Sometimes bad things need to happen. The upheaval going on at Villa Park didn’t just spring out of mid-air – it’s been brewing for a long time.
The first inkling I got that things weren’t right was when James Milner wanted out. I don’t know what was wrong and I don’t need to know, I just smelt the blood in the water. We fell away at the end of the season – but that had become part of Aston Villa culture so no especially loud alarm bells rang – and we finished sixth again.
The most telling thing was O’Neill’s body language. With the benefit of hindsight it’s now clear to me that O’Neill was putting the finishing touches to plan B. This had started twelve months ago.
Things don’t fall apart overnight, there’s a long gestation to this kind of thing. O’Neill was canny enough to know the likely prognosis and what it would mean to his reputation, so he jumped ship. The only good news was that he did it five days before the season started. He could have hung around longer and really made a mess.
Training and discipline were shambolic. O’Neill attended training once a week (Thursday) and the senior players made the rules. The new manager, whoever it was to be, needed to be a strong disciplinarian and this is the reason the appointment of MacDonald would have been a disaster. The players loved him – of course they did, they could continue to run the place.
I’m sorry to go through all this again, but if you don’t understand the past, you are destined to repeat it. It didn’t have to be Houllier – any strong character would have done – but it was Houllier that got the job. And by the Grace of God he understands that only he can make the rules. And the players follow them. That’s how it works.
Change is coming
Villans, we’re going to have a clear out. Amongst those departing will be some good players. Do not weep for the loss, it’s good riddance. Once the surgeon has cut away the gangrenous flesh we can start to heal. Aston Villa is a deeply infected enterprise and I believe the people in charge are the best stewards we have to undertake the task ahead. If I’m wrong about this, we will soon know it and changes will have to be made.
How I despise O’Neill. The little ratfink was a coward and unworthy of his position. He worshipped at the altar of his own reputation and didn’t have the stomach to shovel his own shit.
Your first true love
Enough already. There are two things I know to be true. We will never love another football club and Gérard Houllier will continue to be manager. Some of you will not be pleased about that because you don’t think he’s the man for the job – and you may be right. All I ask is that you consider the possibility that he is the man for the job and that you give him some breathing space to carry on.
This means giving him our support. Whatever you think of the man, supporting the present management team is the only sensible thing to do if you want the best for Aston Villa. If the dissenters force Houllier to do the job while they’re howling for his blood, that job will be ten times as difficult – in fact, nigh on impossible.
I ask those that attend Villa Park to sing their songs in support, not in derision. It will lift the players and it will stir the blood. To the staunchest amongst us – those that, for instance, will be at Stamford Bridge – falls the heaviest burden. If you don’t believe in Houllier, you must put aside these thoughts and stiffen your resolve to chant his name as if you believed he was The Special One. The Holte End are the leaders on match day – you lead and the rest will follow.
We did not want this terrible upheaval, but it has to happen. If we put it off, we will never be whole.