With six games remaining, Aston Villa, one of the founding members of the Football League and, historically, one of England’s most successful clubs, is facing the impending inevitability of relegation to the Championship (formerly Division One) for the first time in the Premier League era.
Should Villa lose to Bournemouth at the weekend, they would remain 15 points behind Norwich with five games to play meaning, with Villa’s poor goal difference, relegation would finally be confirmed.
The midlands club have had a terrible season with players performing atrociously and managers (Tim Sherwood and Remi Garde) coming and going after some abysmal results.
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Martin O’Neil was the club’s last manager who enjoyed relative success having guided Villa to the League Cup final in 2010 as well as some impressively high finishes in the Premier League (with the club finishing in sixth place between 2008 and 2010).
The post-O’Neil era has seen the club slide further down the table year-on-year and the relegation that awaits them is a consequence of the poorly run nature of the club.
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Randy Lerner has abandoned the club and has allowed it to rot over the years with poor managerial appointments, a lack of finance and a muddled boardroom.
It is only very recently that Lerner has attempted to address the backroom mistakes, but these actions, appointing people with footballing experience such as David Bernstein, Adrian Bevington and Brian Little, are a case of too-little-too-late for the club that has slowly been in decline.
With the new board members settling into their roles and with life in the Championship next season to prepare for, Villa must utilise their footballing experts to make an appointment that will give them the best opportunity to return to the Premier League as soon as possible.
Nigel Pearson is a manager who has experience and success in the notoriously challenging Championship division while Steve Bruce could also be tempted to move after many years in the north-east (although prizing him away from Hull may prove too costly).
Garry Monk would also provide another, younger, option after he was rather unfairly dismissed by Swansea this season following the excellent season he had with the Welsh club last season.
Whoever is appointed must take a long-term approach to the club and should also conduct a thorough dismantling of a squad that has been exceptionally poor this season.
Every club who has played in the top flight of English football has experienced relegation at some point in their history. Some find it relatively simple to return, others must wait a few seasons and a few never return to the top.
Villa must ensure that they have a board who have the club’s best interests at the forefront of their minds. The new manager must be a man who can inspire a club that is at a low-point and there must be major overhaul of the squad over the summer.
Unity must reign at Villa Park. Footballing, and not financial, decisions have to be made and lessons must be learned from the plight of the club this season.
The road back to the Premier League for Aston Villa starts here.