Jon Dudley talks us through why Villa have had such a disastrous season and why it has been coming for a long time:
At the time of writing, there were 99 points available to play for in this seasons Premier League. Aston Villa, one of the founding teams of the league itself, has amassed a lowly 16. Lacklustre performances, no confidence in the multiple managers or the chairman, and disheartened fans have all had a role to play in this. This leaves one of the iconic teams of British football being widely regarded as having the worst Premier League performance in history.
Much has been said about the players throughout the season. Some have no heart, fans say. Some do not care about the future of the club. Some are simply berating the supporters for booing them and saying they are trying their best. Anyone who watches their team play, especially those season ticket holders who fork out a minimum of £335, should feel deserving of seeing a battling performance from players every single week. No fan realistically expects their team to win every game, but they should feel a strong performance was played on the pitch. The younger fans will be used to a mid-table Villa with a few good wins and a push for League or FA Cup success, as has been the case for the past few years. Older fans, however, will be reeling from where their team is now compared to the success they have seen through their lifetimes.
In memorable living history, Aston Villa have added a European Cup, an FA Cup, a Charity Shield and a league title to their trophy cabinets. The European Cup win of 1982 was admittedly over thirty years ago, but when looking at other eighties winners you see the likes of Liverpool, Juventus, Milan and Porto. Even the runner up on their winning year was Bayern Munich. Clubs with the heritage that Aston Villa have should be respected by every member of the team from the owner right down to the under-21 squads as a large percentage of their fan base – the people relied upon for merchandise income and encouraging the younger generations – will remember the old glory days and wonder exactly what went wrong when they see the current team in play. The official Aston Villa Facebook page reflects this, and reading the comments on their latest update from older fans demonstrates the feeling towards the club exactly.
“The long-suffering supporters are not only bored, but also sick and tired of such meaningless drivel”, states one. “We are relegated so why bother turning up? Start preparing for next season in the Championship”, is another. “They don’t give a toss, not for the club, nor the fans.” “I think we should play in a specially commissioned white kit tomorrow, we surrendered a long time ago, might as well make it official.” The comments continue on page after page and it was honestly very difficult to find a single positive comment. Anyone who supports any football team would probably agree that they were encouraged to follow their chosen team by their family and friends. If Aston Villa don’t have that respect now and very little encouragement from the fans, what could this mean for future generations who are told by those witnessing this season that Villa are the worst team in the Premiership?
Ron Atkinson, one of their most iconic managers and largely of Manchester United fame, still lives locally around Birmingham and I was fortunate enough to bump into him recently. “Aston Villa?”, was literally the only two words I needed to ask him in regards to his former club. I was met with little more than a laugh and a shake of the head. He spoke proudly of his other accomplishments but felt that Aston Villa needed some major work to return them to anything near what they were.
The biggest question is how?
Fan suggestions range from removing chairman Randy Lerner to dropping the entire side and playing the far more successful under-21 team for the remainder of the season. The argument is quite strong that for the vast sums of money these players take home a month, far more productivity is needed. 16 points out of 99 is just over 16 percent of potential work output – a figure that in most companies would result in termination within a matter of months. These players have delivered that performance for nearing nine months without penalty and earn more than most annual salaries in a game, and most feel this is unacceptable. Maybe, just maybe, the radical idea of dropping an entire team for a younger force is not only huge encouragement for their youth but a statement for the entirety of football that a place is in the squad is earned through current performance and not the laurels of the past.
Aston Villa face Manchester United away on Saturday and have five games remaining to save themselves from relegation.
Follow Jon Dudley on Twitter – @DudleyJon