What can Aston Villa fans learn from the week when Tim Sherwood paid the price for a terrible start to what we all hoped would be the start of a long and successful tenure as manager?
While a significant amount of damage was already done, the final nail in Tim Sherwood’s coffin was the come-from-ahead-loss at home to Swansea. As performances go, it was nothing new. Starting with another team selection that had many fans scratching their heads, Villa looked good in spells (sigh!) and a well-worked move led to a sweet finish from a player who must become part of any escape from relegation, Jordan Ayew. And then: the collapse.
But when the equaliser went in, then Ayew’s brother got the winner, Sherwood’s face said it all – he was a dead man walking. He had been rolling the dice on team selection for weeks hoping something would click. This time, he crapped out once too often.
The lesson for future managers should be this: four points from 30 isn’t going to be enough to keep your job, even if you are a plain-talking, affable guy who gave all Villa fans a lift with a couple of trips to Wembley.
Since Martin O’Neill took us to a League Cup final, then walked out on the club because they didn’t have any more money for him, the club has become impossible to handle. At the time of his hiring, Aston Villa were the envy of many clubs with a manager who seemed to be a perfect fit to take the club to the next level.
By the time he left the club had an unsustainable wage bill, players that weren’t worth a fraction of what he had paid for them, and an underwhelmed fan base that had no choice but to accept that the club had to gamble on bargains to get better while paying new players less than other rival clubs would offer.
O’Neill’s win percentage was 42.11%. The next three men hired in his wake took the club into a decline they are still slumped in – Gerard Houllier (38.89%), Alex McLeish (21.43%) and Paul Lambert (29.57%).
Tim Sherwood had a luxury his predecessor will tell you he was denied – some big money to spend – but it was spread pretty thinly on a lot of “projects” and even he couldn’t shift N’Zogbia and his bloated payday. He not only lost Benteke and Delph but couldn’t predict the implosion of Ron Vlaar’s career and form or the injuries to Clarke and Okore all of which made his job that much harder.
But as Villa fans we’re tired of excuses. The manager’s job is to manage. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so hard to find somebody capable of handling the job. Houllier’s health reasons for leaving aside, McLeish was a horrible, unpopular, uninspired hire from day one, and while the fans hoped Lambert could repeat his success at Norwich, his dour denial to everyone that everything would be ‘fine’ despite repeated relegation battles and repeated signings of Championship calibre players, his reign was as ugly as there has been in recent history. Sherwood’s biggest crime was self-confidence and his assumption that he would have time to tweak and adjust until he got a run of wins together.
In the meanwhile, Aston Villa have become the biggest donors of three points in the league and are a soft touch – a horrible but accurate comment on the state of the club. Each manager since John Gregory left the club in 2002 has played a part in its demise. It took 13 years to get from exciting, winning flair football within an acceptable budget to here: losing week after week, boring football (Sherwood’s words, not mine) and still limited to budget buys and gambles while selling our best players to rivals already better than us.
The bottom line – under this ownership and its constraints, if it takes 13 years to get back to where we once were fans should get used to the idea of relegation and every chance of a few years in the Championship before happy days are here again.
As of writing, Rémi Garde is the hot favorite for the job of next Villa manager.
However, given that it’s only been a little while since the board last interviewed for the same position, surely some of the former candidates will have to be approached too (thanks, Dwight, but no thanks – no offense).
Garde ticks a lot of boxes given the track record of hirings made by the current regime, but it’s not the big name that used to be linked to the job. And who knows, maybe a big name isn’t the answer anyway considering the handcuffs he will have to wear – and the clauses he will have to endure in his contact. That two million pound pay-off to Sherwood could have paid for eight new right backs! #gallowshumour
Remember the reaction of Reo-Coker and Curtis Davies when O’Neill was sacked? It was celebratory, hoping that a new man would see the light and restore the overpaid, overpriced players to the first XI.
Jack Grealish’s reaction to the loss of the man that was clearly a mentor was from the heart. Just hours after posting on Twitter how the team will take responsibility for the results and how things would go our way soon, he was posting a photo of him hugging Sherwood with the caption: “Gutted – thank you for everything”.
The 20-year-old would be really thinking back to remember the last Villa sides to be regularly challenging for silverware, but history shouldn’t be on his mind. His form and talent will be as important as anyone’s to getting things going our way again – just without a manager he will always have a special bond with calling the shots. The best way to honour Sherwood is to show the world that the ex-gaffer was right to put his protege into the spotlight.
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