Fan frustration? No matter, Faulkner sees "very clear definite progress"

Pete Norton

Aston Villa CEO Paul Faulkner has given Paul Lambert, and his long term project, a vote of confidence. Despite the frustration of the fans, Faulkner insists performances on the pitch have improved.

Six losses in eight games, including getting knocked out of the FA Cup by a League One side. Unable to beat Crystal Palace, Stoke or Fulham. Only able to get three points against Sunderland. Aston Villa may be sitting 11th, but that's just five points clear of the drop, in a season in which any one of the bottom ten sides could slide down to the Championship. Is there any wonder that Villa supporters are frustrated?

It doesn't help either that Paul Lambert, who built a side full of youthful energy that seemed focused on attacking football, has shifted the side's style of play. It's now all about defensive action, with the primary attacking play coming from long balls hoofed up the pitch. In a word, boring. At least when fans thought there would be quality football at the end of this experiment, there was hope left. Now that's faded, and fast.

But not to worry, Villa fans, the chief executive sees progress on the pitch. Paul Faulkner said, "I think one of the key measures that we look at is there’s very clear definite progress from last year, certainly in terms of where we were sat this time last year in the league and points-wise."

Last season, during Lambert's first year in charge, the Villa finished 15th, with 41 points. The season before, under Alex McLeish, things were even worse, with 38 points meaning a 16th placed finish.

But right now, Aston Villa are more than halfway through the season and have picked up just 23 points, meaning it's going to be very difficult to reach the magical 40-point mark. The 11th placed standing means little when it could be down to 15th by the end of the weekend.

Still, there's some comfort in knowing that, by the end of January 2013, Villa had just 20 points and were sitting in the relegation zone. From that perspective, Faulkner has a point.

But from the fans' perspective, the CEO is just spewing a bunch of words that comfort no one. This season wasn't supposed to involve a relegation battle. This was meant to be the year that Villa took steps toward regaining its status as one of the top clubs in English football. Instead, laughter rings through the media, through opposing fans, through the Twitter.

In reading the interview transcript with Faulkner, you can see he has some valid points. He talks about how it's tough to strike a balance between a long term project and short-term results. He knows that this is about development, and in the short-term, there are going to be some bumps in the road.

Yet there's more to worry about in Faulkner's words: he refuses to give comfort regarding January transfers. He makes the point the clubs do the majority of their planning in the summer, that Villa brought in seven new players prior to September, and that there just aren't many players on the market in January.

But if Faulkner is right and this is a balancing act, between the long and the short term, Villa must do more this January than bring in Grant Holt on loan. The fans must see more progress than what has been on offer, because with just one win in eight -- combined with absolutely miserable football, the sort of football that makes you turn off the TV and turn your attention to the freshly painted wall beside you -- supporters don't feel they're being offered progress.

A big, star-studded name probably isn't going to light up Villa Park come February. But the club needs to realize that they understand the underlying issues the squad is facing, and that they're taking steps to change that. Opening the wallets for a creative midfielder would be a huge start, but even bringing in a veteran defender would give fans reason to believe that the higher-ups aren't entirely clueless.

Progress may be there on paper. But it certainly doesn't feel like it when the Villa are losing, once again, at Villa Park. Words are empty at this point, Mr. Faulkner. It's time to get out the spare change, Randy Lerner. New tactics, different approaches to training might be a good idea, Mr. Lambert. Because most fans aren't sitting there comparing, week by week, this Villa's performance to that of last season.

Most fans are sitting there, completely and utterly frustrated.

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