With four games remaining and Premier League safety far from guaranteed its uneasy times at Aston Villa. A fourth scrappy, relegation threatened season in a row has many Villa fans (myself included) desperate for change. A new manager would be the obvious shout from most observers but would any prospective new gaffer fare any better than Paul Lambert?
A string of bad results and the worst home record in the clubs history has seen an already tetchy home crowd turn to snarling one. But it’s not been an easy ride for the Villa manager.
The restrictive parameters set by owner Randy Learner of belt tightening throughout the club has made it difficult for Villa to progress or make any achievement of note, other than staying in the top flight, which they’ve only just about managed in recent years. Any new manager would need to operate in similar circumstances and with no obvious, or affordable, candidate a new appointment would be just as much a gamble as letting Paul Lambert go again.
But Lamberts tenure has seen instability and discord behind the scenes with some playing staff frozen out and reported disciplinary issues with younger members of the squad. Now the suspension of assistant manager Ian Culverhouse and head of football operations Gary Karsa amid allegations of bullying has seen events seemingly come to a head, but maybe another season’s gamble on Lambert would be a gamble too far.
Relegation beckons, so change at a broader level is needed for Villa. So when rumours began to spread of potential takeovers many an ear were pricked up. Billionaire American consortiums sound very provocative but tabloids and red tops alike love a billionaire take over, so all the excitement was taken with a pinch of salt. Much as it was earlier in the year when the Red Bull rumours were doing the twitter rounds, but suddenly, the idle gossip gained some weight.
The club decided to release an official statement from Randy himself. Stating: ‘As regards my personal role at the Club and the steady rumours of a sale, I will address these after the season’.
It would have been easy for Randy Learner to come out and say the club is not for sale, or even easier to say nothing at all and let the rumour mill run its course. It won’t take much ‘reading between the lines’ to see there may be some truth in this developing story.
New owners could be the spark the club needs to kick into life once again. A new future post Learner and probably post Lambert is an exciting prospect. A potential new begining and a hopeful upward trajectory. All this providing Premier League football is secured for next season.
A new owner is just as much a risk as a new manager, or a new centre forward. For every Beneteke there’s a Van Wolfswinkel. For every Martinez there’s a Venglos. For every Abramovic there’s a Venky’s.
But to gamble is what Villa really need too do. Trying to better the devil you know can only end in inevitable relegation to a tough and competitive Championship. A new regime could bring death or glory. Even a chance at stability is better than no chance at all.
Here’s the official club statement in full:
“Following the point yesterday at Villa Park, there have been stories about my selling the Club. On a personal level, I had hoped the emphasis would have been on the amazing effort on the part of our manager and our players to regroup throughout a very difficult week. Injuries to Libor and Christian, compounded with the early loss of Jores and the difficult rehab of Charles have no doubt left Paul with far less to work with than is fair. Still, Paul Lambert has done nothing but work within the parameters I’ve set, put the Club first and continue to trust his players. As regards my personal role at the Club and the steady rumours of a sale, I will address these after the season. Paul Lambert, Paul Faulkner and I speak daily and remain committed to the immediate job of limiting distraction and confusion in order that Villa have the best chance possible of finishing on a strong note.”
– Randy Lerner, Aston Villa Chairman