THERE’S nothing quite like a Premier League club owner staring down the barrel of relegation and willing to agree to anything in the hope that a new manager might find a way to do what the old one could not.
Randy Lerner wants to sell Aston Villa and has wanted to sell Aston Villa for quite some time. He sacked Paul Lambert and has installed a relative novice, Tim Sherwood, in the hope that he can save the season and his investment.
I’m not sure why Lerner bought Aston Villa. Maybe he thought he turn a quick profit, but the moment for that flew by when he chose to deny Martin O’Neill money for players back in the summer of 2010
Instead of trusting the judgement that led him to appoint the man, Lerner refused to invest in O’Neill. Four years and four managers later, it’s a relegation battle.
Some clubs are haunted by their past and I would number Aston Villa among them. As one of the founder members of the English Football League, they were always a step ahead, always had a better ground then most and were tapping into a vast population area in the Midlands.
Under Ron Saunders they rose to meet their reputation as a big club and won the European Cup in a remarkable purple patch in the early 1980s. They’ve been trying to live up to that one way or another ever since.
When Lerner took over from Doug Ellis, it seemed that a sleeping giant might wake. There is no question in my mind that a successful Aston Villa side could be a big force in the game and when he hired O’Neill, I was very optimistic about their chances.
I gave him credit for hiring a good manager and I would have to say that despite his very visible wish to get out of Aston Villa as fast as he can and more than one dreadful decision made along the way, Lerner’s choice of managers has not been bad at all.
Gerrard Houllier’s appointment after he let O’Neill go was questionable as was Alex McLeish’s recruitment from local rivals Birmingham but Paul Lambert was a very good choice and I think Sherwood might be too.
Let me first give Lambert a pat on the back for keeping his dignity in dreadful circumstances and keeping Aston Villa in the Premier League when many lesser men would have buckled under the pressure.
I think Lambert has many of the qualities needed to be a very good manager indeed and I don’t think he will suffer because he has lost his job.
He was given no resources and mostly had to work with kids and a few free signings. He still managed to keep Villa up and along the way, his team tried to play football.
Sherwood is remarkable in many ways. He emerged out of the shadows at White Hart Lane to take over for a short spell after Andre Villas Boas walked the plank and seemed highly put out when he didn’t keep the job.
His attitude took me by surprise. There is a very thin line between confidence and arrogance and with no track record at all, Sherwood came across as slightly ridiculous.
He has been linked with every job vacancy since the summer and in the case of QPR, Newcastle and West Brom, held talks with the owners.
From what I can see, he turned down these jobs and that gave me a hint that there might be more to Sherwood than just a brash exterior and massive self-belief. I think most young managers in his position would take any job offered. It seems to me that Sherwood wasn’t happy with what was on the table and knows what he wants. I would give Villa a good chance of staying up now.
When you look at the clubs around them, I’m certain they have good enough players to stay in the Premier League.
There was a statistic doing the rounds after the enormous television deal secured by the Premier League that each game was now worth £10m.
That’s the prize for Sherwood and I wish him luck with the challenge.
His biggest task if he does succeed in keeping his team in the top division will be to handle an owner who follows every good choice with a really bad one.