Once giants of European football, Aston Villa have had a fall from grace in recent years so dramatic, it brings tears to the eyes of many a football purist (not to mention Villa fans).
After finding themselves toiling at the bottom of the English top flight for the last few years, it seems as though rash decisions and a lack of investment from the powers that be at the club have finally caught up with them.
And quite shockingly, with still half a dozen league games left to play (at the time of writing) Villa are now in danger of having their relegation to the Championship confirmed in just one game’s time.
Ticking Time Bomb
In truth, it is a relegation that has been a long time coming for the lowly midlands side. Many indeed have argued that this day had been looming ever since ex-manager Martin O’Neil left the club back in 2010 due to a perceived ‘lack of ambition’ from Villa’s chairman Randy Lerner.
After three straight seasons challenging in the upper echelons of the English top flight, many of Villa’s burgeoning home-grown squad were duly cherry picked from clubs higher up the food chain.
First it was highly-rated central midfielder Gareth Barry who made a £12 million switch to Manchester City in 2009 and once his former teammate James Milner also found his way to the Etihad in a departure worth £28 million the very next season, current Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neil called time on his Villa Park tenure and left the club after then being told he would not be able to use any of the Milner funds to re-strengthen his squad.
And ever since that day things have only gone from bad to worse in B6.
In a similar fashion to fellow fallen giants Leeds United (although nowhere near as extreme), American owner Lerner generously bankrolled the club on the proviso that they would be able to vindicate this heavy spending by qualifying for European football’s elite competition. And as amiable as three straight top-six finishes were for Villa, that famous Champions League music would prove never to ring out at Villa Park during this period of rather frivolous spending.
With O’Neil gone and a clutch of Premier League clubs ready to strip Villa of their remaining British talent (both Stewart Downing and Ashley Young departed to Liverpool and Manchester United the next season respectively), Lerner decided to ‘steady the ship’ as it were and in an attempt to recoup the serious wad of cash he had spent on Villa’s nearly-men, appointed Alex Mcleish (the less said about that the better) and then Paul Lambert and Tim Sherwood who were tasked with keeping the club in good shape whilst working within the perimeters of a shoe-string budget.
By the time French manager Remi Garde was brought into save the club from yet another relegation fight this season, it was already too late.
The ex-Lyon boss had barely two Premier League quality players to rub together after again, the club buckled to the demands of the established hierarchy by selling star striker Christian Benteke to Liverpool and influential midfielder Fabian Delph to Manchester City the previous summer.
After a series of embarrassing defeats had left the club languishing at the bottom of the Premier League table, a struggling Remi Garde – who was denied any January transfer dealings – was inevitably given his marching orders, which brings us to the present day.
With their maiden season in the English Championship now a certainty, it is now up to Aston Villa’s new-look ‘football board’ comprising of Brain Little and co to try and restore the club to former glories as we embark on arguably the darkest period of their decorated history.