**EDIT - Shortly after this news was reported, the Browns threw a curveball and actually announced Gregg Williams as the new Interim Head Coach. Annoying. Still, Saunders is on the coaching staff, or was..**
The Cleveland Browns and Aston Villa are two sporting institutions that for a number of reasons have been tied together by fate. Optimism defines a passionate working-class fanbase for both teams, and that optimism is usually paid back by failure; despite the historic success underlining everything that the team seems to do.
The most obvious connection between the two teams is the Lerner Family. Al Lerner owned the Browns and passed that honour onto his son, Randy. Randy didn’t seem at all comfortable with running the Browns - and instead followed his passion for soccer by purchasing Aston Villa. Most of Randy’s time was spent at Villa, and the Browns stagnated and were eventually sold to Jimmy Haslam. For whatever reason, history repeated itself, and Lerner Jr didn’t at all seem comfortable with running the Villa, as time passed.
Lerner, despite his obvious shortcomings as an owner, brought plenty of Ohio natives and Browns fans into contact with Aston Villa, and vice versa. I follow the Browns passionately, and that is because of Lerner. Many Browns fans (you’ll be familiar with more than a few of those, I’m sure) follow Villa because of Lerner.
The links between the Browns and Villa have always seemed so oddly strong, even after Lerner moved on from both teams - it’s always seemingly been there. My love for Villa doesn’t at all bely my love for the Browns. It’s like a key ingredient for both.
News breaking today will forge that link into something stronger. After Hue Jackson was removed from his position as Head Coach after barely winning a football game since 2016; Al Saunders will take over the Head Coach position at the team.
If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Al is the great-nephew of one Ron Saunders.
You might know of him.
Al was born and raised in London before moving over to the United States and falling in love with American football. He’s had an incredibly storied career backing up coaches in the sport, and will now step up to be the ‘safe pair of hands’ that the Browns probably (don’t) need. We’ll see. Success is not commonly found on the banks of Lake Erie.
Me? I’m not so sure of what will become of the Browns right now. But I’m pretty stoked that their bond with Villa has grown just a tiny bit stronger.