THE MAN TO SAVE VILLA FROM LERNER
There has to be a touch of sympathy for Randy Lerner. The American sports franchise/club owner had a brilliant start to his Villa stewardship. Martin O’Neill led the club to three six place finishes. However, the Champions League always remained illusive. Lerner then realised that O’Neill had constructed a wage bill that was nearly greater than the club’s overall income. Panic bells went off and Lerner decided to sell Mr. Reliable, James Milner. O’Neill then quit, thus starting a slow and agonising decline.
Photo by Ozzy Delaney
Over the next few years, Villa went from mid-table security to relegation candidates. Barely surviving each season was the plan. Meanwhile, Lerner had decided that enough was enough and put the club up for sale. The only problem? Nobody wanted to buy. When Villa’s luck eventually ran out and they were mercilessly dumped from the top division, it looked like the club would never sell. That’s until Dr. Tony Xia called.
SPLASHING THE SUMMER CASH
Xia wasted no time in getting his checkbook out. Eight players signed for transfer fees, while another five came on free transfers or loans. Xia basically signed off on a shopping spree that included an entire new team with a couple of subs as well. A few players did exit Villa Park in the post relegation months, but Villa had a net spend of nearly 40 million euro. That’s for a championship club. No wonder the English game has gone insane.
FIRST MISTAKE: THE WRONG COACH
DiMatteo will always be remembered as the steady pair of hands that led Chelsea to Champions League glory. A few months after John Terry lifted the cup in his full kit, Roberto was fired after a mediocre start to the following season. A very uninspiring spell at Schalke would follow. This led to another dismissal. Dr. Xia then thought he and Steve Clarke would make a managerial dream team. In fairness, there was a lot of excitement at the time. Di Matteo had won promotion to the Premiership a few years back with WBA and Clarke is a proven coach. Then it all went a little ‘QPR + Mark Hughes’.
Photo by Rasmus Zwickson
PAYING TOP PRICE ON TRANSFERS
There were a couple of head-turning transfer moments for Vila during the summer. The first was the signing of Ross McCormack from Fulham. Xia authorised the 14.5 million euro signing at the start of the summer, and it signaled his intention to bounce back to the Premiership immediately. Eyebrows were raised when paying a massive transfer fee for a 29-year-old. There’s unlikely to be a decent resale value on McCormack. He was purchased to give them a guaranteed 20 goals per season, but his start has been less than impressive.
In a final twist of the knife in to Randy Lerner’s back, the new multi-billion pound TV deal came in to effect this season. Villa will miss out on the gravy train for now. Xia is clearly intent on getting back to the top table ASAP, and even envisions Villa being the top club in Europe within 5 years:
“The top club in Europe with the highest number of fans all over the world.’
All Villa fans will welcome some optimism but also require a dose of realism as well. After their sluggish start to the season, the top club in Europe club comment is being routinely mocked.
Parachute to bounce back
Dr. Tony Xia has claimed on Twitter that not one penny spent during the summer spree came from the parachute payments. This tweet has since been deleted:
“TBH,we didn’t spend one penny parachute payment on transfers”
Once a club is relegated from the promised land of the Premier League, they receive huge payments from the league over the next 2 years. Rehabilitation money. It seems like Villa took the high risk,high reward approach to their transfers. Spending huge sums in order to secure an instant return to the Premier League. Right now, that approach looks a tad haphazard.
A BETTER SOLUTION – GIVE YOUTH A CHANCE?
Should Villa start giving youth a chance and rebuild slowly? The desire to get back in the Premier League means sacrifices need to occur. Young players on the cusp of the first team find themselves being shunted out of the way, in order to cater for the latest multi million pound signing. For example, the promising 18-year-old striker, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, must have been slightly frustrated during the summer. McCormack and Kodija were signed for a combined amount close to 30 million euro.
Dr. Tony Xia seems like a man in a rush. He gave DiMatteo 12 games before sacking him. If one assumes that DiMatteo selected his transfer targets during the summer, the decision seems a tad rash. Will Xia bring Villa back to the top table of English football? The Championship is a dog-eat-dog league, where it’s a grueling battle until the end. Right now, Villa do not have the mental strength to compete
What are your thoughts on the new Villa owner? Vote below:
Feature Image: Sky Sports
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Photo by Ben Sutherland