News Off the Ball

Monday 22 September 2014

Villa are in the doldrums – and nobody even cares

New owner won't be found in time to save fans from another season of woe next term

Michael McCarthy

Published 14/05/2014 | 02:30

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Randy Lerner has announced that he is to put Aston Villa up for sale
Randy Lerner has announced that he is to put Aston Villa up for sale

It's grim – really grim – being an Aston Villa supporter right now. The season ended in fitting fashion on Sunday with a toothless loss away to Spurs, with three goals conceded before half-time.

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But it wasn't until I had to watch Manchester City destroy Aston Villa last Wednesday that I fathomed the depths of how miserable it is to be a Villa fan.

It wasn't so much the hammering inflicted by a team looking to wrap up the championship, but how much of a complete non-factor Villa were in the game. After years of grinding me down, I finally just didn't care any more.

This season was worse than most. There was the odd bright point in seemingly random wins over City, Arsenal and Chelsea. Ultimately, they were a team that should have been relegated and were saved by those bizarre results.

Most weeks, they played with five at the back, had about 30pc possession and rarely even looked like scoring a goal.

It was impossible to watch and it got worse as the year went on. The only spark Villa fans hung on to last summer was keeping Christian Benteke, the Belgian striker who has been the most exciting Villa player in a decade. Even his season was a disaster, though. Two injuries bookended his lacklustre campaign. Excitement never lasts too long at Villa Park.

On Monday, after months of rumours, Randy Lerner announced that he's put the club up for sale. The American's arrival in 2006 brought with it investment, ambition and Martin O'Neill at his apex of relevancy.

When Lerner suddenly realised that this was costing him money, he quickly pulled back and Villa have been in a holding pattern ever since. High earners were frozen out, big names such as Ashley Young sold. He was more Hicks and Gillett than Abramovich. After a brief glimpse of hope, it was the road to nowhere again for Aston Villa.

Worst of all, though, is that nobody cares. The biggest club in England's second city inspires no interest because nothing of note has happened there in 20 years. Now their own fans are losing interest.

Watching last Wednesday really put into perspective how little Villa matter. Mere filler to complete the bigger picture. They were at their most interesting all season as "the other team" when Manchester City basically wrapped up the title and as the last hope for Liverpool, but they didn't really put up much of a fight.

Maybe a new owner can kick the club into life at last.

In reality, though, it's more likely a buyer won't be secured in time for the new season and a dead transfer window will condemn us, the fans, to more of the same for at least another year.

Irish Independent

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