Randy Lerner's Coy Statement Suggests an Aston Villa Takeover Is Imminent

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Randy Lerner's Coy Statement Suggests an Aston Villa Takeover Is Imminent
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Aston Villa's owner and chairman Randy Lerner added to the club's late season uncertainty by making non-committal remarks regarding his potential sale of the club in a statement on Sunday. 

Released following Villa's 0-0 draw with Southampton—snapping their four-match losing streak—Lerner's vague words cast further doubt over the direction the Birmingham club is currently heading.

Following the point yesterday at Villa Park, there have been stories about my selling the Club[...]

I will address these after the season. Paul Lambert, Paul Faulkner and I speak daily and remain committed to the immediate job of limiting distraction and confusion in order that Villa have the best chance possible of finishing on a strong note

By refusing to outright deny an imminent sale, Lerner lends credence to the rumours that a takeover is coming, per Steve Wollaston of the Birmingham Mail. Manchester United's handling of David Moyes' dismissal serves as the most recent evidence that refusing to comment on a matter can be a clear message in its own right.

If the rumblings do come to fruition then Lerner's tumultuous time at Villa Park will come to a close with many fans eager to see him out the door as quickly as possible. Lerner's popularity has plummeted in recent times and seems to be directly correlated to his involvement with the club.

In addition to facing the dissent of the fan base, Lerner has been confronted with significant financial losses by the club from their most recent accounts, giving the owner further incentive to end his adventure in the Premier League.

The American businessman purchased Villa in 2006 and has made substantial monetary investment into the club during his tenure as chairman. During his early days in charge, Lerner was quick to splash the cash needed to bring Villa back to their former glory.

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Manager Martin O'Neill was given tremendous freedom in the transfer market and brought Villa some success. The Villans finished sixth for three consecutive seasons under the Irishman and even reached the League Cup final in 2010.

Nonetheless, Villa were unable to fully breakthrough by qualifying for the Champions League. A dissatisfied Lerner tightened the purse strings, sold the impressive James Milner and slashed O'Neill's transfer budget, forcing the latter's sudden resignation.

The experienced Gerard Houllier was brought in to steward the club and restored some of Lerner's earlier ambition while at the helm. Villa spent a combined £30 million to sign Darren Bent and Jean Makoun, but they floundered on the pitch and Houllier did not return for another season as manager.

Instead, during the summer of 2011, Lerner made a series of moves that made him very unpopular with many of the Villa supporters.

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Alex McLeish was appointed as the new manager, fresh off of leading rivals Birmingham City to relegation, and star wingers Ashley Young and Stewart Downing were sold for hefty fees with Charles N'Zogbia arriving to replace them.

McLeish's season in charge was nothing short of a disaster. None of his transfer signings made an impact and his negative style of football nearly saw Villa relegated. 

Now, two years later, Villa are hardly better off. Paul Lambert replaced McLeish with the stated goal of undoing the damage caused by the poor spending and lack of ambition that preceded him.

Unfortunately for Lambert, Villa have stagnated and do not look set to improve. Some of Lambert's transfers have been bargain purchases of promising, young talents, but the team's overall quality of play has not improved.

Although Lambert has shrunk part of Villa's inflated wage bill, the squad will need to sign a minimum of two or three impact players this summer to truly improve their chances of success. These players will not come cheaply and it looks increasingly unlikely that Lerner is willing to risk throwing more money away.

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A direct side-effect of Lerner's murky future with Villa is similar uncertainty regarding the fate of Lambert. Also facing heavy criticism from the Villa fans, Lambert's future as manager has been in question prior to the rumours of a club sale materialized.  

The Scottish manager admitted, per The Daily Mail's Laurie Whitwell, that a new owner would be a serious threat to his job security. Lambert's place is hardly secure as it stands with Lerner in charge, but the arrival of new bosses will likely result in a coaching shakeup as well.

While many may welcome a shift in leadership, it is difficult to predict when such a change will occur and how the new owners will go about fixing the problems left to them. The new ownership could take time to make a positive imprint on the club, leaving the fans to endure a painful transitional period.

With four games left in the season and relegation still a possibility, Villa fans are set to face a nauseating wait to determine their club's direction.

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