Big Eck, A Case for the Defence - The Birmingham Mail

We received a very good letter last week from one of our Aston Villa facebook followers, sorry it's taken so long to post but thanks to M Lawrence for a very reasoned piece on why fans should give Alex McLeish a break.

Martin O’Neill, why Alex McLeish won’t be leaving, and a case in defence.

We’re 11 games away from the end of the season and everyone in claret and blue is ready to kill. Sadly, the knives are still directed towards the man in charge. Many fans still talk about Martin O’Neill and the great things he did for us while at the same time calling for the head of Alex McLeish. I implore you, Villans, to show some faith.

Martin O’Neill

No doubt, the man did some great work when Randy Lerner became chairman and MON was appointed manager. Proud history, bright future. Good times. But in 5 season in charge what did he actually accomplish? We finished top 6 a few times and got a cup final and semi-final. But what did we win?

That’s right, we won nothing. Despite the great football that we played, we still came away empty-handed while he was in charge, and to suggest that we made progress in the time he was here is wrong; the only thing we made were losses. Admittedly, MON made some great signings in Ashley Young, John Carew, James Milner, Stewart Downing and (at the time) Richard Dunne and James Collins.

But look at them now. All of these players have moved on and (aside from Carew unless you count the Championship as a possibility) look to be on their way to winning silverware with their new clubs. For the team that we had, in 5 years we should have won something by then. Still not convinced MON did a poor job? Here are some more facts....

MON spent approximately £140m on transfer fees (lord knows what went on wages) and re-couped around £40m during his time in charge. As a manager, that is an unacceptable amount to lose in 5 years. £100m. £20m a season. Look at the players he signed: Marlon Harewood, Wayne Routledge, Curtis Davies, Nicky Shorey, Nigel Reo-Coker.

For those 5 players with a total fee of nearly £30m, how often were they used? Luke Young, a right-back used to fill in at left-back. Reo-Coker, a midfielder used to fill in at right-back! Nicky Shorey sat on the bench kicking his heels and counting his wages. Steve Sidwell cost around £5.5m – hardly used. To say that the man wasted money is an understatement. Emile Heskey, £3.5m......say no more.

In contrast, he spent this money to replace these players who he deemed unfit to play for Aston Villa.....Peter Whittingham. Gary Cahill. Steven Davis. Craig Gardner. Players who came through the academy and would have bled for the shirt to this day. But I digress.

Why Alex McLeish won’t be leaving

There’s no hard maths in this one. If Randy Lerner paid compensation to the Blues to get him out of his contract, why would he then pay again to do the same thing? It makes no sense. If Alex McLeish did the unthinkable and took us down, that is probably the only situation in which his hand would be forced. It would still leave us out of pocket, but with good reason.

McLeish has reiterated several times this season that he is able to take the stick we give him on the chin, is thick-skinned and is determined to make our club great again. It may be the usual cliché, but what if he means it? Remember, this is a man who has come from the dark side to do a job for us. Why would he not have something to prove? “I’ve crossed the great divide to take Mr Lerner’s money and bring you relegation and misfortune....” doesn’t sound true to me.A case in defence

Alex McLeish could well be the man to take Aston Villa forward. If we lost him now, or at the end of the season, it would put us right back at square one. Things were different when Randy first took over, he was happy to plough money into transfer fees and wages, but then he had his fingers burned by the one they call O’Neill. Last season we faced a similar threat of relegation: enter Darren Bent for £24m well spent.

Now we have McLeish, after nearly 2 years of instability and uncertainty. He knows he’s caught between a rock and a hard place with us right now, but considering the players we have and the season we’re having, things could be a lot worse.

We’re only a few good results away from the top half of the table. If McLeish had the money that was given to O’Neill we could be looking at a different Villa side, but sadly that won’t happen. Yet.

What would you do? If you have 2 experienced international defenders in Collins and Dunne who rocked the boat last season, would you ship them out, leaving 2 huge gaps at the back, or try to get them back on side doing the job that they are capable of doing, and have done before?

Would you build the team around N’Zogbia and Ireland because that’s how they’d like it or would you try and get them playing as part of a team rather than the centre of it?

Would you come out to the press and undermine your own ability by saying you’re doing a crap job, or would you try and stay positive and keep faith in the players that are letting you down because you need unity?

Would you address the fans personally, in press conferences and letters, or would you shirk the responsibility and send a rep out to speak for you? These are the kind of decisions McLeish has to make, and has made, and they are pivotal.

Barring one player, McLeish brought in 2 great signings for us: Shay Given and Charles N’Zogbia. One of the Premier league’s best keepers and a very talented winger. We also have a young left-back in Enda Stevens. These players can be big for us in the next few seasons, and with McLeish showing faith in the younger lads we could have a potentially ambitious, hungry, exciting attacking team over the next few years.

McLeish said on the official Villa website that he likes Gary Gardner because “he’d run through brick walls for Aston Villa”. I’m not sure about you, but I’d take a player like that over an £80,000 a week prima donna international any day. I think most Villa fans would too.

McLeish is adamant that he does not tell the team not to attack. Why would he lie? He knows that the only way to win games is to score goals and keep them out.

Maybe he’s been guilty of telling the lads to defend a 1-0 lead. A dangerous game, but if other teams can do it then why can’t we? Especially with the experience we have at the back? If the team’s shaky it’s because we have weak links, as mentioned earlier with the lack of passion for playing for Villa. Hopefully these will be fixed in the close season.

Overall, you can’t judge a man on three-quarters of a season. Chelsea are looking for their 8th manager in 9 years because their chairman thinks the league can be bought. Our chairman might not have the millions of Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour but he has faith in the manager.

He had enough faith to give O’Neill money to ruin the club and leave us when it couldn’t be fixed straight away. He had faith in Gerard Houllier to pick a top striker when we needed one. He has faith in Alex McLeish to do a great job for Aston Villa. It’s pointless to make petitions calling for him to be sacked, or for QIA to take us over. It won’t happen.

Next season I envisage changes, like getting rid of Dunne,

Warnock and Collins from the wage bill. I see Makoun potentially coming back in to do a job. I see more lads from the reserves taking first-team places, players who haven’t been tainted by wages, cynicism and hype, players who will listen to the manager and carry out their jobs with efficiency and style.

If football is a religion then at Villa some fans are missing a vital component of religion, and that is faith. To constantly undermine the job and performance of everyone at the club in a clearly difficult time is to abandon faith in Aston Villa. It’s time to stop complaining.

We have 11 games left. It’s a far stretch of the imagination, but that’s 33 potential points. Alex McLeish put together a team that knocked Aston Villa out of the Carling Cup, took them to the final and beat Arsenal at Wembley.

More than Martin O’Neill did for us. He is capable of doing great things, and he can do them for us if we give him a chance. He got relegated with Blues, but we are a bigger and better club with more money and stability. Harry Redknapp got relegated with Southampton, look at where he is now.

Give McLeish a chance to get it right. Wear your colours with pride and roar your heart out in the stands. One goal down, two goals down, keep on roaring. We laugh in the face of relegation. Show everyone that we are still Aston Villa. We still have a proud history and a bright future. We still have faith.



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Some good points that even make myself a none mcleish fan rethink for a while. Let's give him till Christmas so we can see how he puts his own jigsaw together and then we will see if he is the man for the job, or not!

I was getting fed up of him, but too much of what was being said, it too distant from what is actually being said by McLeish on the touch line and to the media... Not once have I heard McLeish trying to drop the team back, he asked the to "control the ball, play it simple"... not "Park the bus, everyone back" which is what many people seem to think what he is saying. Watch the Fulham and Blackburn game, See how many time Cuellar walks the defence out instead of letting them camp on the 18 yard box.. it's make a big difference. McLeish ask's them to "squeeze the game" again that is not an instruction to drop deep and defend... I think he has come in for some uncalled for and wrong criticism. 

Yes at the start he set up to protect our defence, but as the season has progressed attitude, work rate and expensive football has come back in to the team, I do feel their are some destructiv characters who are more interested in them selves than the team within the squad and McLeish is plaing a balancing act to keep the current harmony within the squad, getting the kids on the pitch and   getting a team on the pitch that is competitive.... You can see clear derision int he way some of the senior player talk to the youngster on the pitch,  Warnock berating Herd when a player skipped past him... trying to shift blame, Clark has been had a go at on numerous occasions this season, when Mr Collins has failed to mark someone and tackled/headed thin air... The youngster all seem to love Petrov, and we all know Delph won't settle until Dunne and Collins have gone after the Health Spa incident. We have some real problem characters in my opinion and this summer will see them shifted and probably a few nibbles from players within the Villa squad when they have gone... tweet the youngsters about JC... they won't RT it, but with will DM you sometime laughing... they don't seem to rate him. MA, BB and JG have all laughed at my JC comments... 

The writer of the letter should join Villa's PR team. The thing I agree with most is Big Eck is going no where unless he gets us relegated (which I can't see happening) so whether we like it or not there is no point getting on his back. It effects the players, the team, the football and the support so we need to show a little faith and bring back a roar to villa park.

Get The Holte Rocking Again.... The atmosphere is generated by the Holte, if they bounce the stadium shakes with them.... they are the 12th man, but so far this season they've been piggy packing on the player rather than actually helping them...

i don't agree with a lot of that letter, indeed i think most of it is hogwash.

It is quite obvious that the writer is one of the ones that disliked MON, indeed attempting to state that MON is accountable for bringing the club to ruin is scandalous. I would love to see him say that to MON's face.

Indeed i am also surprised that he fails completely to mention the profit made on the better signings that MON made. If you take that into account, over a 5 year period, not four (as sale of assets that are due to MON's 'errors' should be accounted for when sold).

I am not saying that MON din't make mistakes, we all know that he did, but a fairly judged outlook is not too much to ask for, and it is not in this letter.

he also states that Nzogbia is a great signing? Who are we kidding there? Seriously, get a grip. He has potential to be a great signing, but has proved absolutely jack so far. cmon, we all know that. Indeed he has been as poor as Downing was in his first season....

he also states Makoun may come back? I dont think anyone can see that happening, not least because if Makoun wanted to be here, he probably wouldn't have left in the first place.

re Dunne leaving next year - i wouldn't be so sure. I would place good money on Dunne being one of the best defenders at the upcoming Euro's, providing he gets match fit in time.

We know how another Euro championship top performer did when he arrived here, so it may be foolish to sell another before next season begins.You don't think?

most laughable of all is the belief that McLeish can do great things? Seriously, great? I think he fails to understand the meaning of the word, as it has been misused a few times already. I would not call winning the League cup and getting relegated in the same year as great. ironic perhaps, but certainly not great.

lol Umma... the point remains though that there are two facts... He won't be sacked and the Atmosphere of the fans doesn't help anything...  

Slight bias towards the Irish contingent there Umma.

Firstly, what the writer said was correct, with a net spend of roughly £140 million pounds, profit on Young, Downing and Milner was roughly £40 million. Those are the facts.

Secondly, Makoun could very well come back, but i'd say it was more McLeish's decision than Makoun's. How do you know it was his decision to begin with?

As for Dunne, well i agree he'll probably be here next season.

perhaps an Irish bias yes, admittedly.

the money thing is not so clear - and certainly not fact. I have read various things from various sources, but i would like to think that over MON tenures, the net is closer to 80 rather than 100. but i am open to correction on that.

Makoun won't come back. McLeish had been at Villa for all of a month. You think that in that time, when he knew we were short on numbers just said, you know what i dont want an established Cameroon international that has played in the CL, we dont need him etc etc etc.

No, i bet Makoun's agent said there was interest from Greece, and Makoun went yes. Although i am of course speculating. McLeish may not be the best manager, but he is not a complete idiot.

I hope the transfer of Holman is only the start and on paper it looks a good signing an all action kind of player who never stop running can only help the squad. One thing you can say about this is Holman has been brought in early he has already seen the ground and the training facilities and will hopefully get a full pre season.

He has very much been part of his team in Holland and has played in Europe this season. Another good thing is he is Australian and they have the right mentality to be successful  in sport who have thought Herd would have been so good this season i really thought he would have been sold in the summer. I remember he came on last season against UTD at Villa Park with his long curly hair and he never really impressed me but now he has had a haircut and showed desire in training he has been rewarded with a first team slot and i would have no problems if he were to be the DM next season.

It also looks like we might go down the Newcastle route and but good quality players from across Europe  rather then pay huge fees to get decent English players.

Some players have to get sold from our squad like Warnock Heskey and either one or both of Dunne and Collins and Makoun will probably go too at least Big Eck has scouts who do their homework.

If we get a decent offer for Nzogbia i would probably sell him but then again it is only his first season he might improve.

Hutton has shown enough going forward and most likely will stay as long as he gets enough support he we be fine.

                                                                                           My team next season would be

                                                                                                Given

                                                        Hutton             Cuellar (has to stay)  new CB               New LB someone like Pieters or Razvan Rat

                                                                                    Stan           Herd

                                         Holman/Marc                              Ireland ( hope he wants to stay)        Nzogbia/ new winger

                                                                                              Bent

With the same youngsters getting more game time and also bringing through more of the quality young lads we have like Baker and Benji 

Dazza i said it yesterday and agree... Aussies don;t know when they're beaten... it's true, no aussie I know will ever go down without a fight... It's a great characteristic and something that many people will over look in Holdens signing

maybe we can convince cahill to join as well.

we could have a squad half irish and half australian.

just keep them away from the pub.

Walkabout or Scruffy Murphy's lol

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