Aston Villa & The Pursuit Of Mediocrity


Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

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5 Responses

  1. kevin says:

    very good read I am a season ticket holder at the villa the football or rather hoofball we are playing is gross if we played like Swansea instead of the new stoke villa park would be full every week I along with my family and friends will not be renewing my season ticket next season we will not be the only ones this manager is driving fans away with his brand of hoofball.

  2. Dave says:

    Couldn’t agree more. More than ever now there is a very small number of clubs who have the finances available to challenge for the league title. Other than that, the vast majority are just making up the numbers. The FA Cup is a competition that a clubs like Villa should be looking to win. If only to give their supporters something to cheer (they’re not going to be challenging for the league any time soon). And as you say, getting to the final is how many games? 5? 6? Hardly a marathon. And I also notice that Villa have nine days to recover from the Cup game before they meet Arsenal in a league match. Surely managers and clubs see what is happening? Of course the league is the priority (for every club). But they must know that all the are playing for us survival or mid table mediocrity? And that supporters want more than this. And the FA Cup can provide that. Something to look forward to. Something you can think about actually winning. If I were a Villa fan I’d want Lambert out of the club tomorrow.

  3. Wabbit_Season says:

    Sir Ian. Villa supporter from the US and, while I appreciate your take, I would like to compare the situation at Villa with that of my favorite American baseball team: The Pittsburgh Pirates.

    This year, the Pirates ended the longest losing streak in modern professional sports. 20 years without a winning season.

    Like Villa, the Pirates are one of the truly historical and storied teams in Major League Baseball, dating back into the 1800s and the dawn of the game. But since the early 1990s the Pirates have done exactly bupkus.

    Once you endeavor on such a generational losing streak, you become fixated. You can’t just quit. You’ve got to see it through. And this season the Pirates finally had a winning record and went to the playoffs.

    It was not by miracle. Nor by pricey player acquisitions. And it certainly did not happen overnight. The success had its genesis some 5 years ago or more when the ownership took stock of the situation and developed a plan to overcome the team’s dire fiscal situation, lack of talent throughout its recruiting and development system, fix the way they acquired and developed talent, etc. so they could compete in a system where teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers have unlimited spending power while teams like the Pirates have no room for error on the kind of limited budget they have. Sound familiar?

    Villa is currently in a cycle, I believe, where they are trying to compete in the big market by using small market wiles. When the Pirates did this, they drafted talent and grew that talent through their system. They traded away proven stars in return for young up and coming players (some of whom worked out and some which did not).

    All the while, the press and fans cried that the ownership was cheap and wouldn’t spend and didn’t care about the product on the field. The front office in Pittsburgh took a lot of heat and put their heads down and stuck with the plan they had drawn up.

    AND it seems to be working. Now, the Pirates have, fresh off a galvanizing run to the playoffs last fall and driven by promising young stars who should be with the team for years to come, a sustainable future with rising stars all throughout their development system.

    But it took 5-6 years of doing. Loads of investment in not only personnel, but in scouting, facilities, and in the personnel trusted to develop the players… the coaches. And the Pirates and its management was mercilessly derided as a joke.

    The Pirates were never even close to mediocre. You should be glad Villa clings to mediocre because Villa fans have no idea what kind of road could be theirs to travel.

    I would hope that Lerner and Lambert are trying to implement such a system-wide plan. They do seem to be going for young up and coming players and hoping that they pan out. The Villa academy is not in bad shape with a nest full of bright prospects. The fan base, though slackening right now perhaps, is still one of the biggest and most loyal fan bases in football.

    I think that Villa might be wise to employ the “Director of Football Operations” that some teams have gone to, dividing player acquisition and contract matters from the Coach’s job of managing and training the first team squad. It is common in the states, this kind of setup.

    AND I THINK that Villa may be in that same period the Pirates were just before everything started to fall into place. Before the 2013 season, nobody predicted the Pirates would have a winning season, let alone a wildly successful one. The fans were jumping off bridges, some of ‘em. But some of us could see improvement.

    Likewise with Villa. I see an improvement over the kind of stuff that we saw since the departure of Martin O’Neil. We’re not in a relegation scrap and we ARE mediocre. But we’re not awful. There currently is nothing wrong with Villa that a center back pairing of Okore and Vlaar (and a playmaking #10 midfielder) wouldn’t fix. The depth appears to be improving with some young players figuring it out on the big stage who should, as they mature, become more productive.

    IT MIGHT BE that Villa has a plan and they’re executing it. I see positive signs despite the recent disappointments.

    Have faith.
    Have courage.
    Be Prepared.


  4. Bevington says:

    First. I’d like to congratulate Wabbit on an excellent post. Pragmatic but positive, and knowing other people think like that helps us keep the faith.

    Second, I’m going to stick my head above the parapet and suggest that right now, for Aston Villa, no cup competition matters. It would be different if mid table mediocrity was our expectation, but as things stand, its an aspiration. We have had 3 very close run seasons, and while our current rate of return of points would be enough, performances over the last few weeks have not given much cause for expecting us to continue that rate of return. Could Villa be in another relegation fight this season? Absolutely. An injury or two (eg Vlaar) could mean the difference between winning and losing that fight and I would rather not risk that in a cup competition if we do not stand a good chance of winning it (and we don’t).

    The plan is to rebuild a squad that can compete in the Premiership whilst remaining financially sustainable. We don’t even know if that is possible if everybody else isn’t doing the same thing. I suspect we cannot even compete with a lot of Championship clubs for wages, and yet the task is to build a squad to compete in the Premiership. We are in the midst of those ‘growing’ pains and our squad really does look threadbare at the moment.

    Whatever happens, I will still be renewing my season ticket next year

    I’m afraid I found the original post a trite exposition from someone on the outside looking in. I remember reading something equally disappointing from Phil McNulty for BBC telling us how we never gave Alex McLeish a chance.

  5. Berbaslug says:

    Well I suppose the question has to be what should villa do? Villa tried to buy their way into the cl under o’neill, and spent a lot of lerners money. They wound up getting poor value for their money. And this set them up for large losses long after they turned off the tap.

    They’re trying to make the move from loss making sugar daddy club to a club that generates it’s own money for transfers. A big part of that is staying in the premiership while cutting their wages To turnover ratio from over 85% to about 60%. Their plan involves moving out all the big earners and replacing them with players from the championship or smaller European leagues.

    If they can stay up with these players, and players from the academy, and get rid of bent Ireland, given, nzogbia and Hutton, then they’ll be able to afford to spend a lot of money on a better class of player to help them climb the table. The higher they climb the more money they have to spend, the better the squad you can afford.

    Villa have a big fanbase, they Are the biggest club in the midlands, which is one of the most populous and economically active regions of Europe. They have a good academy. If they were to climb the table to seventh or eighth, and consistently do well, they could expand their stadium, increase their corporate facilities which would close the gap in income to the teams above them, establish themselves as a regional powerhouse and Hoover up commercial sponsorship from the midlands.

    The thing is that villa have generally been making a pigs Mickey of running their club for years. It’s going to take quite a while for them to sort things out. The quicker they can get things right with this finances, and start to get it right on the pitch, then the quicker they will get there.

    I appreciate that I’ve focus see a bit heAvily on the financial Aspect of things. But villa’s plan is to get to the point where they can afford to sign and pay better players and get themselves into a stronger position, and then they can have a go at winning various cups.

    Switching from being a sugar daddy club to one that lives within its means is t pretty. Ask any fan of Milan, inter or juventus.

    Sorry about bizarre bits but writing on a phone and it’s tricky to go back to edi properly

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