Randy Lerner: Is It Fair to Call His Commitment into Question?
Aston Villa are coming off a bad week, which has made many fans question what's going on at the club.
Twitter is awash with adverse statements from disgruntled fans, but the truth is that most of them have simply lost faith in the project that they bought into five months before.
Last season, Villa were in the same position and Alex McLeish took the flak. This season, Paul Lambert is taking some of it, but Randy Lerner's commitment to the club has been staunchly called into question too.
Is that fair, though?
Lambert has warned fans not to expect a blockbuster couple of days in which all the problems are solved. Speaking to Sky Sports, the Scot said:
At this minute there's not much really happening. There's been guys we went for who have gone to other clubs.
But if you are asking me if there will be a vast amount of money available during the rest of the transfer window, there won't be.
This has alarm bells positively ringing.
The last time Villa were in this position, Randy Lerner financed the signing of Darren Bent for £18 million—a signing that kept his club in the Premier League and even helped them achieve a healthy position of ninth.
This is fresh in the memory of worried fans, and they're looking for news of transfers and not finding it. They're becoming frustrated and worried, and they are speculating on the source of the problem.
Why wouldn't you improve the squad by buying players considering the current situation? It must be the board, deduce the fans.
To compound the fears, it is well-known that Lerner has sold the Cleveland Browns recently for an astonishing $1 billion (h/t Birmingham Post).
So where's that money? It's already been spent.
Lambert inherited a skeletal squad that had one, perhaps two, positions "set". The rest were completely up in the air, and the Scot did his best to reinforce the side, even re-signing fan favourite Brad Guzan.
Lerner gave him approximately £22 million to spend in the summer and he used it well—right-back, left-back, two strikers and two central midfielders. These were all positions that required investment.
Yet, was it right to sign a load of youngsters, or should Lambert have picked up a group of veterans?
The youngster method allows them to mould an identity, and a friendship. The veteran route will allow them to do just exactly what Queens Park Rangers did, and how many neutrals have labelled their methodology deplorable and inefficient?
It's a lose-lose situation for whoever is pulling the trigger on the signings, and of the two options, Lambert chose the harmonious one. It was bold, it was brave, but it could yet work.
Relegation or not, this Villa team lacked a core. Whoever took the job faced the task of installing one for the good of the club, even if it meant a torrid year of results.
There will be no Darren Bent-esque signing this January, no knight in shining armour to rescue a relegation-threatened side. For all we know, Lambert could have been given another £15 million but is choosing not to use it. If anything is clear, the Scot believes in his side and believes in his chances.
It's important to note that Villa did little to no business in the summer before Bent arrived, as the James Milner transfer dominated proceedings. No major additions surfaced and Gerard Houllier spent around what Lambert likely will this season.
If you look at it closely, it's very, very consistent.
Experience is present in the form of a returning Richard Dunne, captain Ron Vlaar, Stephen Ireland and Bent. Youthful optimism is present in the form of Christian Benteke, Andi Weimann, Matt Lowton and Ashley Westwood.
Lerner is backing Lambert to the very end and is giving the Scot free reign to carry out his plan. The former Norwich man may be chastised for placing faith in youngsters, but the alternative is a QPR-style free-for-all.
He's installed a core group and identity to Villa and bought a match-winner in Benteke.
All the while, Lerner has consistently funded proceedings.
So is it fair to question the chairman's commitment? No, no it's not.
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