Thank you all for coming today. Please grab your 7500 to Holte Hymnal from the pew in front of you and open to page 10. We'll be starting with our standard song today:
Gérard Houllier is here to stay,
Give him time and don't make him go away.
He's putting in a system that'd full of kids,
It's bound to be hampered by what MON did.
Let's be patient,
Let's be kind!
But the fact that we're retooling,
Should be always kept in mind!
Alright, now that we have the preamble out of the way, it's time for Friday Feedback. If you could give one word as a measure for Villa fans right now, I'm not sure if it'd be "raging" or "depressed." Things aren't looking so great from the Holte End, or from anywhere else for that matter. No one expected greatness from this year, but we also didn't expect to be sitting in the drop zone for the first time since 2003.
But we here at 7500 have been unflinchingly supportive of staying the course, at least for now. Every reader of this site knows that we want Houllier to stay on throughout the season, at the very least. But after the mid-week debacle of a match, I began to wonder (as I'm sure some of our readers did): What is your snapping point with Aston Villa? At what point do you throw in the towel on the Gérard Houllier idea and hope for an overhaul?
You'll find our answers below, and hopefully yours will be in the comments.
Aaron: My snapping point comes when I see the team make poor decisions as the result of panic. Sacking Houllier at any point before the end of the season would be indicative of that.
There are valid criticisms to be made of Gerard Houllier, but the gravity of Villa's current situation has blown them far out of proportion. He has quite simply not had anywhere near enough time to have his suitability as Aston Villa's manager to be evaluated. He inherited a squad with some very real problems that was in a tremendous amount of chaos. To ask him to take over the club in such circumstances and then deny him the opportunity to bring his own players into the squad and show what he is capable of with a fully-fit squad against a less daunting run of competition is rash and unfair. If Randy Lerner and the Villa board were to make such a decision it would erode a great deal of the confidence that I have in them.
In terms of Houllier specifically, it's difficult to say what the breaking point would be. If Villa continue to perform this poorly over the course of the rest of the season with a fully fit squad and players being brought in, it may very well be best to make a change in the summer. If Houllier makes desperate and panicky decisions in January that would lead me to desire change as well. Obviously should the worst happen and Villa find themselves sent down then he is not and never was the man for the job. Aside from that? It's impossible to say. I can see a scenario where Villa escapes relegation on the final day and ends up in 17th where I am calling for his head, but I can just as easily see the same situation and my being quite happy with the job he's done.
Results are important but how they are attained is equally important. It's entirely possible to do a lot of things right and finish just above the Championship (especially this season) while it's also possible to make a lot of awful decisions and find yourself playing in Europe. If Gerard Houllier goes about things in an intelligent manner with a clear, logical and sustainable process for guiding the team forward, I'll be happy and confident that the results will come. If he doesn't, no place in the table will give me confidence.
Gareth: It's a funny thing, really. I posted a comment on Aaron's Sunderland review, saying something to the effect of "set it on fire" (I think those may have been my exact words.) Now that I think about it, that wasn't exactly a measured response to the problems Villa face. But since when have I been known for that? I have, however, reached a frightening place where I find myself wondering about what the season would have been like if Kevin MacDonald had stayed on as manager. Which, at the time, I considered a worst case scenario. Shows how much I know.
- Gareth Barry - one of Manchester City's midfield anchors, also spent a little time this summer in South Africa
- Zat Knight - mainstay of Bolton's central defence
- Craig Gardner - four goals this season is good enough to be top scorer for...well, some team
- Marlon Harewood - five goals for Blackpool, the whole world's second team
- James Milner - I don't need to tell you about James Milner, do I? Come on.