Aston Villa are right back where they were in August 2010 when Martin O’Neill walked away as manager because the then club owner Randy Lerner wouldn’t invest in players.
I’m not saying current boss Dean Smith is going to leave because the board won’t back him – but the principle is the same as it was a decade ago. Do you try to kick on and improve, or settle for what you’ve got?
And if Aston Villa settle for what they now have, then let me tell you next May will see them where they have been the last three weeks – scrambling around for Premier League points to stay up and hoping that other results go their way in order to stave off relegation.
Ten years ago, Martin O’Neill had taken the team to sixth in the Premier League for three seasons in a row, each year winning more points than in the previous term.
He wanted more transfer funds to improve the team and get in among Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal – then England’s big boys.
Lerner said no, O’Neill moved aside and Villa have never been back at those heights since. It was a huge turning point in the club’s recent history.
Now Smith has got to get the backing to buy three, four, even five players, to ensure that ‘the Villa’ put down Premier League foundations and do not flirt with falling out of the top flight anytime soon.
That money will come from two sources, backing from the board, and the sale of Jack Grealish.
As one who still loves Aston Villa, because of the many happy years spent with the club, I would hope he won’t leave, but it seems inevitable that Jack has played his last match in Claret and Blue.
At least my old team will get top dollar for him now. Had Villa been relegated there would have been a firesale with the big clubs moving in for their best players, of which the midfielder would have been the prime asset.
Now the team that gets Jack, most likely Manchester United, is going to have to pony up his full value – big time.
I know Jack has a bad reputation in Ireland because of his unwillingness to play for the Boys in Green, having worn the shirt at under-age level.
But he’s a good lad, and I say good lad, not good kid, for Jack turns 25 next month.
Moreover, it is time for him to make a move if he wants to leave the club he supported as a boy and go elsewhere.
By the way, a little birdie whispered into my ear not so long ago that Jack now regrets not staying with Ireland, ironically when the same Martin O’Neill was our manager. The boss pleaded with Jack and his family that the lad stay with Ireland.
But it’s too late now – you can’t change your international allegiance twice!
Without Grealish, Villa are going to be short of a touch of inspiration, that little something that can open Premier League defences next season.
So they will need a lot more perspiration that will come from a much deeper squad with improvements secured in key positions.
One of them is surely the defence, which conceded more goals in the Premier League the season just ended than any club bar hapless Norwich.
That was surprising with John Terry on the coaching staff. But a lot of the problems were created by lads like Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konza playing the ball out from the back as though they were the second coming of Franz Beckenbauer.
Sorry lads, in the modern Premier League, if you want to play the ball out, you have to be Beckenbauer to do it.
Back in my day, it used to take teams half a season to come to terms with a club using a new tactic or bringing in new players.
Now, with DVDs and stats available from so many sources instantly, teams know exactly what their opponents are going to do.
And the word was out on Aston Villa last season. ‘Let their defenders have the ball and spray it around for 15 minutes, then suddenly change to a hard and high press and you’ll soon nick the ball back in a good area.’ And then Sergio Aguero, Sadio Mane, Harry Kane and their likes would step in and score.
I love Dean Smith. He and his late father stood on the Holte End watching me. But next season a little extra touch of pragmatism, and a few new players, might carry Aston Villa a bit higher up the Premier League table. That way the nerves of all who love the club might not be so frayed in 12 months’ time.
Just one other thing, Bournemouth will get nowhere with an appeal about the result of the Aston Villa-Sheffield United match – in which the Blades were not awarded a ‘good’ goal and from which Villa thus got the point that effectively kept them up and sent Bournemouth down.
It was not VAR that was the problem, it was the goal-line technology, and the referee’s failure to use VAR to resolve the wrong call, that caused the cock-up that ensued. It was human error too.
While all the goal-line cameras may have had their line of sight blocked, surely the linesman ought to have seen the ball go over the line?. He was in line with the incident and ought to have asked the referee to use VAR when the whistler’s wrist-watch did not ‘buzz’ for a goal?