Villans to Villains?

Think back to March of 2008. Aston Villa, arguably England’s (and the Premier League’s) biggest Midlands club were on the brink of a spot in the Champions League qualifiers under the guidance of Martin O’Neil. Now fast forward three years, and Villa ended the season in 9th, just sneaking into the top half by winning their last few games. Quite a fall from grace for a team who, till recently, challenged regularly in the top 6 and had once lifted the European Cup, in 1982.
In the summer that just passed, Villa’s American owner, Randy Lerner, would have done himself absolutely no favours in endearing himself to the Villa Park faithful. Gerard Houllier was dismissed from the managerial post due to health concerns, but in replacing him, Lerner committed a cardinal sin of English football – signing the manager from your local rivals. In pinching Alex McLeish from Birmingham City, Lerner may just have completely erased what little faith the fans may have had in him in the first place. He might have curried some favour last season, by funding the transfer of Darren Bent from Sunderland, but if this expensive acquisition fails, it will be disastrous for the reputations of both club and owner.
The fans make it known that they’re not at all happy having McLeish in charge
 Meanwhile, the club has also released or sold more than 10 players over the course of the summer! Ashley Young and Stewart Downing made big money moves to the North-West, to Man United and Liverpool respectively, and a whole host of first-teamers were offloaded, including the likes of Nigel Reo-Coker, John Carew, Robert Pires and perhaps most significantly, goalkeeper Brad Friedel. The American was superb during his time at Villa, and on the face of it, it seems like an awful decision letting him go. 
McLeish will be feeling the pressure right from day one

‘Big Eck’ may just have walked into one of the toughest jobs in the Premier League. His every move will no doubt be closely monitored by the fans, as he tries his best to get them to forget his past allegiance with their bitter rivals. His first few results in charge surely haven’t helped his cause, with his new charges only managing one win, at Blackburn, sandwiched by two draws against Fulham and Wolves. He’s being tipped as one of the first managers to be sacked this season, and that may well come to pass if he doesn’t overhaul the club rapidly and drastically. He has only signed two players in the transfer window so far, Shay Given and Charles N’Zogbia. No doubt they are both quality signings, but there is only that much and no more that the pair of them can accomplish alone. His current squad is filled with very raw and inexperienced, albeit talented youngsters (Ciaran Clark, Marc Albrighton et al.) and he definitely needs to sign some experienced players before the window closes on Wednesday at midnight. I personally like Aston Villa as a club, and I honestly hope they can turn things around this season. Only time will tell, I suppose.

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