Commentary

Lerner's letter darkens the mood at Aston Villa

A bleak week for Aston Villa fans somehow got worse on Friday when team owner Randy Lerner issued a statement accepting responsibility for a season of failure and humiliation.

In the statement, Lerner, the former Cleveland Browns majority owner, wrote the blame “lies at my feet and no-one else's.” Disgruntled fans have been pointing fingers in his direction the past few years as season after season of dreary relegation battles unfolded.

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Year after year, Villa escaped to stumble home 16th, 15th, 15th and 17th the past four seasons in the 20-team league. The bottom three go down and this season there’s been little doubt Villa would not survive for the first time in 28 years.

Not until last weekend was relegation from the Premier League officially confirmed when Villa lost at Manchester United. The defeat has seemingly triggered a run of embarrassing and humiliating events off the field that has further tainted the reputation of Lerner, who bought Villa in 2006 and put it up for sale two years ago.

•  On Monday, striker Gabriel Agbonhalor was suspended for allegedly ingesting from laughing-gas canisters on Saturday, a few hours after the loss to Manchester United. He didn’t play in the match, having been told by interim manager Eric Black that he wasn’t sufficiently fit. He had been suspended by Villa after being pictured while appearing to hold a shisha pipe during a trip to Dubai.

•  Board members David Bernstein and Lord Mervyn King, who joined the club in recent months, tendered letters of resignation Monday. Both cited irreconcilable differences with Lerner, who reacted to leaked emails between the two men critical of his ownership by firing off his own email demeaning their efforts to help the club.

Chairman Steve Hollis had formed a new board that included the two men and former Villa striker Brian Little as an adviser, but the group never met and dysfunction quickly set in.

In his letter, King stated, “It is no longer possible to carry out the role that I was asked to perform. When you [Hollis], David Bernstein and I were asked join the board, we were able to make a start. But progress has stalled.”

•  Black is the third manager to lead the team this season as Villa has managed just three victories and 16 points. Former Spurs manager Tim Sherwood left in October and his replacement, Remi Garde, lasted 147 days. A 6-0 loss to Liverpool -- Villa’s worst defeat in 81 years -- prompted Garde’s departure in late March.

•  Black banished defender Jores Okore from the first team after he refused to play against Bournemouth in early April. Okra, 23, is a Danish international and has been training with Villa’s U-21 squad.

“After that game, he said that he didn't want to be considered for any of the games going forward,” said Black. “I didn't have a choice apart from remove him. I don't want people who don't want to be at Aston Villa.”

Lerner apparently doesn’t want to be there, either. He last attended a home match in September 2014, and before that game hadn’t seen at Villa Park since December 2012.

Winner of the European Cup (now the Champions League) in 1982, Villa enjoyed a good run under manager Martin O’Neill in the first few seasons of Lerner’s tenture. But a steep decline has set in since O’Neill resigned abruptly in August, 2010.

“I believe in Aston Villa and know it will come back stronger,” said Lerner, who promised to “do my best to position Villa for the quickest possible return to its rightful place among England's elite.”

In effect, Lerner has confirmed the rightful place for him is somewhere else and as far as the fans are concerned he can’t get there fast enough.

1 comment about "Lerner's letter darkens the mood at Aston Villa".
  1. David Mont, April 23, 2016 at 11:40 a.m.

    Hello Anita, I'm interested... when did you move from Nigeria?

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