Friday, July 21, 2006

The ethics of those in control of top-flight football clubs are of course beyond reproach – just ask any Italian football fan – so naturally I don’t intend to suggest any impropriety when I make the following observations: (1) Doug Ellis appeared last season to fall out with David O’Leary; (2) O’Leary was due a substantial pay-off if his contract was terminated without due cause; (3) Ellis is a colossal tightarse; (4) suddenly, in the past week, a statement (supposedly issued by Aston Villa’s players) criticising Ellis has appeared, nobody seems to know where it came from and O’Leary has been cleared of any impropriety… yet Villa’s internal investigation has resulted in O’Leary’s dismissal, with a severance package that, we are told, reflects the outcome of the investigation.

If you choose to infer any impropriety from these observations, what a cynic you must be.

The incident with the so-called players’ revolt – which they all seem to have denied any involvement with since I last posted here – is one of the oddest events in the short history of the Premiership. Perhaps Villa will elect to explain what they discovered in the course of their investigation, as O’Leary’s departure has made matters no clearer. But surely the club can’t be entirely unhappy with the outcome. I was amazed that O’Leary wasn’t dumped immediately after the end of the season, having predicted his departure after the scoreless home draw with Fulham in April was followed by a 5-0 defeat away to Arsenal. The fact that it has now come after an incident which – whatever his relationship to it – seems to have allowed Villa to renegotiate his redundancy entitlement is terribly convenient for the board.

I’m not complaining, mind. I’ve wanted O’Leary out since it became clear early last season that 2003/4 was a flash in the pan, and if Villa have saved a bit of cash in getting him out then I hope that this will be spent on players (HA! I make joke). He’s turned out to be one of those annoying ‘admit no weakness’ managers who always over-rate the team’s performance, and I’d rather have a Martin O’Neill type manager who’s willing to be critical. In fact, I’d rather have Martin O’Neill, as he appears to be available, but sadly I think he’s too intelligent to take the job. I suspect we’ll end up with Curbishley: he’ll have his work cut out, but he’ll never get a better chance to prove he’s a top-class manager. In fact, if he can turn Villa around, he’s wasted in football and should be sent to balance the Japanese economy or something.

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