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Howard's Way: The (New) Hodgson Report

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Howard's Way: The (New) Hodgson Report

Post by Trotters on Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:07 pm

Howard Hodgson wrote: The Hodgson Report on Aston Villa- 11 years after the original

Intro- Back in 2003 my Father compiled a report having been commissioned by Villa Fans Combined on the running of Aston Villa PLC. It was well received and we believe led to the eventual sale of Aston Villa in 2006. It was clear then the club desperately need new direction and funding and its very clear now we are back to those days so I have compiled another report all be it in briefer detail. Its written with the best interests of Aston Villa as always, in mind.


The Board- The Aston Villa main board members are Randolph Lerner, Paul Faulkner and Robin Russell with General Charles Krulak as the one non executive board member

It’s become very clear that this is a board ill equipped to run a football club successfully. The knowledge simply isn’t there on football in general and Aston Villa as a football club in particular. There is a very long list of expensive mistakes been made, too long to list but proof in the pudding is we are struggling to match Doug Ellis/DOL last season’s (2005/6) points tally (42) for the third season running

Off the field activities are run well including an excellent run hospitality division and good work in the community with charities like Acorns. However we are a Football club, not a Hotel.

This means the club relies solely on the football manager for leadership and direction on the football pitch. A dangerous scenario as an air of invincibility starts to surround this one individual.

This very apparent with Martin O Neill and is evident again with the current manager Paul Lambert.

Until recently I had a reasonable relationship with Paul Faulkner and always tried to advise from afar where possible. It was becoming clearer every week to me and several others that despite our fairly comfortable position in the Premier League we were digressing in our playing style which would lead to big problems not far down the line.

I took the time out to write to Randy Lerner about my concerns and made some suggestions as to how we could improve things..

Suffice to say the reaction I got was not expected and led to me being told I was no longer welcome in the Aston Villa Directors Box/Restaurant. The reasons given? In writing for infringing on Mr Lerner’s privacy by discussing on twitter his attendance record (Hardly a secret) and in person by Paul Faulkner for not being supportive… His exact words being “What were you trying to achieve in writing this letter to the owner? The manager has seen it and is not happy” “We would not want you to outlast your welcome here Howard”… I found his behaviour incredible bearing in mind it was at Directors and he was talking to me like an employee when in fact I was a customer who had spent a great deal of money over the last 2 years on match sponsorships and Directors memberships not to mention a season ticket holder for 36 years and from a family who have had long standing relationships with many of the previous owners (Ellis, Bendell, Kartz)

Its very sad that constructive criticism is just not allowed at Aston Villa these days. The press also have to tread very warily for fear of being banned if they print things not to the liking of the Football Club. How can that be right?

We have been failing for four consecutive years and yet all we are told by the board is that a long term plan is in place and they are satisfied with the progress being made. What progress? We had bad seasons under Ellis regime but never 4 in a row. Even when we went down in 86/87 by 89/90 we were almost won the league as we did in 92/93. What do we have to show for Lerner regime? Three top 6 finishes and a cup final which all seem a long time ago.

THE MANAGER- PAUL LAMBERT

£40M has been spent by Paul Lambert on 16 new players yet we remain on course for another struggle with the same low points achieved by his predecessor and the style of football has hardly improved. That is not my idea of progress. When money is not unlimited perhaps bringing in 3 left backs and 4 big centre forwards is a tad misguided especially when the spine of central midfield, central defence and wingers remains woefully inadequate. The fact Lambert seems so obsessed with big strikers tells you a lot about his thoughts tactically.

He is primarily a behind the ball manager.. Get men behind the ball, soak up the pressure, let the opponent have the ball and then hit them on the counter attack. This can work away from home as we have seen but at home, counter attacking opportunities are rare except against top sides who will come and dominate. Most sides sit back and say “You have the ball Villa. You are at home. Break us down”. Sadly we don’t have a clue how to do that and other teams now know this.

Our only plan is to go sideways, backwards, long ball as we don’t commit men beyond the ball or run enough off the ball for the man on the ball to have options to pass to in front of him. Movement draws opponents out of position and creates space. We just don’t do this for fear of… You’ve guessed it…. Being hit on the counter attack! We hold position far too much. Even our full backs haven’t been getting forward this season so literally the man on the ball at Villa Park has nowhere to go but sideways, backwards or long. This makes it very easy for away teams to defend against. Added to this they know they don’t have to create much for us to concede a goal as we nearly always have a lapse in concentration in us especially when Vlaar does not play.

Lambert is the manager and he is paid a lot of money to do far better than he is doing. I see the same turgid stuff week after week with no attempt to change or improve. He has openly admitted he doesn’t know why we play so poorly at home but surely he realises it comes down to what I have just outlined? People tell me he has made us more solid. Well so what. Its not paying dividends with the results. It did perhaps when we were sitting on 19 points after 14 games but negative, long ball football always gets found out in the end much like it did in the Mcleish season and we now have amassed just 9 points from the last 13 games, failing to score in our last 3 games against teams around us or out of form. Its no wander he spends so much time chasing big strikers as our whole home strategy appears to be hitting long diagonal balls to a big man for others to feed off. It’s a tactic that is out of date and in any case the big number 9 is often too isolated anyway.

I must confess to being supportive of Paul Lambert’s appointment. I honestly thought a bright, young manager like him after the disastrous appt/reign of Alex Mcleish would be just what this club needed. He came with a reputation of having his teams play attractive, attacking football and first and foremost we’d try and win games no matter who the opponent. He made a point of addressing the home form himself when he first arrived saying it was about time the Villa fans started enjoying their teams football at Villa Park again.. Well 32 games on and with only 8 wins registered and some of the worst, aimless football I have ever seen at Villa Park in 36 years of going, I am still waiting to enjoy myself Paul.

I did think we were on to something positive between Feb-May 2013. We played positively and even found some form at Villa Park. The QPR game (second half) and Sunderland games were big highlights as were the first 60 minutes V Chelsea when until Benteke sent off we were the better side. I went into the summer feeling we had a real chance, if we kept playing in that manner, of achieving 50 points this season. Those thoughts were strengthened by the win at The Emirates and the strong performance again V Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Sadly since that second game we just haven’t performed with the exceptions of a bright second half V Man City and an excellent first half V Liverpool. We have had some narrow wins V Southampton and Sunderland but overall its been regression all the way. I honestly don’t think we have put one consistent 90 minute performance together, a feature of Lambert’s reign and we have only won 2 games I believe by a 2 goal margin and none by 3 or more.

He has proved to be a major disappointment. His tactics as outlined are one dimensional, predictable and far more negative than I ever imagined they would be. Tiote made a telling comment on Sunday after the game claiming he never felt Villa came to win the game. That mindset has been too apparent in recent times and it’s a mindset I would never have associated with a Lambert team before he came here. Also the same mistakes are made week after week indicating the work on the training ground simply isn’t working.

He has bought some good players who have done well but also a lot of average players that just seem to be making up the numbers. Perhaps trusting a few more of the bomb squad who some we are still paying fortunes too every week or/and the next gen winners squad could of allowed him to buy less quantity and more quality?

I was invited to Bodymoor Heath at the beginning of the Lambert reign and was explained the strategy of buying young talent who were going to grow as a team together. Henke had been appointed as head of scouting and he would ensure we were first in line to capture hidden/ undiscovered gems in Europe. However Henke was gone by Jan 2013.

This sounded a good plan as long as the young players targeted were good enough to play in one of the toughest leagues in the world. Whilst some like Benteke and Okore are, too many are sub standard especially as we have not targeted any proven players at this level with experience until this Jan window which represented a big shift in strategy by Lambert who had previously been quoted as saying “This club tried the experienced footballer route and it didn’t get them much success.” It was therefore a surprise to hear him say he now did want experienced players at the beginning of January.. Brett Holman must have had a wry smile on his face when he heard Lambert say this as he had suggested the same thing a year earlier much to the annoyance of Lambert who made sure Brett wouldn’t have a future at Villa following that comment.

CONCLUSION

It is my opinion that Aston Villa is in a bigger mess than it was when the original Hodgson Report was written in 2003 when fans were at the end of their tether with the previous owner Doug Ellis. We had just finished on 45 points under Graham Taylor which was deemed totally unacceptable. We then had 3 seasons under David O Leary with 56 points, 47 points and 42 points being amassed with limited transfer funds. It was clear by 2006 the club was indeed crying out for a takeover and up stepped Reform Acquisitions LLC (Randy Lerner).

Everyone was so excited. Doug and DOL were finally gone and we had this bright new era with Lerner and MON that would take us back to the top.

Whilst no one can say MON wasn’t given fantastic backing in that time, the lack of a football man on the board to control the type of player brought in to make sure we always could sell on for a profit and not keep buying players at the top of their value was badly missing and blew such a hole in Lerner’s plan that we have since been slowly sinking like the Titanic.

Even after MON, Paul Faulkner, Mcleish and to a lesser degree Houllier burnt serious millions on crazy deals for Ireland, Bent, Makoun, Hutton, Given and N Zogbia. Hutton alone will have been paid £4 million in wages since he last played for us! You would have thought we would have learnt our lesson of another right back who hardly ever played for us but got paid £7M in wages… A certain Habib Beye! I say to a lesser degree Houllier, as Bent was primarily a Lerner signing plus he did almost single handed save the club from relegation in 2010/11.

The irony is it’s the Lerner families money that has been blown but he continues to back religiously people like Paul Faulkner who as Chief Executive Officer is responsible for these day to day business decisions like what people get paid and for how long. As I mentioned earlier Paul relies far too heavily on the football manager as he simply doesn’t have the knowledge as someone like Daniel Levy to make these decisions himself. Surely that cant be right as Chief Executive of a big Football club?

Ultimately Aston Villa deserves far better. Its very unfortunate Randy Lerner has lost the money he has but that comes with the territory and if you make bad decisions and don’t appoint the right people, these things happen in business.

Aston Villa needs to move on. Randy Lerner either has to sell the club at the earliest opportunity as Doug Ellis did when it became apparent he couldn’t fund it satisfactorily or provide more finance to rebuild the club properly and return it to its rightful place as a big six player.

This meandering in the lower reaches of the Premier League has to stop. Frankly I am extremely worried that we may not even be a Premiership club next season our form and play is that bad.

You have to hope that like in that final Ellis/DOL season we do survive and a clean sweep is made in the summer of the people in power at Villa and lessons are learnt if a new owner does come in. The biggest one being get Aston Villa people who understand the club, the fans and the game on the board who will have a burning desire to return the club to the top. That combined with the necessary funding and appointing the right manager will have happier times not far away.

If we continue with Lerner/Faulkner/Lambert indefinitely I fear years of pain and unsatisfactory results unless they have a major rethink in attitude and strategy.


Howard Hodgson

Follow me on twitter @HodgsonHoward



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Re: Howard's Way: The (New) Hodgson Report

Post by Guest on Wed Apr 30, 2014 12:13 am

I remember the night that I read this and I thought to myself 'finally, somebody is articulating what a lot of fans quietly think'. 

That really is such an excellent, erudite summary of where things have gone wrong under Lerner and how in reality we have not progressed from where we were in 2006. 

Absolutely brilliant Howard. Thank you.

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Re: Howard's Way: The (New) Hodgson Report

Post by HH 8166 on Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:23 am

Farrell_10 wrote:I remember the night that I read this and I thought to myself 'finally, somebody is articulating what a lot of fans quietly think'. 

That really is such an excellent, erudite summary of where things have gone wrong under Lerner and how in reality we have not progressed from where we were in 2006. 

Absolutely brilliant Howard. Thank you.

Thanks mate.. Much appreciated.

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