With just 16 points, it was by some miracle ahead of kick off at Old Trafford that we weren’t already relegated. In fact, Sunderland’s 3-0 win over Norwich in the early fixture served only to illustrate just how poor the other relegation threatened Premier League sides are.
That in itself underlines just how poor a footballing side that we, Aston Villa have become.
This wasn’t our worst performance, but it was a display with an inevitable outcome. It was certainly a mercy killing.
Eric Black once again picked a bizarre side, selecting the awful Guzan, Lescott, Richardson & Bacuna. Black may argue he has little choice, is protecting the youth players from the scars of relegation or he is simply holding these players accountable for their actions. What is certain is that Black is doing nothing to improve his own credentials or claims to competency.
Marcus Rashford settled the tie, scoring his seventh goal in just twelve senior appearances to be the player who ultimately relegated Aston Villa to the Championship.
Whilst it was a tidy attacking move from United, it was created and finished with complete ease, demonstrating our defensive & goalkeeping frailty.
Man Utd rarely looked at any great risk; Ayew mustering our only half chance in the first 45 minutes. Indeed, referring to it as a half chance overstates it somewhat.
Aside from a brief few minutes of pressure following the introduction of Rudy Gestede late in the match, United will look back and recall it as a straightforward, if forgettable victory.
Gestede, to his credit, hustled and made a nuisance of himself, striking the post from a corner. It was too little and too late in our terrible relegation season.
This blog, like many other Villa sites (admittedly of varying repute) have tracked Aston Villa’s slide towards inevitable relegation in recent years.
Randy Lerner’s inept running of the football club is the root cause, undeniably so. From his initial failure to manage O’Neill or his crippling spending, the appointment of consecutively dismal managers and rotten choices at boardroom level. Lerner’s incompetence through his own actions and those he’s presided over have completely broken Aston Villa at every level.
It has been a masterclass in how to methodically dismantle to the point of certain relegation an established, steady and well supported elite football club.
Many may well scoff at the use of the word ‘elite’, but Aston Villa were elite. Even now as a club we’re amongst the best supported, most decorated and largest sides by common measures. This certainly shouldn’t be taken to suggest that we are “too big” to go down, rather, how rare it is for football clubs like ourselves to actually manage it. It is a feat to achieve.
We were not always the butt of all jokes, ridiculed by default amongst followers of football or perennial under-achievers. We were at best Champions of Europe and at our worst a competitive domestic side capable of regularly challenging for honours. This erosion of our ability to compete is perhaps central to our drop into the Championship and potentially why it will be such a challenge to return if things remained unchanged.
It is a sad indictment Lerner’s failings that we have absolutely nothing but total failure to show for the hundreds of millions of pounds of wasted investment. Lerner has pumped in hundreds of millions on top of unprecedented revenues from TV money. Our clubs achievements are spread across generations, in times where Villa didn’t have a billionaire owner, millionaire footballers or the opportunities presented to it. How have we conspired to get it so wrong?
Lerner has presided over this massive waste; he is the one constant.
Waste that started on day one of his ownership and stretches to this day. Despite having access to the best advice and input (owing to his personal wealth), he has never learned from his mistakes. He has simply compounded them. Lerner is either incredibly badly advised or quite conceivably as bad as the appointments he has personally made. Or both.
The ramifications of our relegation have yet to be felt. I fear that the fact that the jobs of ordinary working people at the club are at risk, people who have no control over playing matters, is incredibly telling of our financial position. These people must be amongst the lowest earners at the club and any decision to remove them suggests that Aston Villa cannot afford to sustain them in the short term. A scary insight.
Lerner hides away in America, insulated from the true impact of his destruction of our club. Whilst I don’t believe he should answer for everything that has gone wrong, ultimately there are terrible key decisions he has made, that had others made them, would have resulted in them being sacked.
Villa are therefore heading into the Championship is absolute disarray. We may be starting to see the initial work of Steve Hollis coming to fruition as some heads roll, but these actions are coming as we hurtle towards the abyss. The phrase “re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”, rarely seems more appropriate.
Then we must painfully review our players.
Much has been written and will rightly be written about them.
They are as bad a collection of footballers as you could reasonably hope to assemble and amongst them lie some individuals you wouldn’t wish to even meet. Greed, selfishness, indiscipline are not great traits for human beings, let alone footballers.
They are a squad of richly rewarded young men in an age of austerity. Where junior doctors strike for fair employment terms, our brats barely turn up each week for thousands of pounds. It’s not their fault they have been awarded grotesque sums of money, but they should be properly managed and reminded of their responsibilities. They could even have the decency to try and behave like adults.
The fact that many fans find them so repulsive as individuals speaks volumes. Their delusions of grandeur, behaving as though untouchable and a shared failure to accept the criticism levelled as them baffles. They are collectively to be remembered in the game as amongst the worst. Riches may massage egos, but they cannot hide the facts. They are an embarrassment, personally and professionally.
The actions of Joleon Lescott, repeatedly bringing Villa into disrepute, makes a mockery of the clubs ability to manage it’s players. What internal controls have addressed his repeated questionable conduct? There is no logic or sense that this man is in the first team squad, let along our on-field captain. Lescott is not only a disgrace to our captaincy & club but also his profession.
The outlook is grim for the vast majority of the playing staff. It makes for a painful summary but is exactly why we are where we are.
We have Gabby Agbonlahor, literally too fat to play. A goalkeeper in Brad Guzan, unable to save a shot. A deluded, Champions League courting, Leandro Bacuna on a 5 year deal. Jores Okore is similarly aspiring, but is so injury prone he’s easy to forget.
Westwood, another on a 5 year deal, would be out muscled in a schools XI. Ayew will be near impossible to retain & shows fleeting moments of quality. Micah Richards looks as bang average a footballer as you will see. Scott Sinclair hasn’t looked remotely interested since signing a contract. Carlos Sanchez can’t pass a ball. Adrissa Gueye runs around a lot to little effect.
Ciaran Clark looks a broken man. Alan Hutton tries but is undeniably a defensive liability. Aly Cissokho defends erratically and carries zero attacking threat. Traore is pacey, raw & vastly overpaid. Carles Gil is astonishing and anonymous in equal measure. Kieran Richardson’s inability to contribute anything defies comprehension.
This season is hopefully the peak of our awfulness. It has been as embarrassing to associate with as it has been intolerable to endure watching. Collectively, those who remain [few hopefully] must learn quickly. The new faces on and off the pitch must improve us, immediately.
We simply cannot afford any more failures.
The remaining fixtures are now virtually meaningless and stand as an opportunity to blood youngsters. Where better than the Premier League against competitive opposition? If we fail to grasp this, under some pretence of “protectionism”, it would be another glaring oversight. We are already relegated, the regular players on the pitch have disgraced us and no further evidence is required that they don’t care. What is the rationale for persevering with them?
Start the clear-out amongst the playing staff, recruit the right man for the job and let’s hope that a buyer who understands what it means to be a true custodian can be sought.
This is my darkest moment following Villa and the protracted, drawn out nature of our relegation has been painful. What hurts the most isn’t the relegation, it has been the way in which our club has been reduced to a figure of fun.
All of the errors that have been made have been preventable. All of the actions taken have had predictable outcomes. The manner in which we have self destructed is almost unprecedented. Our lack of fight has led to repeated humiliations.
Will we return? One day & there may yet be further horrors to play out; but it will be an
Aston Villa which emerges from the darkness. It will have to be.
Established in 2011 – The Villa Underground is an independent Aston Villa social-blog & website. Featuring pre-match discussion, post match reaction, opinion, satire, a podcast, news & social media comment on all matters affecting AVFC.