Monday, 6 September 2010

Fans left wondering what next for Villa

Sorry girls, there’s not a single mention of weddings, Sex and the City or Christina Hendricks in this one. But it’s a frustrating time for Villa fans.

Ever since Martin O’Neill walked away from Aston Villa on August 9th, I, like many Villa fans, have been left wondering ‘what next?’ As a fan living and working in Birmingham , it seems to me that O’Neill’s departure (and that of his coaching staff) ripped the heart out of the club. Only once he left did we see the extent to which he “ran the ship”.

By the time he left, Martin O’Neill had split opinions on the Holte End. For me, despite some obvious misgivings on and off the pitch, he brought a buzz back to Villa Park. For the Moscow debacle, he gave us those wins Anfield and Old Trafford. For not playing a right back for two years, he gave us two trips to Wembley. And for Emile Heskey, he made us a top six club again. But what next?

For four years our American owners have been lauded for taking a back seat and doing things ‘the right way’. But it felt as though they spent the first few weeks frantically struggling to fill holes they didn’t know they had once the boss walked. Maybe it wasn’t helped by Randy’s back-seat ethos, but for the first time there have been some rumbles of discontent with Mr Lerner and co.

For whatever reason it’s led to a long search for the new manager and this one has gripped me more than any other. I’ve found myself reading more rumour sites and forums than ever before. We’ve seen every possible name mentioned, from the famous (Eriksson) to the unknown (Rangnick), from the nearby (McLeish) to the far-away (Bradley) and from young (Southgate) to the old (Hiddink).

And, of course, this is the Twitter generation. For the first time as a Villa fan I’ve been privileged to enjoy some fascinating insights from journalists. Thanks to @Neil_Moxley_DM, @Villa_Insider and @BrumRoadRunner for keeping me sane when the Gareth Southgate/Phil Brown/*Insert uninspiring manager here* rumours got too much.

So what IS next? It seems today as though Gerard Houllier is close to being appointed and for what it’s worth I think he could do a good job if his health is up to it. But if reports are true, he’s bringing (God help us) Phil Thompson with him. I’m not sure I can comment on that one without swearing. Let’s just hope they find room for Kevin MacDonald somewhere in the set-up.

We’ll never know if O’Neill could have taken Villa any further but it’s time for Houllier to try something new. Good luck Gerard, you’ll need it. I’m off to put a tenner on O’Neill to be the next England manager.


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