In a week where Villa’s new owner Tony Xia bought the club and the intense scrutiny this has since followed it, Villa’s search for a new manager has been up in the air.
Whereas there had been an ongoing process of short-listing undertaken by Steve Hollis, it was always rational that the incoming ownership would want to make the final call.
Whilst there has been a broad list of candidates already mentioned, the search has polarised in recent days with David Moyes, Roberto Di Matteo, Roberto Martinez and Nigel Pearson the latest “bolted on” clutch of names.
Despite briefly being the bookmakers favourite, David Moyes promptly ruled himself out before having even been offered the job.
If anything this decision highlights a less discussed drawback of being relegated and the latest challenge in recruiting a manager with the calibre we desperately require.
There is no doubt in my mind that Moyes would have seen Villa as logical step in his career, but the uncertainty around Xai’s credentials and the Scot’s need to repair his reputation put a major barrier between it happening.
This is the predicament that Villa face. Whilst there is little to underpin the assertion that Xai isn’t all that he appears, there is also the absence of independent, robust and publicly available scrutiny to remove doubt. At least at the time of writing.
This would play on any applicants mind. It’s a risk.
As we will likely experience with our transfer targets, we have also lost significant goodwill given our slide into the Championship on top of the general impact of Lerner’s ownership upon our brand appeal. There’s no escaping the fact that we were ridiculed to the point of opposition fans actually feeling sorry for us. Things don’t get much worse.
And we are a risky managerial jump. If we can be steered back up at the first attempt, the plaudits will flow. However, The Championship is a long, tough campaign, complicated by other large presences in the division.
As such we are attracting names and faces who either have a glaring flaw in their CV or as worryingly, their character. Experience seems to count for little, but this is largely a matter of personalities and opinions in the social media sphere.
All of the obvious targets have something to count against them;
Martinez is derided for his football at Everton, Di Matteo has short management stints & Pearson has a temperament that many would find unpalatable.
On the flip side, beggars certainly shouldn’t be choosers. Martinez’s stock has only recently nosedived. Indeed, he has been twice approached by Villa, whilst in charge at Wigan. Di Matteo has a robust CV featuring promotion and a Champions League winner. Nigel Pearson has the necessary Championship experience and the no nonsense persona which many would like to see unleashed upon the current squad.
It’s very much a case of pros and cons.
Given our need to bounce back quickly and the siginficant overhaul the new manager will need to carry out quickly and efficiently, this is not the time to be taking chances. Although in typical Aston Villa fashion, it is exactly the position that we find ourselves in.
Chance will play a major part in both the eventual appointment, but additionally in terms of those making the decision. Will they grasp the importance of getting it right? Our track record on managers does not make great reading; but fresh heads will hopefully bring fresh vision and hopefully ambition.
Get it right and Villa can bounce back to the top flight, financial security and embark upon achieving the aspirations of the new owner.
Get it wrong and the reality of slipping into the pot of clubs who struggled or never returned to the top flight becomes our existence. Whilst there is an argument against simply “surviving” in the top flight (Albion), there is also little to be said of becoming a forgotten club (Wolves) or worse yet, one which yoyo’s (Norwich).
The obvious example of not “becoming another Leeds” is often referenced; though principally towards their financial mismanagement. However, the Yorkshire clubs listless drift outside the Premier League has been the one constant for them. Once the routine feature on the fixture list, they have unbelievably been down since 2004. 12 years is a long time, mostly spend in turmoil.
They aren’t alone. Sheffield Wednesday have their best chance yet of promotion after 16 years in the wilderness. Sheffield United haven’t returned since 2007. Portsmouth languish in League 2.
Wolves, a local side historically within the top tier have never managed to consolidate and have been adrift since their last relegation in 2012. Then there is two time European Champions Nottingham Forest, a yo-yo side in the 90′s and have never returned since going down in 1999.
Xai’s first meaningful act, appointing the right man for the job, is key to achieving the bare minimum; promotion. Its a huge call that will dictate how the next chapter for Aston Villa pans out.
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