Brian Barry ponders if there is any hope of Aston Villa avoiding relegation.
Aston Villa is for sale, but nobody is willing to buy. Having come so close to breaking into England’s elite a few years back, Randy Lerner is no longer happy to continue injecting the requisite cash to compete at such a level. On the pitch, things are not much better.
Having flirted with relegation in recent seasons, they find themselves on a downward spiral this year, and given recent form, look set for Championship football in 2015/2016.
Simply put, Aston Villa are in turmoil, and can only dare to hope.
In 2012, Paul Lambert took the reins at Villa Park following tumultuous periods of Alex McLeish and Gerard Houllier in the hotseat. It was a young team with potential. It is generally acknowledged that any manager with a young team ought to be given time, and Lambert, unlike others in England, was afforded such a luxury.
Upon the former Celtic player’s appointment, many Villa fans were optimistic that the likes of Fabien Delph, Ashley Westwood, Andreas Weimann, Christian Benteke, and many more would grow into top class Premier League players. Although the club was ravaged by the league’s big spenders, life after Barry, Milner, and Young was not so bleak as initially thought.
But little has happened in the way of development. Alex McLeish’s final act at the helm was to guide the team to safety on 38 points. This was deemed a poor return. Cue Lambert.
Two years later, the Villains again avoided the drop with 38 points. At this point in 2014/15, such a tally can only be hoped for.
The team has not progressed under the Scot’s stewardship, and it is time for a new voice in the changing room.
Despite some poor results, January was a positive month for the club on the transfer front. The introduction of Carles Gil from Valencia is a move which the Villa faithful will relish. A left-footed screamer from the edge of the box against Bournemouth gave the fans a taste of what is to come from the 22-year-old Spaniard. He also had a role to play in Jores Okore’s goal against Chelsea on Saturday, Villa’s first league goal in almost 11 hours.
The loan of Scott Sinclair from Manchester City has also brought hope to the Holte End, but there is a sense that it is more than an uncapped 25-year-old English winger the Birmingham side need to stave off relegation.
If there is a positive to be drawn at this stage of the season, it is the FA Cup. A run to the last sixteen of the tournament is not in itself all that extraordinary, but the fact that so many big guns have been eliminated, and that Villa host fellow relegation strugglers Leicester at Villa Park for a spot in the quarter-final, sparks optimism.
Remaining in the Premier League is of course the priority for this season, but advancing further in the cup should not damage this ambition. A run to Wembley would boost morale, and perhaps inject the old flair associated with such a proud club.
Aston Villa have been in recession for many years now since Martin O’Neill left the club. They face a critical few months for their future, vying to remain in the Premier League. A stout performance against champions elect Chelsea offered hope, but hope alone will not guarantee survival.
The Villains will need to start finding results, and fast.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.