The sacking of Remi Garde spelled a new era for Aston Villa as one of England’s oldest clubs prepare for life in the Championship.
The Frenchman was brought on board to help steer Villa out of their nose dive – but instead, they ended up spiraling even faster.
It’s been without a doubt one of the worst club/ managerial campaigns in Premier League history. But, looking back, Villa have been in decline for many years now, and will continue to decline if nothing is done.
If history tells us anything, it’s that the Championship is no picnic, and if you fail to prepare for it, you can find yourself in your second relegation battle in two years.
The Martin O’Neill period
The O’Neill period at Villa was no doubt the highlight of the Midlands’ club spell in the top flight in the past ten years.
The Irishman took charge of a side much like today’s, a struggling side on the wrong side of the table. Come the end of his career at Villa Park, he had the club at 6th for three years in a row.
His transfer history speaks for itself and highlights the importance of attracting the right kind of players to the club.
In his first season, John Carew, Ashley Young and Stiliyan Petrov made their way through his door. Two years later, James Milner, Brad Friedel, Steve Sidwell and Curtis Davies were added to his squad. In his final year, he brought Stewart Downing and Richard Dunne to the club.
In his four seasons, he spent £113 million on players. A lot of money for a small club, but over a four year period, it was good business. It also came with the added bonus of being up near European spots.
At the end of his fourth season, O’Neill left the club on a mutual agreement. He later revealed that he was not getting his way with club affairs.
And so, the decline began.
O’Neill was replaced by former Liverpool man, Gerard Houllier. In what was one of the most bizarre opening statements by any manager, Houllier stated that Villa were, in his eyes, a team that would finish around ‘7th or 12th’.
He was left eating his words six months into his arrival when his team had only accumulated one win in each month. A less dramatic drop than Chelsea’s this year, but a bad drop nonetheless.
In the end, his career at Villa only lasted until April, and his team dropped to 9th in the league. This was followed by a season littered with lowest records including the lowest points accumulated and fewest wins all under the eye of Alex McLeish.
And the decline continues.
Year upon year, the club continued to decline, and still nothing was done to prevent it. Instead of getting in players and managers to build on what O’Neill set up, they now have been bringing in players to save the sinking ship.
While it cannot be argued that Garde did nothing to help, he didn’t really do anything wrong. In fact, he did nothing at all. That was his main problem.
Villa had not set themselves up for the season ahead. Once again their unwillingness to spend cost them the sacking of another manager mid-way through the season.
Instead of buying in players like other clubs such as Bournemouth did, they sold their best in Benteke. It’s simply not a sustainable system.
If Garde had not come in, the results may have been the exact same. What everyone witnessed this season, was defeated Aston Villa team, with no confidence and no pride.
You look at their squad now, and they would be lucky next year if they don’t get relegated to League One. They have no characters in their team which, like Roy Keane and Harry Redknapp have stated, is essential in any Championship squad; no battlers.
If the board don’t do something now, and go in search of a proven manager like O’Neill, they could well be the men who cause the downfall of one of England’s oldest clubs.