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Aston Villa suspend Kevin McDonald amid bullying claims

Claims by former Villan Gareth Farrelly have led to an internal investigation into the behaviour of U23 manager Kevin McDonald

Stoke City v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Aston Villa have moved to suspend and ‘re-assign’ former Caretaker Manager and current Academy Coach Kevin McDonald after historic bullying claims resurfaced earlier this week.

A report by David Conn in The Guardian names Aston Villa youth graduate Gareth Farrelly as a victim of Kevin McDonald’s treatment in the mid-90s. Farrelly was reportedly left feeling despondent and suicidal after battling with McDonald, who seemed to use ‘devious’ tactics to treat Farrelly unfairly and unkindly. Farrelly moves on to accuse McDonald’s regime of destroying talent at the club.

This is not the first time that Farrelly has hinted at enduring a tough time under McDonald. The ex-Irish international once stated in an article by The Bolton News that he clashed with McDonald ‘every day’ but said that McDonald turned him into a ‘better player’ - a faint slice of praise. In the Irish Independent, Farrelly stated that he left Villa under a cloud due to a ‘toxic relationship with one of the coaches’.

It is also not the first time that these allegations have been made. The latest reports also fall in line with reports that surfaced this time last year of bullying, with Kevin McDonald standing accused of leaving a young Villa academy player exhibiting signs of ‘stress and depression’.

There remains little positive to this situation other than the fact that Villa, as a club, have pro-actively moved to investigate this issue. Last year’s accusations and reports did not seem to go much further than the back page of The Guardian. This time, it seems that the latest accusations have been met with stern action from a club that seems to be moving forward into the 21st century - both on and off the pitch.

At this point, it seems fair to add that coaching practice should not leave those in your charge feeling negative nor despondent, depressed and especially suicidal. Those words do not represent a positive culture nor a good environment to breed success.

It will be little consolation to those who have dealt with McDonald should the accusations be found to be true. It seems like many a promising talent may have burned out at Aston Villa in the past due to bullying issues. Who knows?