[quote_center]”We’ve got by far the best house on the worst street in town” – Tom Fox on Villa’s current position[/quote_center]
Fox said the BBC interview where he said sacking Lambert was ‘false narrative’ was taken out of context. Initially, he thought continuity was the best policy with Lambert. Why did he give him a new contract so soon? Having taken over as Villa CEO in the summer, he was starting from scratch with Lambert and saw positive signs after Villa were unbeaten in their first four games with three wins. Wanting to get the house in order and start planning ahead, he thought a new contract would lay the foundations.
When results took a turn for the worse, he then obviously realised despite his belief in continuity, that all his long-term planning would go up in smoke if things continued under Lambert. After all, his new commercial director wouldn’t be happy working in the Championship and Villa could miss out on the massive new Premier League TV deal which starts in 2016.
He did say the notion of sacking a manager is harder as a narrative when you don’t have anybody in mind to replace them. He said his phone was very busy once Lambert was fired. Perhaps the missed opportunity was not to ask Fox about Sherwood’s earlier visits to Villa Park this year. Was he being lined up for the job?
Villa’s Director of Recruitment Paddy Reilly was instrumental in sourcing Sherwood. Fox also attributed the Carles Gil transfer to Reilly. Interestingly, Alex McLeish claimed this week that Christian Benteke was in the club’s scouting database while he was at the club. Paddy Reilly was also present at the club (before he went to Liverpool before returning to Villa). Reilly is also believed to be instrumental in the acquisition of Westwood and Vlaar too.
When asked about who had been sounded out about the job, Fox didn’t deal in specifics but offered ‘You wouldn’t believe how many people called me – agents, managers etc’. He also said that if he wasn’t sure how big a club Villa are, then his experience post-Lambert made it clear.
Fox drove to his Sherwood’s house in Buckinghamshire three times to discuss the job, before offering him the job. Each meeting lasted around three hours. Fox first spoke about the man he saw, the family man with four daughters. Fox seemed to be most impressed by Sherwood’s immediate interest in the psychology of players. When they first met, Sherwood was asking Fox for a breakdown of the players: who the ring leaders were, who the quiet players were, identifying who he needed to put an arm around, who needed a kick up the butt, who needed encouragement/dressing down in public or private etc.
Fox saw this grasp of player psychology as being essential to Villa’s immediate struggle. Fox said he was always after someone for the long-term as well, and Sherwood fit the bill on the basis of his work with the Spurs youth system.
Director of Football
Fox added that although Sherwood had a bad experience at Spurs with the Director of Football, he was ok with Fox’s plan to hire a Director of Football Operations, as he would be working alongside Sherwood and not be interfering with player selection or transfers.
Is Lerner Still Selling?
Essentially he said every sports asset is up for sale. Despite bringing up Lerner’s change of heart from May to July last year, Fox didn’t really explain the Villa chairman’s change of heart, but obviously it’s related to lack of credible buyer and Fox’s plans for increased revenue for the club.
Fox dismissed the notion that Lerner would seek partners to inject cash into the club. After all the Financial Fair Play (FFP) constraints would limit what they could invest into the team.
Will Lerner Splash the Cash on Team?
Essentially Fox said Villa threw 10’s of millions down the pan at the start, so not surprisingly Lerner got bored of that. He stressed Villa need to tap into partnerships and international commercial opportunities. All of which would ultimately help strengthen the team.
Fox also gave the last January window as an example of Lerner still being willing to back his manager. After Carles Gil, Lerner said, ‘Great, anybody else?’. He said the same thing after the acquisition of Scott Sinclair and was willing to get in Rickie Lambert too. Fox disclosed, Villa had been in for Lambert before Liverpool came to play at Villa Park. It was Liverpool that revived the possible deal on deadline day by asking Lambert if he was interested in the switch to Villa Park.
There doesn’t seem to be set budgets per transfer windows, it’s more a case of addressing Villa’s needs on a case by case basis. If persuaded a player is needed, Lerner will green light the transfer.
What happens if Villa get relegated?
I asked Fox if the unthinkable situation of Villa being relegated had been discussed and if contingency plans had been made? It seems there has been a bit of talk in the hallways of Villa Park, and Fox admitted that himself and Robin Russell had recently discussed the financial implications of it.
Lerner too had discussed it and as Fox said, he basically said, if we do go down, come August we’ll still be playing football and so we’ll still aim to push onwards and upwards. Of course, this could compromise Fox’s current plans of boosting Villa’s commercial revenue, so in order for them to flourish faster it is obviously vital for Villa to stay in the Premier League.
More Regular Meetings
To improve accountability and communication Tom Fox proposed that meetings with AVST should be more frequent, rather than once a year. If we can arrange one for the end of the season, it’s recommended that you come along.
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