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Stop blaming CEO Tom Fox for Aston Villa’s plight

Swarms of Aston Villa supporters have it out for chief executive Tom Fox. I just don’t get it.

Miles Willis/Getty Images

I really don’t get the hatred of chief executive Tom Fox that some Aston Villa fans have. I just… really can’t understand it.

Randy Lerner? Absolutely, a fair target. Past managers — namely Paul Lambert and Tim Sherwood? Also culpable, in part, for the miserable situation this club sits in today. Players like Gabby Agbonlahor, Micah Richards or Brad Guzan? Worthwhile targets to explain the position the Claret and Blues are in.

But Fox? I’m just not having it.

He’s caught some shtick for him comments about the club being financially healthy, as if that’s what really matters, and those are fair complaints — the comments were tone deaf given the club’s situation and, quite honestly, not what the fans wanted to hear.

But that’s no reason to call for his resignation.

Since his appointment in late August 2014, let’s look at what Fox has done as Villa’s CEO. He was appointed in the final third of the month, and after his arrival, Villa completed two bits of business: The sale of Karim El Ahmadi to Feyenoord, a move that made sense for both club and player, and the arrival of Tom Cleverley on his loan deal.

While it took a while to see it blossom, the Cleverley move was ultimately a shrewd one that made a big contribution to the club’s survival last term.

When winter came, the club pulled off the signing of Carles Gil — a move most Villa supporters still back — and signed Fabian Delph to the contract extension that ensured the Claret and Blues got a fee for his services this summer. Instead of the outgoing club captain walking for free, he netted a fee that allowed his replacement, Idrissa Gueye, to arrive.

Two more solid pieces of business by Villa’s CEO.

Instead of Lerner, it was Fox’s decision to sack Paul Lambert last February, a move that saved Villa’s spot in the Premier League, and his move to appoint Tim Sherwood into his role. The managerial switch kept Villa in the division and led the club on a strong run of form that placed the Claret and Blues in the FA Cup final.

Off the pitch, he negotiated the sponsorship deals necessary to keep the club’s finances in line. Remember, Fox’s specialty at Arsenal was in the commercial side, negotiating their huge merchandise deal with Puma a couple years ago. He came for a club that preached balancing the books, and he was brought in to fill a similar role at Aston Villa. The fact that he’s done so, while some Villa fans wish spending would increase, shouldn’t be an indictment of Fox, rather one of Lerner.

If there’s a complaint I see with respect to Fox, it’s that he didn’t sack Sherwood over the summer when it was clear the manager’s view for the future of the club different from the board’s view.

Fox brought sporting director Henrik Almstadt to aid in Villa’s summer recruitment, focusing on a more statistics-based approach we’ve seen work well at clubs like Brentford or Lyon in recent years, and when they brought their guys in, Villa have benefitted.

Most would agree Jordan Ayew has been Villa’s best performer this season, while others would make the case for Jordan Amavi, even on his abbreviated spell before injury. Since Sherwood’s departure, Jordan Veretout has blossomed, while Gana has been far from Villa’s worst player this term. There’s a reason he’s still one of the first names on the team sheet this term.

What do those four have in common? If things are to be believed, they’re all signings made by Fox and Almstadt. Throw in Adama Traoré, and Villa fans should be pleased with the players brought in by the "stats" guys on the board.

Compare that to the signings generally attributed to Sherwood: Rudy Gestede, Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott were his big three. Where the board signings have blossomed in a poor squad, Sherwood’s haven’t. Gestede has been hapless up front since scoring to lift Villa to an opening-match win, while Richards and Lescott have each been responsible for individual errors that have cost the Claret and Blues goals — that was evident Saturday at Sunderland.

Villa’s problems run deep, there’s no two ways about it.

And he hasn’t exactly been the best in the press, between his recent comments and the "coin flip" one with respect to Lambert’s position last January.

But I can’t for the life of me understand why so many Villa supporters hate the man.