Axe Keeps Swinging
After Hendrick Almstadt found his P45 waiting for him when he arrived back from his recent holiday in Dubai, it was the first clue that the man who employed him would be next.
MOMS was tipped off on Monday by a couple of sources that it was curtains for Aston Villa CEO Tom Fox, with only the formalities to be taken care off. This timed with Fox returning from a trip to the states, where probably either the decision was made or at least finalised. Fox was always in big danger of the axe having been chiefly responsible for the club’s nosedive into the Championship. He admitted it himself when asked to take responsibility by MOMS at the AVST AGM.
It was never going to be an easy job for Tom Fox at Villa, the club’s board structure was flimsy when he came to Villa Park. For some reason Randy Lerner seems to think a single CEO (without football credentials) was enough to run a Premier League club. It didn’t work in the case of Fox’s inexperienced predecessor Paul Faulkner, who always struggled to keep his head above water.
You don’t have to be a ‘football man’ to run a football club, but it is wise to seek council from those to whom it is their bread and butter. Just look at how Hollis has astutely restructured the Villa board by surrounding himself with wise heads that are fully-versed with all levels of the game.
It was a trick that ultimately Fox missed.
The former Villa CEO sought a modernisation of the club both on and off the pitch. He wanted to provide the club with an footballing infrastructure that was long-term in it’s thinking, where managerial change wouldn’t impact too much on the direction. In Hendrick Almstadt and Paddy Riley, he had tried to assemble a team that he’d hoped would provide a universal through-line of continuity when it came to player recruitment and squad structure.
The concept was good, the execution was a disaster.
Also, it was his intentions to shake Villa from it’s parochial business outlook and increase the club’s profile on the world’s stage. He stated that Aston Villa was five years behind some of the other teams in the Premier League, in terms of how it did business.
He was right. Unfortunately, what happened on the pitch under his influence, took his commercial plans off from the knees caps.
People like Brian Little (who is now acting as advisor to the club on a short-term contract), should have been working with the club in such a capacity years ago. Such advisors would have covered their own wages and saved the club millions simply by advising Lerner and Faulkner not to chose Alex McLeish. A catastrophic decision on many levels, that fired-up Villa’s rapid decline.
Fox though belittled such appointments viewing them largely as sentimental and when Steve Stride was mentioned to him at his first AVST meeting, he declared that Stride might not recognise how a football club is run from the last time he was at the club.
Stride has been working for UEFA since his last spell at Villa, so obviously he has some idea of the evolution.
It was obvious as Hollis’s new-look board took shape, Fox’s role would drastically alter and down-size if he was to remain at the club. Since David Bernstein and Mervyn King, weren’t getting any younger, certainly there was room for Fox to continue in some capacity, but it was unlikely his pride and the Villa supporters would be comfortable with that.
Losing Fan Favour
A lack of empathy with Villa supporters in the stands never really helped Fox. Vetoing supporter initiatives behind-the-scenes and stewards telling fans that orders had come from him when unfairly throwing them out, didn’t help his image amongst the Villa faithful.
Ultimately though, it was always going to be about results and Fox orchestrated one of the worst seasons in the club’s history. For the new-look Villa board to ultimately appease the club’s supporters, he had to go. Especially after the recent publishing of the club’s accounts brought into focus Fox’s extensive salary.
Below is the statement issued by the club:
For the record, the club are not currently on a ‘more sustainable path for the future’, nor did Fox ‘help a Club in need’.
Tom Fox Resignation Statement
Chairman Steve Hollis said “The Board would like to place on record its appreciation to Tom for his many contributions and commitment over the last 18 months. While the results this season have been disappointing he and his team have worked hard to put in place many changes necessary to put the Club on a more sustainable path for the future. He leaves with our best wishes for the future.”
Tom Fox said: “Joining Aston Villa was a huge privilege for me and while I’m bitterly disappointed by results this season, watching the Club compete at Wembley in the FA Cup Final last year is a memory I’ll cherish. I’m appreciative to the Board and the owner for the opportunity to help put Villa back on a solid footing and able to compete in the most competitive sports league in the world. Aston Villa is a proud and storied Club which deserves to be among the elite in Europe and I have every confidence that it will once again find its way back.
“Regarding my resignation, the owner made it very clear last summer that he and I would seek to recruit a Board that would put the Club in a stronger position in the event that a sale didn’t happen. As the Board has taken shape, however, it has become clear that my role also has changed. While I am supportive of where the Board is trying to take the Club, it is my feeling that given the changes they are making, it makes sense for me to seek another challenge. I have accepted the Board’s invitation to remain available during a period of transition to ensure a smooth handover.
“I would like to thank the many among the Villa family that have been very kind with their time and support and generous to me on a personal level during my time with the Club. You know who you are and you know how I feel. In the end I came to work at Aston Villa because I saw a special opportunity to help a Club in need and like many supporters, I feel as if the Club actually chose me.”
The Board will now commence its search for a permanent replacement. In the interim Steve Hollis will become the Executive Chairman.
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