I’ve written a book, Fear Conquers All, about my life, health struggles, fightbacks and fundraising challenges. It of-course also talks about Aston Villa, more from a personal perspective, including a letter exchange between myself and Doug Ellis during the protests, some of the background to the protests and takeovers, as well as doing the Under Armour video shoot and a marathon for the Aston Villa Foundation.
As it isn’t just about Aston Villa, I found when it came to editing, that some bits had to be removed (from all aspects of the book to be fair) so I thought I’d publish this bit with my opinion of our managers under the Randy Lerner regime, as it didn’t make the cut for Fear Conquers All. (Details of how to buy: https://thefear.net/how-to-buy-fear-conquers-all/. It is getting great views on amazon at the moment: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1527244393/)
So the bit brutally edited:
I could now go totally into the history of the managers and why they were wrong, but it would become an entire book in itself. Suffice to say, from my point of view:
Martin O’Neill. He’d have been more suited to Doug Ellis-type budgets where, like he did at Leicester City, he would have been able to wheel and deal. I never felt he handled the big money well and for me, finishing 6th in the Premiership three times wasn’t a good return for the amount spent, especially the one season where I am sure we were the biggest spenders in Europe. Others will stick up for him and say he did a good job, that’s football.
I found him old-fashioned and didn’t like his attitude or his style of play. For me, he left in a fit of pique, at a very poor time (just before the new season), sending us into a spin that took years to recover from. It is not totally his fault that we got into the mess we did, but I do blame him for starting the downward spiral and for blowing our chances having had the lion’s share of the transfer funds. He was told he’d got to bring the wages into line with the new Financial Fair Play rules, so he threw his dummy out of the pram. Some fans read this one very differently, it has to be said. Meh, next!
Gerard Houllier. I say it with no disrespect: he wasn’t well enough for the pressure. He’d had serious heart problems and took one of the most demanding jobs in the Premiership. His heart problems returned. I’m not sure what he (or anyone else) thought would happen. I know after every single operation I’ve had, I’m just slightly less physically able than I was before. He also had a clear love of his former club Liverpool and put our noses out of joint several times talking about them with so much fondness. Football is very tribal and Villa fans didn’t want to hear about his time at Liverpool. That was for behind closed doors, not for us to listen to. He lasted less than a year.
Alex McLeish. Nice guy, met him, liked him but he was never right for the job. He was a negative-style manager and came from our fiercest rivals, Birmingham City. I remember having a 45-minute conversation with the then CEO about him (and all that would follow) but for some reason, Randy was dead-set on this appointment. It was quite unfair that the CEO was blamed for it. It wasn’t rocket science how this was going to work out and the mess many of us predicted was proved right. What a disaster. He was gone after just a year and for many, Randy Lerner had broken their trust. Sad, sad times, with much anger that really could have been avoided. It was heartbreaking to see the manager of my club being brought to the bench on his first day by security guards. That was not my Aston Villa at all.
Paul Lambert. Most fans seemed to want him. I didn’t. Dour man, awful manager, he lasted fairly well compared to the last two – just under 3 years. I’ve nothing nice to say so I’ll leave it at that, I don’t like to dwell and I don’t like to be bitter. Moving swiftly along…
Tim Sherwood. Would have been a good assistant manager to learn to take the main role, but wasn’t ready for this big a job. It was a silly appointment. He did give us a great day out at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final thrashing of Liverpool, but sadly then presided over one of the worst FA Cup finals ever. We lost badly to Arsenal and the least said about that, the less likely I am to burst into tears! He was hampered by the overbearing nature of the new set up – CEO downward – at Villa and those brought in to help select players. They brought in expensive junk that Villa have since struggled to offload. He arrived in February 2015 and was sacked in the October.
Then? They replaced inexperience with even less experience appointing Frenchman Remi Garde. Silly appointment that lasted from November 2015 until March 2016.
That was the end of the Lerner tenure at Aston Villa, as we were then taken over by a Chinese businessman, called Doctor Tony Xia.