January 26, 2013 by Hamilton Fan
Aston Villa’s downfall began a long time before Paul Lambert’s appointment last summer. It was the summer of 2011 when owner Randy Lerner marked the club’s future intentions. The unpopular appointment of former Birmingham manager Alex McLeish was the sign of the times for the former European Cup winners. Gone were the memories of European ambitions, it was time for a reality check for the Midlands outfit. Balancing the books and slashing the wage bill were the new aims, guided by a manager who in Lerner’s opinion had a safe pair of hands that would guide the club to comfortable Premier League security on a greatly reduced budget. The sales of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing were inevitable, but the harsh reality is that 18 months down the line the club have never replaced two of their star assets sufficiently and have gone on to cut the wage bill further. McLeish was often criticised for his negative style of play by supporters. His lack of ambition, defensive style and Brummie past added fuel to the raging fire in regards to Villa supporters disgruntlement with their manager. The season was hampered with injuries and illnesses, including the sad news that influential captain Stiliyan Petrov had been diagnosed with cancer, proving to be a huge loss to the sides midfield. However, drawing 17 league games and dropping an incredible 22 points from winning positions coupled with disappointing football and falling attendances meant McLeish’s time at Villa Park was cut short after only one season in charge.
With Aston Villa currently sitting in 17th position in the Premier League, one place below where McLeish guided the Villans to last campaign and having just been humiliating defeated by League Two opposition Bradford City in the Capital One Cup and Championship side Millwall in the FA Cup, why should Villa supporters be more supportive of the current man in charge? Given their current predicament it is not a surprise feelings are mixed towards Paul Lambert.
Despite coming off the back of a horror week, Aston Villa have a man in charge of their side who is strong, forward thinking and ambitious, both in personality and playing style. Despite dealing with a depleted squad hampered with injuries to senior players such as Richard Dunne and the continued unavailability of captain Stiliyan Petrov, Lambert has shown tactical versatility throughout the season. His flexibility is in complete contrast to his predecessor who was often derided for his predictable style of play. The confidence shown in his young players is commendable, although some critics have branded it naive because of the position they currently find themselves in. The likes of Matthew Lowton, Ashley Westwood and Ciaran Clark, however, have not let themselves down when they have been called upon and his lack of strength in depth means he has often had little alternative.
The football his side play is certainly more offensively minded than that of McLeish’s Villa side, and with it still holds the added work-rate. Many managers, including David Moyes and Brendan Rodgers, have commended Lambert’s side for their work ethic this campaign. Performances against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Sunderland highlight Aston Villa’s potential. Potential does not guarantee anything in football and Aston Villa are desperate for their unavailable experienced players to be able to return sooner rather than later, but there are signs of a very talented, albeit unbalanced, group of players emerging at the club.
All hope is not lost for Aston Villa Football Club. They have a bright, youthful squad with a young, progressive manager. If the Midlands club avoid relegation it should be deemed an acceptable season given the circumstances, but there are enough signs underneath the heavy defeats and the embarrassing cup exits to see that they have a manager potentially capable of taking the football club back to where they think they belong.