Deg's Villa Preview

Posted by Hinesy on December 10, 2012, 11:59:41 PM

As we prepare to face up to Aston Villa this weekend it is off pitch activities that will be at the forefront of both sets of supporters minds. As the January transfer window looms large it looks to be a defining month for the American owners of both clubs. A bad transfer window could provide the final nail in the coffin of good will towards Randy Lerner, while another period of inactivity from John Henry will bring any underlying skepticism to outright ire for Liverpool fans.

Randy Lerner provides a cautionary tale for Liverpool supporters.
When he first gained control of Aston Villa in 2006 Lerner was greeted as Messianic figure, the sole reason being that he was not Doug Ellis.  After years of protests and marches the Villa fans had finally seen the back of the man they despised and began to look forward to a awakening of a sleeping giant of English football.

Things began well. Lerner arrived at Villa within the same month as new boss Martin O'Neill. Previously scrapped plans for a training ground revamp were reinstated, when the first January transfer window rolled around John Carew, Ashley Young, and Shaun Maloney arrived at Villa, the team would go 9 games unbeaten at the end of the season.  Lerner renovated the Holte pub at a personal cost of £4 million while forgoing shirt sponsorship in favour of the logo of a local children's hospice. The team would go on to beat Ajax in the UEFA Cup, reach the final of the League Cup and finish 6th in the League.

At the time the fans were ecstatic with Lerner:
"The fans worship the ground Randy walks on," said Dave Woodhall of fanzine Heroes and Villains.

"He can't do anything wrong. He's got the common touch. He and his staff have tapped into the fans' mentality. Free scarves, free coaches to Chelsea, refurbishing the Holte pub, and it seems like he genuinely cares."

Then the wheels started to fall off. O'Neill left the club 5 days before the 2010-2011 season over an argument about the lack of transfer funds, the sale of James Milner and the incoming Stephen Ireland (a theme that would be repeated). The Aston Villa fans would quickly see Lerner allow the sale of players such as Milner, Barry, Young, Downing for vast amounts of money while their replacements were often of much inferior quality (Charles N'Zogbia, Stephen Ireland, Fabian Delph, etc.).

While this could be written off by the optimist as an unfortunate series of transfer windows all reverence to Lerner was erased when the Villa fans came to the awful realisation that their football club was once again at the whim of a man who did not truly understand them.  Lerner appointed Alex McLeish, a poor manager recently relegated, but even worse manager of Birmingham City.  After a year of ill will towards McLeish he was replaced by current manager Paul Lambert.

Lambert has found his hands tied.  He has been forced to rely on youth talent and mediocre transfers like Karim El Ahmadi, Ron Vlaar, and Christian Benteke. While Lerner has increased his own personal fortune by £600 million following the sale of his American Football team Darren Bent has been resigned to sitting on the bench, or in the stands, for fear that Aston Villa will have to pay a £3 million appearance bonus to Sunderland.

Randy Lerner and John Henry will both undoubtedly face protests from their club's sets of fans if they do not spend money in January but the tale of Randy Lerner should serve as a warning to all fans of Premier League clubs.  You are at the mercy of money men, this should be a call to arms for all football fans for organisation.  In the Bundesliga fans must own 51% of the club's shares to stop this from happening and even if fan groups can buy 5% of a club they can continue to raise the revenue for a seat on the board and ultimately outright ownership.

The game will be contested by 2 former glorious sides forced to rely on youth talent because their American owners were more concerned with their U.S. based sports teams over recent transfer windows than with their Premier League football teams.  The next transfer window will separate the snake oil salesman from the sporting businessman, both sides could be digging out their old protest signs to once again hope that they can roll the dice and come up with an owner they approve of.

Both sets of fans would do better not to focus on the build up of this match but to organise and try to reclaim some of their club back.

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