The Midlander: Villa fans must not doubt 64-carat owner Lerner... he does care

19 January 2011 04:36
If I owned a cap, I'd be doffing it in the direction of Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner.

'Does he still care?' they asked.

'He's fed up with his plaything,' they claimed.

Well, yes, he does still care. And no, he is still fully committed to making Aston Villa a success.

I mean. wow! A £24million commitment in transfer fees, not to mention a contract worth in excess of £15m on the club's record transfer signing Darren Bent.

Statement of intent: Villa fans will be delighted to see new signing Darren Bent training for the first time since his £24million arrival

While we are at it, Jean Makoun's signing, from Lyon is another major outlay, a £5m fee and all the associated salary costs.

(I understand too, that it may not be the last. Although Villa say there is no interest in Wigan Athletic left-back Maynor Figueroa, the rumour-mill is awash with suggestions that a £4m bid is in the offing.)

Whatever the outcome of the next fortnight before the window closes, the statement from Lerner could not have been more emphatic.

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And really, how lucky is the Frenchman? My last Midlander column upset the hierarchy at Villa Park. I'm sorry about the fact they were brassed off, but perhaps it was a natural consequence of the drip, drip, drip of negativity over the past four months.

It wasn't written out of malice. More out of a sense of duty to supporters who clearly felt so strongly after the Sunderland game that they called for their own manager's head.

As a subjectivist, am I meant to ignore that? Furthermore, do you know what? That last piece was read over 10,000 times on this site. I'm lucky enough to have a few twitter followers too.

And I can't even remember one supporter who moaned that I had been out of order. Which probably makes Lerner's actions all the more creditable. He's stuck to his guns and backed his man.

And how. Villa lie 17th in the Barclays Premier League table and, basically, Houllier has been handed a get-out-of-jail free card. Sorry, a get-out-of-jail for £50m card.

Never mind what has passed before. Rows, ostracised players, poor results, etc.

Never mind the fact that I understand the chief executive, Paul Faulkner, has been acting in a calm and composed manner in trying to smooth the ruffled feathers of one or two of the disgruntled players.

That's really good, solid, management. Evidence that Faulkner is really growing into his job in a mature manner.

And as for former boss Martin O'Neill, I wondered what he was thinking this week when he learnt that Lerner had reached for his chequebook again.

I mean, I had a chuckle when he was linked with David Sullivan and David Gold.

I wish I had the time and inclination to lay that particular bet. Nil chance of working for that pair for any significant length of time. Not a prayer.

Under the spotlight: Villa boss Gerard Houllier was given the backing of the board with the club's capture of Bent

Anyway, I digress. Was it really only six months ago that there was a 'we must make ends meet,' diktat issued at the Holte pub?

You know, it reminds me of that tale - I'm sure it's apocryphal - but one day a bloke in a spanking new Range Rover goes shopping. It's really busy in the town centre and he can't find anywhere to park for love nor money.

Eventually, after a 15-minute search, he spies a free car parking space. He shapes up to reverse into it. But before he can do so, an old mini roars in from nowhere and beats him to it.

Triumphant, the driver of the old heap sticks his head out of the window and taunts the bloke in the Range Rover.

'That's what you can do when you can drive,' shouts the driver who then gets out and walks ten yards away from his car to the shops.

Suddenly, the man in the Range Rover slams his own car in reverse, smashes into the mini, shunting it out of the space.

He winds down his own window and says: 'That's what you can do when you're rich.'

I think it's a little bit like that with O'Neill. Houllier is now receiving the backing the Irishman might well have received from Lerner had he played the game a tad cuter.

But talk about backing your manager. Phew. I think it's unprecedented, given

Cue applause: Randy Lerner proved he cares about Aston Villa with his expensive outlays this week

the amount of trouble Villa are in, if you look at the current Barclays Premier League table.

I'm not going to be so hypocritical as to say now that Houllier is the best thing since sliced bread because there's a good chance that results will improve thanks to the acquisition of a £24m forward.

But it's a fact that barring two players - the full-backs - the team that should have carried a victory back to Aston on Sunday was choc-ful of the players left behind by O'Neill.

It's also a fact that Randy Lerner continues to show his deep-rooted affection and care for his club that he has gone to such lengths to ensure survival.

Look at that snap-shot at Stamford Bridge when Ciaran Clark's late equaliser went in and Lerner was jumping around like he was in the middle of the Holte End, even though a bit of decorum is usually called for in the directors' box. He cares all right.

Let's face it Villa fans, if you want a look at how not to act during the transfer window, you need only look over at St Andrew's and have a chortle. But that's another story.

Onwards and upwards: Villa, who held champions Chelsea twice this season, now need to push on and revive their season

I fully expect a fresh air of optimism to be around Villa Park come 5.30pm on Saturday evening. Villa Park, under lights, is always atmospheric.

I've used this pay-off line before. But, as Doug Ellis used to say when I moaned he was repeating the same message to the fans over and again: 'Neil, you need to remind people every three months of the obvious, or else they will take it for granted.'

If Villa Park can't find it within itself to cheer Houllier - then they can prevent themselves from charges (like me) of hypocrisy by backing someone else, because he really deserves the thanks.

So step forward Randy Lerner - the sixty-four carat owner.

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Source: Daily_Mail