The Midlander Aston Villa amateur appointment process

16 June 2011 11:18
ShareI'm going to borrow a phrase from my esteemed colleague, Richard Littlejohn, to introduce the theme of this week's column.

Aston Villa's managerial situation you couldn't make it up, could you? 

It's now 55 days and counting since Gerard Houllier suffered his heart scare.

And, if anything, the club is now in a bigger mess than when the former France boss was admitted to hospital.

I'm struggling to think of a more haphazard, fragmented and amateurish managerial appointment process. 

It's has been handled appallingly. 

Heart problems: Gerard Houllier could not continue as Aston Villa manager

Right from the moment that the prognosis was delivered on Houllier's problems, the writing was on the wall that a new manager would be on his way.

And now we are here. Two sets of supporters in Birmingham at each others' throats and Villa fans in open revolt over the imminent arrival of Alex McLeish.

Haphazard: Randy Lerner has not handled the appointment process well

It didn't have to come to this.

I don't see Fulham's supporters out on the streets of SW6 following Mark Hughes' exit.

Never mind 48 days, their decision-makers needed about 48 hours to bag their man.

I have applauded Villa owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner plenty of times in this column.

I admire their respect for the club's values and traditions. I think the re-building of the Holte pub was a grand gesture. The gold-leaf mosaic on the back of the Holte End a nice touch. Villa's corporate entertaining? Excellent.

But they have tarnished this good work by their actions over the past week.

Where are the strong, clear lines of thought?

Let's take it back a few stages, right back to April when news seeped out that Houllier had been admitted to hospital.

Within48 hours of that happening, inquisitive hacks had been given the prognosis and asked a couple of friendly medics what it meant.

Answer?

It was clear to us that at the age of63, Houllier would be best advised to steer away from employment, let alone a high-pressure job such as management in the Barclays Premier League.

That being thecase, I think it is fair to assume that Lerner and Faulkner would have had an idea of what should happen next - irrespective of the fact that Houllier should have been binned after the home game against Sunderland.

Lerner has a duty of care to both his employee and the football club and, as such, had to terminate Houllier's employment.

Quasi-parrot: Gary McAllister was adamant Gerard Houllier would return

    More from Neil Moxley. The Midlander: Blues need inspiration as Survival Sunday approaches20/05/11 The Midlander: All change. Lerner must decide soon end Villa's woes13/05/11 The Midlander: Take a bow. the men who can finish with heads held high05/05/11 The Midlander: Houllier's heart scare just the latest in a long list of dramas29/04/11 The Midlander: Birmingham will fully appreciate Larsson once he's gone.15/04/11 The Midlander: Aston Villa must dodge the drop before hitting the crossroads07/04/11 The Midlander: Huge debt, threat of administration. life at Coventry01/04/11 The Midlander: Derby's honesty is commendable but they must stay up11/03/11 VIEW FULL ARCHIVEFairly simple, you might think.

Ohno. We are treated to the unedifying example of Gary McAllister re-inforcing Houllier's position by trotting out: 'Gerard will be back,'in quasi-parrot fashion, flagrantly ignoring the medical evidence in front of him. (And us.)

Villa's dynamic duo - still wrestling with Martin O'Neill - decide that issue is far more important than the here and now. So they concentrate their efforts on settling with the Irishman, rather than sorting out Houllier.

(Personally, I'd have postponed O'Neill. He would have had to wait for his day.)

But here comes the tricky part. Instead of having a friendly chat with Mr Houllier - or an unfriendly one, come to that - and telling him that due to a duty of care to the club, his employment would have to be terminated, Villa make two major mistakes.

And their whole world comes crashing down around them.

First, they don't have the above talk. If they did and it became mired in legality as Houllier is protected by a nonsensically-large pay-off clause, then they would have another battle on their hands. (The Frenchman would have settled eventually, he wouldn't have wanted to go through all the strife of that, believe me.)

Secondly, why didn't Villa draw up a shortlist for the vacant job in the meantime and carry out their due diligence on the quiet?

Why is it that Fulham were able to line up Martin Jol effectively within 48 hours?

Villa have had the best part of two months - and still they fumble about like a teenager groping in the dark for a bra-strap.

Just to take you through the events of the last seven daysit's painful, but bear with me because it underlinesthe magnitude of the errors.

Swift action: Fulham moved quickly to appoint Martin Jol

We've seen Villa distancing themselves from the outstanding candidate by a country mile - Mark Hughes - because, we are told, of some personal relationship that Lerner has with Mohamed Al Fayed.

Then, they miss out on another name on the shortlist - Jol - because, presumably, of chronic indecision. David Moyes doesn't want to come, either, apparently because he can read the signs from Merseyside that he is better-placed staying put.

Next, they offer Steve McClaren an interview - then refuse to carry through with it because of adverse criticism on web-site message boards.

Third, they write to Wigan and ask for permission to speak to Roberto Martinez, who turns them down.

(Since when has the manager of Wigan Athletic turned down the chance to be Aston Villa's next boss? Incredible.)

Next, we understand that Alex McLeish has resigned three miles away at St Andrew's, initiating the mother of all supporter backlashes.

Snub: Roberto Martinez turned the job down to stay at Wigan

Notwithstanding that, somehow Birmingham City now have the high ground.

Let's face it, if McLeish turns up at Villa Park, not only will it fly in the face of web-site message board anger (see McClaren above) but it also smashes their lofty moral position of 'doing things by the book' into one million tiny pieces.

So, Lerner won't risk upsetting his big pal Al Fayed over Hughes but will risk the wrath of half of the Second City in England by chasing McLeish?

(I'm not even getting into an argument about whether McLeish is a fit manager for Aston Villa, although the evidence of two relegations in three seasons in the Barclays Premier League suggests he shouldn't be, irrespective of a Carling Cup triumph.)

Wigan owner Dave Whelan has heaped further scorn on those at B6 by admitting he was surprised that Villa didn't go for Steve McClaren - as he would have - in the event of Martinez's exit.

And all the while in the background, Mark Hughes is jumping up and down, screaming, 'Take me, take me.' 

Ignored: Villa have not approached Mark Hughes

I ask again: Why not?

It'sa sorry mess. And I have to say it's been symptomatic of everything that has gone wrong with the football side since H.D. Ellis and Steve Stride relinquished control.

Off the field, the corporate areas are fantastic.

But it's on the field where Villa are struggling.

Toomuch money has been wasted by too many bad choices. Player contracts, in particular, are way in excess of what they should be.

Youknow, the media who enquired were told that the reason why a couple of chief executives left the club (Michael Cunnah, Richard Fitzgerald) was because Lerner knew how to run a sporting organisation.

That may be true as far as Cleveland Browns are concerned.

But don't try to tell me he couldn't have had better value for his ?200m investment. I'm sorry, I don't believe it.

Dividing the city: Alex McLeish has angered both Villa and Birmingham City fans

No matter how this turns out from now on, it looks like a botch job.

As for McLeish, Villa's owners have put themselves in a needlessly difficult position and a rightly coming under increasing criticism for the thoroughly unprofessional manner in which this whole episode has been handled.

Charles Krulak's role within the organisation seems to be the guardian of the message boards.

Here's one for you Charles: Randy and Paul have messed up - massive time.

Given the length of time they have had to sort out the managerial situation, the amount of money that's been thrown at it and the inherent quality of a club like Aston Villa, there is only one question remaining.

Can the mess get any worse?

I sincerely hope not.

But then, given the events of the past few days, I'm not holding my breath.

 Birmingham City and Aston Villa turn nasty over 'traitor' Alex McLeishLMA chief backs under-fire McLeish to hit it off at Villa following shock resignation All the latest Aston Villa news, features and opinionAll the latest Birmingham City news, features and opinion

 Explore more:People: David Moyes, Mark Hughes, Gerard Houllier, Gary McAllister, Alex McLeish, Mohamed Al Fayed, Dave Whelan, Martin Jol, Steve McClaren, Roberto Martinez Places: Birmingham, France, United Kingdom

Source: Daily_Mail