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Thursday, 31 January 2013

The rapid demise of Aston Villa

It wasn't too long ago that Aston Villa Football Club were one of the best up-and-coming sides not only in England but in Europe too.

Randy Lerner had taken over at Villa Park in 2006 and soon began to pump money into the club to  in a bid to possibly reach the Europa League or, as it was called back then, the Uefa Cup.

It was all going well; Villa brought in the likes of Ashley Young, James Milner and Stewart Downing (He was good once, honest!) as the club looked at assembling a squad that could push for the top 6 at the very least and with it, potentially locking horns with Europe's elite.

SIGNING: Downing was a wanted man (Zimbio)
The thing that most fans (apart from the likes of Birmingham City, Wolves, West Brom) liked, was boss, Martin O'Neill bringing in young, hungry, English talent and it looked for all the world that Villa would soon blow the dust from their trophy cabinet, and return to the glory days of the 1980s; winning the old First Division (equivalent of the Premier League) in 80/81, the European Cup (Champions League) in 81/82 and the European Super Cup in 82.

They came close under O'Neill's guidance; during his four year tenure at Villa Park, he achieved a creditable 11th place finish (first season) before guiding the club to a trio of sixth place endings, thus sending the club on a European tour to the likes of Hamburg, Amsterdam and Prague. The future was looking very bright.

Curtis Davies (R) takes on CSKA Moscow's Vagner Love (L) (Zimbio)
However, then came the bombshell that Villa fans didn't want to hear; the news of O'Neill resigning just a couple of days prior to the opening 2010/2011 Premier League game at home to West Ham, and this was the start of Villa's slide.

Their stars soon began departing; Milner eventually signed for Manchester City soon after O'Neill left and the following summer saw wingers, Young and Downing leave for the north-west; signing for Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.

Young and Milner moved on (WhoAteAllThePies)
Gerard Houllier was the man entrusted to take over where O'Neill had left off, however, medical conditions saw the Frenchman only last a season at the club, ending the season in 9th place.

Next up was Alex McLeish. Big 'Eck had managed to relegate arch rivals, Birmingham to the Championship, despite winning the Carling Cup. The appointment of the former Scotland manager was lambasted by Villa fans and they were never on side for his solitary season (finishing 16th) and he was soon relieved of his duties. During this campaign, Villa had the poorest home record in their history, gaining just 19 points out of a potential 57.

And then, came the appointment of Paul Lambert. Another Scotsman placed in charge of first team affairs and, so far, it's been another disappointing season. The club spent a lot of time and money pursuing Lambert in the summer before finally getting their man from Norwich City.

Lambert's side have been disappointing (SportsMole)
However, his first transfer window at the Villa helm was a poor one - preferring to go with youth rather than signing more experienced heads and it's quickly deteriorated into a dreadful first half of the campaign with only Cristian Benteke standing out from a bunch of poor, in-experienced signings. A falling out with regular "20-goal-a-season man" Darren Bent hasn't helped their cause, they suffered defeat in the Capital One Cup to League 2 side Bradford City, and after their latest defeat in the game against fellow strugglers, Newcastle, Villa seem certain to be heading through the relegation trap door.

With no spine of the team and little experience, you struggle to see how the club can survive. And the worst part? The Championship is a very difficult league to get out of.

BENT-CH WARMER: Star striker (L) and Stephen Ireland (R) (London24)

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