottish man who relegated our rivals twice and helped Rangers to finish 3rd in the Scottish Premier League.
The attendances have started to slide, divisions in both the camp and the fans are becoming clear for all to see – Its quite amazing what three years can do in football isn’t it? But why and were did it go wrong for us?
Well I think you have to go back six years to 2006 when the club was first sold to Randy Lerner from then owner Doug Ellis.
No-one could ever question Ellis’s love for Aston Villa, but like Everton’s Bill Kenright, love isn’t always enough – and a good financial backing was required to rebuild a team that was once the Champions of Europe.
When Cleveland Browns owner Randolph Lerner took control of the club, he made all the right noises, and couldn’t do anything wrong in the eyes of the Villa Faithful.
But this is were it went wrong in my eyes, Lerner may of wanted to become a hero and turn Villa back into a European force – but even he couldn’t anticipate the amount of take-overs in the best league in the World.
Mega-rich owners were coming into English football left, right and centre and it wasn’t long before money was being thrown about as if it grew on trees.
The owner still insisted, Villa would play in the Champions League within 5 years and he put trust in O’Neill to get Villa there.
The Irish man turned Villa into a side that could give everybody a game, but sceptical Villa fans started to notice the average players (i.e. Habib Beye, James Collins, Steve Sidwell) being brought in on massive wages, and started to fear about the future. Maybe a little nieve on the owners side, allowing the manager so much leway in the transfer market.
Don’t get me wrong O’Neill gave us some of the best players I have seen in a Villa shirt since I have been going to Villa Park anyway.
Ashley Young, a £9.5million signing from Watford looked a very risky signing, but the winger now plays for Champions Manchester United.
James Milner for £12million, a average player, but the winger turned centre midfielder not only lit up Villa Park, he made people sit up and take notice on the International stage – and now he plays for what I believe will be the new Champions, Manchester City.
O’Neill also gave us some great days out and memories from a very rare victory at Old Trafford, to two Wembley visits in his final year. But the sad fact was, spending so much money on wages, without bringing in more income was always going to cost the club in the long term future.
Even money bags Manchester City and Chelsea know that they cant spend the big money forever. But what both of those sides did, was build fantastically strong squads – performed on the field, and off the field secured big long term endorsements to help pay those big wages.
You see many Aston Villa fans have always blamed Martin O’Neill for the decline of our football club, but not me.
The buck has to stay with the owner, for not questioning some of Martin’s signings, for allowing these players to agree such large salaries and more importantly not securing those big endorsements that the clubs I mentioned above have.
Randy Lerner, may of meant well, and who knows weather he will sell the club or stick around but one thing is for sure we are paying now – I just hope this is as bad as it gets though, or we could find ourselves playing football in the fizzy pop league in the very near future.
Words by Stuart Young