Aston Villa: From Top 4 Contention to Top Tier Relegation

Randy Lerner was considered Villa’s saviour back in 2006. The American was a hero who was ready to bring the Birmingham based club back to it’s glory days. The promise of US millions accompanied by the arrival of the big hitting Martin O’Neill. There was certainly optimism surrounding Villa Park.

Doug Ellis had taken the club as far as he could. Ellis had poured his ‘heart and soul’ into the club, but they needed a fresh start. Lerner inherited the club in very good shape. A quality first team and no debt at all.

The American stated his ambitions right from the word ‘Go’ saying that Villa would be going for Europe.

Although Lerner stated his ambitions straight away, he did also state his intentions to eventually leave. Lerner said it wouldn’t be a ‘lifelong thing.’

However, the commitment was there, Lerner even got the Villa badge tattooed on his ankle.


Martin O’Neill

Things got off to a good start. Lerner kept his promises. Villa spent £200 million on players and were handing out salaries of £40,000 to squad players. Financially they were starting to compete with the big boys. Results were good. They had three consecutive sixth place finishes as well as a League Cup final.

Regarded by many as consistent success. Lerner didn’t agree and soon pulled the dollars. Like with so many clubs, Villa’s descent soon began. They were no longer a club after top talent, but were considered a ‘selling club.’

Gareth Barry went to City in 2009 and was quickly followed by James Milner in 2010. The year after Ashley Young and Stewart Downing left. In fairness to Villa they were at least getting good value for money. O’Neill left Villa in 2010, five days before the season started as he was completely unimpressed by the direction the club was going in.

Former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier was next up. He was brought in as O’Neill’s replacement and Villa almost instantly became candidates for the drop. Darren Bent turned out to be their saviour and was the last big acquisition at £24 million under the Lerner era.


Villa’s Nemesis Takes Control

Houllier left the club at the end of the season after undergoing heart surgery. His replacement was hardly an ideal fit.

Alex McLeish took over the Villa reins, having previously won the League Cup with Birmingham City before seeing them relegated. He was never accepted by the Villa supporters, as 1,000 fans turned up outside Villa Park to protest at his appointment.

It would have been an exceptionally hard job even without the supporters’ backlash. Lerner’s finances had taken a hit as his family stake in the Bank Of America had dropped significantly.

He wanted McLeish to trim the wage bill, yet keep the club competitive at the same time. Not an easy job.


Villa Become A Sacking Club

McLeish left the club by mutual consent at the end of the 2011/12 season. The reasons cited were ‘poor style and results.’ However, it appeared for once that fan power had won. Next up was Paul Lambert as he took over the hot seat.

The Scotsman was warmly welcomed after his performances with Norwich. It was never going to be easy though, with Lerner himself telling Lambert that the first year would be ‘his most difficult year in management.’ Lambert managed to scrap Villa to 16th before it was announced the club was for sale at £200 million.

With so much negativity around the club once more, fans took matters into their own hands. They were calling for a change right from the top. When the owner can’t go, the next best thing is the manager and before you knew it Lambert had been sacked by the club.

His replacement Tim Sherwood took things by storm. He gave confidence back to Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke guiding them to safety and an unlikely FA Cup Final.

Unfortunately for Sherwood, Villa once again showed their total lack of ambition. Benteke moved to Liverpool for £32.5 million with Delph moving to Manchester City. Unfortunately, the money wasn’t well spent and Sherwood lost six games in a row during the 2015/16 season. This ultimately ended in his dismissal.

Up next was Remi Garde. He took on what seemed the impossible. Most of the fans and players already seemed to have accepted relegation. With Villa rooted to the bottom, Garde soon decided to leave the club.


A Saviour For Villa

However, Villa fans have finally got their wish. Lerner is gone. Dr. Tony Xia, a Chinese businessman, has bought the club for £60 million and has ambitious plans.

He plans to spend £30 – £50 million on players in order to get them promoted to the Premier League.

However, the Championship is a marathon and not a sprint, but Villa do have a decent chance of going up.

The good news is Villa are getting a fresh start. Again.


Written by Edward Ware

Follow Edward on Twitter @wade_edward

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