Troubleshooter

New Aston Villa chairman Steve Hollis is currently facing his first big test as Aston Villa Chairman.  A chorus of voices in the game have this week highlighted structural problems as the main reason for Aston Villa’s crisis.

It is worth remembering that Tom Fox & Steve Hollis had barely cleared their throats at the Aston Villa Trust AGM before they launched into a vague description of the club’s ‘long-term vision’. It was in retrospect a slippery tactic which tried to absolve Tom Fox of any blame for his short term failings and erroneous decision-making.

“As a new manager I would have expected new faces to support my change” – Remi Garde

Fox had explained following his appointment in 2014, “We should be a club which is perennially sixth, to ninth to 10th and certainly in the top half of the league, competing for domestic cups and competing for a place in Europe.”

It might have been in error for Tom Fox to make such a claim when considering that he also said at the time, “I have spent enough time in the business of sport and now within the world of football to understand it is a game which is driven by your ability to spend on your squad.”  Fox had travelled to the US in January to supposedly lobby Lerner to release more funds for the manager but the end result was nevertheless zero signings.

Financial problems are not the only issue at the club. The balance of power between the Manager, Sporting Director and the Head of Recruitment also appears to be failing.

Joey Barton said this week, “Paddy Reilly is a guy who can give you advice and numbers, he shouldn’t be heading up your recruitment policy, he is not able to do that.”

 

Let Down

Tom Fox needed to stand and fight for his manager in January and to ensure that Garde wasn’t thrown under the bus or undermined. He failed in this duty.  Does Tom Fox expect fans to believe that no promises were made to Garde when he was appointed in respect of January transfer funds? Does he expect us to believe that Garde was informed he would have to soldier on with Libor Kozak and Rudy Gestede as his main striking options for the entirety of the season?

Garde said twice in his press conference on transfer deadline day, “As a new manager I would have expected new faces to support my change,” with the implication clear that he expected an allocation of funds to play with in January. What he actually received was a the promise of a couple of loan signings and a goal keeper selected by the club’s specialist goalkeeping scout.

The most frustrating part of the whole debacle is the possibility that Aston Villa have strained the relationship with Garde to such an extent that he steps aside in the summer. He is a smart young manager with a good reputation in the game.

New first team coach Eric Black said of Garde this week, “Remi is an absolute gentleman.  He’s very articulate. He’s very studious. He’s very analytical. I have found him a first class individual.  He’s been a winner – and he also wants to play football in the right manner.”

In short, he’s exactly the type of manager the club short be looking to build with, not alienate.

 

The One That Got Away

Garde’s public frustrations have so far been mild as he did not want to unsettle the current squad. One of Garde’s targets mentioned before Christmas was Tunisia winger Wahbi Khazri.

“He’s a player that I know well because before he left Bastia for Bordeaux I was interested in him with Lyon,” said Garde. “I have more important information about him because when you work with a player for a long time in training sessions (as assistant Reginald Ray did), you know the way he behaves and could settle into another country.”

Garde did his homework in respect of the Khazri’s nature, work ethic and ability to adapt. He didn’t just consider his statistics.

Villa’s league table position wasn’t too impressive to attract potential new players, but they were only back-to-back wins away from being back in with a chance of survival. A manager can identify endless good players, but it is ultimately up to the board to get the deal over the line. If Khazri had gone to a mid-table team or above, you could understand his choice for football reasons. But Sunderland?

“The team that is in last place in the league over there is better than the side that is second or third in Ligue 1 at the moment,” Khazri told a reporter, when comparing his potential choice of Villa or Bordeaux.

This quote was reported January 3rd, Sunderland’s interest came towards the backend of the window. Why didn’t the Villa board get that deal over the line early on?

Five to Zero

It is believed that Khazri was to fill one of Garde’s five positions he had identified to be tackled in the January window but as the time drew near the priorities for January shrunk by the Villa board/transfer committee to the priorities of a goalkeeper and an on loan striker. were changed by the transfer committee. In terms of the keeper position, Kalinic failed the work permit stage.  Garde’s recommendation for five new players had been abandoned which led to bitter disappointment amongst fans, the manager and the squad.

There were games in January which could have resulted in a better outcome had the club placed more faith in the new manager and backed his decisions.  Khazri has a goal and two assists in three appearances for Sunderland which has helped Sunderland gain an extra four points in the Premier League. Khazri has not just added creativity and guile in attacking areas he has also exhibited an intense work ethic which is something Remi Garde identified the team needed. Carles Gil is a talented player but isn’t the sort of player to win tackles and press with intensity around the pitch. Scott Sinclair likewise has never had a reputation for being a player with a robust work ethic.

A manager can identify endless good players, but it is ultimately up to the board to get the deal over the line.

Paul Lambert hypocritically implied this week that the players worked harder for him. “The lads (Aston Villa players) at the time gave us everything,” he said.  Is he forgetting that he was the manager who bought Gil, Bacuna and Sinclair, not Garde?

Lambert had the relative luxury of building Aston Villa’s squad over three summers yet each season his team appeared to decline. The balance of power at the club has only got worse since Lambert left in January 2014 with Lambert hinting the same, “Some of the things that were going on were never right.”

Deficiencies

Tim Sherwood’s relative inexperience in signing players was counter balanced by Reilly & Almstadt last summer with thirteen new players roughly split between Sherwood’s choices and Reilly’s choices. The failings of their collaboration have badly tied the hands of Remi Garde and he couldn’t properly correct the weaknesses of the squad without new faces.  The current squad lacks pace, a reliable goal scorer, a reliable goalkeeper, leadership and work ethic.  Reilly and Almstadt do not appear to be in a hurry to get out of the way of the new manager Remi Garde either.

Garde’s attempt to sign Mathieu Debuchy was filibustered over the loan fee in addition to reported significant interference from Hendrik Almstadt.   Most loan deals are done by managers picking up the phone to each or meeting in person. Having a network of friends and acquaintances is important when finding out if a player is available without disrespecting or upsetting other clubs. Not everything can be decided by stats, figures or looking at a computer screen.  If true, Almstadt’s clumsy interference in Remi Garde’s network of acquaintances, built throughout his career in football, demonstrates a lack of respect for the manager’s authority.

Lamine Sane was also expected to sign on loan from Bordeaux until the selling club wanted to make the move permanent instead. The interest ended there with the club unwilling to finance the relatively cheap move.

Although things appear to be bleak right now, Garde did appear to give the club a second chance on 9 February 2016 when he informed French radio station RMC, “I’m prepared to stay in this club if there are (financial) means to go up.”

Right now there appears to be no sign that the club have given Garde the assurances he requires and it would be thoroughly incompetent for the club to fail to support him again.  Randy Lerner isn’t a bad man (just poor in football decision making) and I do think Lerner has enough honour and integrity to realise that he owes Garde a debt of gratitude in the summer for not jumping ship and continuing to work hard for the club without complaining publicly.

 

It is not Almstadt or Reilly who have to appear in press conferences and explain to the fans that there will be no signings.  Reilly and Almstadt do not have to pick the players up off the floor or try to rebuild their confidence after heavy defeats. Reilly and Almstadt do not have to explain to the dressing room, “Sorry lads, there won’t be any new signings” when the squad is thread-bare and in need of rotation. They don’t have to ask players to play through the pain barrier due to lack of options on the bench. The manager has to do that. The manager has to take responsibility for a squad of players he didn’t sign. Not them.  It’s easy for Reilly and Almstadt to sit in the Director’s Box surrounded by minders and look on with indifference. They take little or no responsibility but they will likely keep their jobs whilst Garde and Sherwood take the blame.

Lambert knows that people like Reilly and Almstadt have assumed power beyond their capabilities at the club. Joey Barton knows too. Joleon Lescott seemed to imply the same.  They add to a long list of other voices who have identified the same issue.  This is a problem that is screaming out to be fixed.  So why isn’t Tom Fox fixing it? Is his relationship with Reilly and Almstadt too close for him to make the correct decision and reduce their power? Is it because they were his idea?

In these circumstances surely Steve Hollis, the Chairman of the club, should step in and make a few popular decisions before the summer. Or must we lose another manager through the interference of those who know less about football than him?

UTV

Follow Shelley on Twitter – @shelley_ozzy

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Perhaps folk should back off with their critism of Fox & co and listen to what Hollis said soon after he became Chairman as maybe the problem does not lie with the CEO and that the real problem lies with the clubs administration & Support structure . Hollis has already said there are problems and that things are not good enough . Yet I’ve been hearing that the clubs administration is one of the most costly in the Prem !
    In the past I blamed Fox’s predecessor for much of the mess , but it would seem that he was not totally to blame just as Fox is not totally to blame now as neither had absolute control of the club’s finances which lay with the now departed Company Secretary who it would seem has left with out a fanfare or even any comment from the board . Yet it would seem this is a person who had great power at the club since the early days of Lerner’s ownership so could it also be that he was the architect of it’s failure ? Certainly over the years Ive heard mutterings but nothing specific aimed in his direction
    So maybe if things are as bad as Hollis & King have intimated , they really do need the time between now & the next transfer window to get things sorted so that the correct structure is in place to take the club forward

    • Why don’t you look at how a struggling club suddenly took a complete nosedive since Fox introduced a new recruitment team. Appalling fall in fortunes directly linked to Fox’s decisions. You can not escape that fact.

      • Sudden nose dive ? Or calculated gamble that has failed ? But the biggest mistake of the summer was the recruitment of an Ass. Manager who hindered rather than helped the manager . But was that down to Fox or one of his underlings ?
        But the biggest problem the club has is finance and how it was controlled and that was not down to Fox & co ! Hollis has already stated that needed sorting .
        I’ve also heard that salaries for Villa admin have been higher than at most of the so called top 4 clubs

  2. A suggestion for a song to be sung at the Brittania stadium on Saturday to the tune of Birmingham are you listening
    We’re only here for the oatcakes
    Here for the oatcakes
    The villa are shite
    Jamie Carraghers right
    We’re the villa and we’re going down

  3. Almstadt and Reilly need to be demoted, Fox and Hollis sacked.
    The players bought last summer by the statistical method haven’t been terrible under Garde, (Liverpool game aside), Gana, Vertout have both improved and look ok. Amavi and Ayew were both good buys, and even Traore has potential. The duff buys were Sinclair, Gestede, and Richards, mostly Sherwood I think. Lescott the jury is out on as if we go down and he stays with a pay cut all is forgiven. So there is worth in stats, just not as much as they may think. So they should be relegated like the club.
    Fox, sack. Traore’s contract, Delph’s contract, his total contempt of the fans, absolutely no strategic plans, doesn’t know who’ll be managing the club next season, doesn’t know what league the club will be in even. Best thing he has done has been the Under Armour contract, and we’ll see what happens to that if we do go down.
    Hollis, sack. No players brought in in Jan, as above for Fox for strategy and next season, only idea so far is to spend money on outside consultants to tell him what the problems are, because he DOESN’T know.
    I can run this club better:
    1. Restructure player contracts so that there’s a clause to release them for nothing if they don’t play for X amount of time, and more performance based than a flat weekly rate.
    2. Convince Garde to stay
    3. Put a rocket under the current squad to try to stay up.
    4. Sell most of them if they don’t, keep Amavi, Vertout, Ayew Lescott (yes I know, but want a core of Villa “blood” and have to start somewhere), Traore. Loan them out for a year if they don’t want to play in the championship. Gestede can also stay for as long as we’re in the lower leagues.
    5. Strip all “perks” for Directors, C suite execs. Board roles will no longer pay.
    6. Youth, spend good money poaching the best youth <16yrs around. Rent out our youth facilities to smaller teams, or foreign clubs. Summer academies for rich kids.
    7. Ladies team, if we have one, disband it until we are financially sound.
    8. Fans, no little press conferences with my bodyguards. Big meet and greet at Villa park, need you onside. Rowdy fans area for the Ultras as when the rest of the stadium is quiet they won't be. Family areas away from them.
    9. Back to the old crest, no more Kitty Cat playing with a ball, with no claws or teeth. Roaring Lion, fangs and claws bare, Star outside the crest to signify the actual achievement that earned it.
    10. Might have to rename Villa Park though, as the ground needs to be modernized.

    Just need 150,000 ppl willing to part with 1000GBP, with an interesting interest rate of course. MOM's, AVST, you know a lawyer who can draft the proposal, a structured mini junk bond sale to finance a fan's takeover?

  4. Want some demoted or if they won’t accept that then sacked, Hollis’ only idea is to hire external consultants to find out what the problem is. They’ll come cheap no doubt. Him and Fox I would fire immediately.
    It’s bleedin obvious what the problems are, fat contracts for underperforming players, overreliance on statistics, manager left as spokesperson for the club, fans disconnect, failure to keep hold of our best players either from the academy or the 1st team, being seen as a selling club, and finally an owner who is absent at best, derelict at worst. Yet somehow Hollis’ needs to pay some company with a fancy logo to find this out? The blame game already; and he’s in the job just long enough to stop any January transfers that might have both saved Villa and convinced Garde the board would back him.
    Reason I say demoted, is actually some of the stats work paid off, Amavi, Vertout, Gana (horror at l’pool aside), Ayew all look decent. It’s more Sherwood’s picks that haven’t worked, Gestede, Sinclair, Micah. Not going to mention Jolean as if he is good to his word and stays with a reduced contract, all will be forgiven.

  5. Most supporters have said for several years now we need one or two football people who know our club and the Premier League. Lerner chose not to do that instead he relied on yes men who are clueless beyond belief. No wonder O’Neill did a runner when he sat down and heard Lerner’s vision of the future. The supporters don’t have a say, they are even evicted if they dare to put a banner up. ( Did I say supporters? Sorry I meant customers ) What a shame we cannot get a consortium to buy out Lerner he’s a bloody albatross around OUR clubs neck and needs getting rid of. What kind of person gets a villa tattoo on his leg then goes to three matches in two years? I hope Fox gets the sack and that’s another £1m a year saved but also Paddy Reilly and Almstadt. Oh yes lets not forget the good General Mr Krulak whoever he is. The sooner we get Our club back the better otherwise this could well be just the start of the downward spiral.

  6. MEND OUR CLUB!! Lerner will only allow him to do what what HE wants and I think we have seen over the last 5 years what he wants…..to totally destroy the club, as he did with the Browns.
    If Lerner is such an astute business man, why couldn’t he see what a complete and utter hack he’s board have been making of running his multi million pound asset.
    If he had just one atom of interest in the club, he would have sacked Fox and Co years ago for being absolutely useless at the respective jobs and completely unfit for purpose, therefore this makes him totally culpable for everything at the club, from the board to the management, players etc right down to the cleaners. Hollis’s expertise, as I understand it, is to see failed companies through administration and bankruptcy. But if he is to administer the cull then he should star at the idiots who call themselves board members, problem is……it’s too bloody late!!!
    The club is rancid from top to bottom and no matter how many new puppets Lerner employs they are as only as good as the puppet master allows, so basically, we’ve had it.
    With regards to Remy Garde, in my opinion he deserves a knighthood for having to put up with these hapless imbeciles, I think he could be our best manager we’ve had in years, he knows who the primadonners are, he knows who the hangers on are and he also knows the ones who simply aren’t good enough are, problem is he’s having to work within the confines of a straight jacket. If we can get someone to back Remy and allow him to do his job properly, I think we have a good un, ignore what the so call pundits say, let’s face it, outside of the top 4 or 5 top sides…sorry fashionable sides they no little or nothing about most of the other clubs they just spew out seasons old cliches.
    So, how do we get out of this malaise, answer ….God Knows….unless we get a buyer who is willing to take an interest…..there is no end to it. There is no structure, no plan, no hope. Yes, these twats will keep spouting about plans and infrastructure…but it’s all crap….how many plans have we suppose to have had over the past years…a few…none of which have worked, unless the plan was to kill the club…..that ones worked. So, my dear Fellow Villa supporters this is the end of AVFC as we would like it to be, unless we we have a new buyer……..who’s buying football teams these days, there’re not there anymore. The scum at the Hawthornes have just entered into what we did 4/5 years ago, they are up for sale, same with the Wolves, how much did they both spend in January….
    Nothing, so they are on the same track as us.
    I would like to say there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but their isn’t, so we’ll done Lerner you have achieved the double of ruining both the Villa and the Browns, that must be a first…I bet your dad is turning in his grave at your total incompitancy.
    It’s worth remembering that when Lerner took over, his total wealth was around 3 billion according to Forbes, his worth is now around 1 billion and that’s after selling his shares in the Browns, that sound like a business man on top of his game!!!

    RIP AVFC

  7. Randy Lerner, is, a bad man. I know this because of his outstanding single handed, neglect, and destruction of our club.
    Single handed? Yes, every decision since from the commencement of his ownership, until now, has been made by him. The people employed by him, have been yes men, who have not any previous experience in the running of a football club. To any sensible business man, that is a recipe for disaster, Lerner is not that sensible man, hence the state we are in today.
    As long as he still owns our club, I fear for us. His priority is a sale, wont happen now, so more austerity, more yes men, more bad decisions, more unmotivated players, and perhaps, more neutered managers.
    If you want to sell your house, you make sure it’s in good condition, not neglected and left to rot, otherwise the house will be unsalable, and will further deteriorate. Same goes for our club.
    The future? sorry to say, it’s grim, we will be relegated, there is very little chance of a massive rebuilding of the squad, so we will struggle in the Championship. The ultimate nightmare, is relegation from there, the way things are at the club, it’s a distinct possibility.
    I hope Garde stays, but can’t see that happening, who would want to work for such a bunch of yes men and bullshitters.
    That’s my miserable but realistic, in my mind that is, prediction for our future, I wont shoot myself, but will carry on supporting MY club in the hope that that negative force from across the Atlantic goes away. UTV

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