The failure to sign any new players in January was a bitter pill to swallow, but Sunday’s “lack of commitment” was unforgiveable. Our man Derek Bilton takes a look at the fiasco going on at Aston Villa.
As sure as Tuesday follows Monday Aston Villa will be relegated from the Premier League at some point over the next two months. It is quite simply the worst kept secret in sport. But when that fateful day arrives fans of this once great club will be hard pushed to feel any worse than they did Sunday gone. And while joy has been fleeting for Villa and their followers over the past few years February 14 2016 marked a new low for all associated with the club.
Their 6-0 shellacking at the hands of Liverpool brought a whole new meaning to the term ‘St Valentines Day Massacre’. It’s been a circus at Villa Park of late and the supporters, who continue to back their team in great numbers, must be struggling to fathom how it’s gone quite so badly wrong. When Tim Sherwood was sacked I have to say both eyebrows raised and my lips pursed when I heard they were giving Remi Garde the gig. This is a young French coach with no previous experience of firefighting in a relegation battle.
Rivals Sunderland also changed manager after a series of poor results earlier in the season and turned to that old dog of war Sam Allardyce. He may have a face like an angry bun but Big Sam is well versed in the complexities of top flight survival. Indeed if he didn’t write the book he almost certainly gets a shout out in the foreword. At time of writing Sunderland are just a point from safety while Villa are eight points adrift with 12 games to go – predestined to be mixing with the MK Dons’ and Brentford’s of this world next season.
Yet to merely lay the blame at the door of an inexperienced new foreign coach is surely to trivialise the current malaise at Villa Park. Garde may not have been the right man for the job but the club’s unwillingness to do any business in the January transfer window was truly unforgivable. It doesn’t matter how bad things seem. You simply don’t wave the white flag in January.
A year ago on January 1 Leicester City were bottom of the pile with 14 points from 20 matches. And look what the Foxes have gone on to achieve. Villa had eight points from 19 matches but tellingly there was still half a season to go. Garde needed players he personally could trust to go into the trenches for him. But in the end the board served up precisely nothing.
A few players left to ease the burden on the wage bill but nobody came in. Surely there were potential loan deals out there? You are not seriously trying to tell me that players of ability didn’t want to come to Villa Park and play for a Premier League side with a fine ground and fan base? A side who once held aloft the European Cup. Because let’s have it right the ones there at the minute are not fit to wear the shirt. Their collective display against Liverpool may go down as one of the most shambolic Premier League performances in history. And the fact they are now being compared to that infamous Derby County side of 2007/08 tells its own story.
Then there is Joleon Lescott. Less than an hour after Sunday’s horror show he tweeted a picture of a £125,000 silver Mercedes. This caused understandable outrage among those of a claret and blue persuasion and the Villa man quickly backtracked, bizarrely claiming the tweet was sent accidentally from his pocket whilst he was driving. So the phone has unlocked, opened the Twitter app, uploaded a pic of a top-of-the-range sports car and then tweeted all by itself? More worrying even than phones with minds of their own for me was his statement later in the day apologising for “mine and the team’s lack of commitment for the 90 minutes”.
Lack of commitment? Really?
Football fans are a loyal bunch and can forgive most things. Most accept they will face teams who are better technically or tactically from time to time. But as a bare minimum you expect your own players to show 100% commitment each and every time when they step over that white line. These men are getting paid small fortunes on a weekly basis so Lescott’s choice of phrase was completely unacceptable. The way things are going however – from board room to dressing room – it would certainly be apt for the club’s epitaph.
Here lies Aston Villa. Cause of death: Lack of commitment.
By Derek Bilton