This is a turning point in my support of Aston Villa. Football players are all too often made a scapegoat for the failings of the sport. The most extreme example of this was when Hull's Jake Livermore was hounded and ridiculed for his cocaine habit which eventually turned out to be one of the only things offering him a small slice of solace from the harsh reality that awaited him at home, where both he and his partner would outlive their baby son. Before that news came out, Jake was a 'failure' and he was to blame.
Why am I about to say what I am about to say? Well, Rémi Garde will likely be sacked today, or tomorrow, or sometime soon and take a large blow to his future career prospects outside of his home country, France. Aston Villa will be relegated and he will be saddled with that, despite another manager being in charge when the drop finally and mercifully comes. A large portion of blame does remain with Randy Lerner, and he will once again be the fall guy, which is still deserved, but there's a bunch of well-paid athletes getting away with absolute murder and I can't easily pass the buck to the Clevelander this time around.
Aston Villa's players, with a few exceptions, have almost endured a free ride in all of this. There's no hint of any outside problems and certainly on social media, players like Leandro Bacuna, Gabby Agbonlahor, and others seem to be in decent mental and physical health.
Paul Lambert, Tim Sherwood and Rémi Garde have passed through the doors of Bodymoor Heath over the last year or so and all left (or will leave, in the latter's case) in almost the exact same way. A bored, lazy, demotivated squad failing to enact or replicate a single shred of a gameplan leading to absolute capitulation against every single Premier League team.
Brad Guzan can stand alone as an example of this. Someone who repaid his benching with a 'don't care' attitude and instead of working hard to gain his starting spot back, he slunk spitefully into the shadows and waited for Mark Bunn to mess up.
Villa's new players are hardly to blame in all of this, but have easily allowed themselves to adopt the same toxic persona of 'won't try, don't care, pay me'. Jordan Ayew's form fell off a cliff once he stupidly assaulted Aaron Cresswell at Upton Park in a result which has pretty much defined the Claret & Blues' year. Jordan Veretout has shown glimpses of talent, but is at a level too intelligent for everyone else on the pitch and instead of trying to adapt, has seemingly given up: like everyone else. Idrissa Gana is the only person who has seemed to flourish at Aston Villa and that's probably because he stopped trying to support the attack, realising its impotency.
Aston Villa Football Club fulfill the role of enabler in all of this - this self-perpetuating cycle that has seen two fairly promising managers binned in the exact same manner - they have paid out large, juicy contracts to players that are far below deserving of the club's loyalty. Imagine the faces of Charles N'Zogbia and Gabby Agbonlahor, players whose faces appear next to the word "average" in the dictionary, when Aston Villa decided to shower them with millions of pounds. For me, even now, the problem with those two has never been their ability, but the fact Aston Villa should have canned them long before contracts were extended and not enabled the situation where one of them refuses to play and the other can't really play at all. The flip side of this is that Aston Villa pissed off their best player, Jores Okore, by refusing to treat him the same and secure his future. Not only will he be jumping ship this summer, Villa's lack of faith has turned him from a resolute performer into someone who just can't be bothered to play for Villa anymore.
There's a small few who have performed 'relatively' okay, but should be doing better and chief among them are Micah Richards and Leandro Bacuna. The latter has gratefully accepted each and every role that has been asked of him by three different managers and I will not chuck him under the bus for that. Micah Richards, on the other hand, is far too passionate and in trying to save every single game from disaster and often runs so far out of position that the tepid Alan Hutton is a better option in the right-back position.
On the other side, there's a few who escape total blame - Ciaran Clark, Mark Bunn, Jordan Amavi (by de facto) and the rotating injury table of Rudy Gestede, Libor Kozak and Jack Grealish. While they've been actors in this tragedy, André Green and Jordan Lyden have no blame to receive in this tale of woe.
Finally, we turn to Alan Hutton and Aly Cissokho who are just fish out of water, playing for fans who don't like them, in a league they don't have the ability to play in. Poor bastards.
All in all, Villa's situation is one of their own making and even though Rémi Garde could have done a lot more to fix this mess, it's not at all his fault or his problem. Villa's players have allowed themselves to form a totally toxic identity and Villa's newbies have been all too accepting of this attitude.
It's time for a clear out.