Wherever Aston Villa find themselves come the end of the season, we should be past the days of irrational decisions to try and stem the tide of years of failure.
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Take a look at our opponents from the past Saturday, and you’ll see one key thing has remained since even before they arrived into the Premier League. Eddie Howe. Despite any poor form across their now five-year stay in the upper echelons of English football, Howe has remained an ever-present at the helm of AFC Bournemouth. He has been supported by fans and his board simply because of the wider legacy that he has helped and is continuing to build – and it’s a risk that they’ve taken, rather than acting rashly and cutting ties in attempt to pick up points.
The same can be afforded, in kind, to Burnley’s Sean Dyche. The former centre-back has been in charge of the Turf Moor side for seven years now, and in this period has relegated them, re-promoted them as Champions, guided them into the Europa League and ensured their Premier League survival more than once.
Both of the above managers have created a legacy at their clubs, and whilst Eddie Howe is lauded for his progressive style, some may argue that Dyche is one of the remaining ‘proper football men’ in the Premier League with his style of play.
Neither Bournemouth or Burnley are of the size of Aston Villa, and neither of them can match Aston Villa’s financial gravitas – but the difference is clear to see currently in the fact that the aforementioned have become known as Premier League regulars – whilst the Villans are born-again new boys to the peak of English football.
Before Aston Villa reached the fabled land of the Premier League again, once more sitting at the table where the biggest feast was being held, they had been through six managers in the space of seven years. Gérard Houllier, Alex McLeish, Paul Lambert, Tim Sherwood, Rémi Garde, Roberto Di Matteo and Steve Bruce were all tasked with achieving different things under the mantle of manager, but it all stemmed down to stopping the tide of systemic rot that had engulfed the club for over a decade.
Steve Bruce was the closest to achieving it, stopping the vast majority of bad feeling about the club and taking it to the brink of Promotion, before financial ruin came and brought with it fear, poor form and his eventual dismissal despite the arrival of new owners.
Up stepped Dean Smith. He started fairly strongly, before a barren run of results left some fans calling for his head, of course wrongly in hindsight, but at the time it was considered a final gamble to keep the likes of Jack Grealish, John McGinn and James Chester, the three most important players at the club at that time. Not that there were any thoughts from the club, but they made the right decision to stick by their man in the time of woe. Their faith was repaid with history being made as the Villan’s won ten games in a row – and then eventual promotion to the Premier League.
It doesn’t matter what happens this season, in the grand scheme of things. If we find ourselves rock bottom with a thin hope of survival, Dean Smith should still be the manager of Aston Villa Football Club. Every fan would like survival first and foremost, and anything that comes after that is a bonus. But if that can’t be achieved, why should Dean Smith get the sack?
The connection between the manager, players and fans is at an all-time high. This might suffer a bit should the unthinkable happen, but who better to rekindle the embers than the boyhood fan, who wants his side to play progressive, attractive football?
There’s a legacy to be built here. Fans of, namely Burnley, might argue that the Dyche era has become stale – and after seven years – many would be inclined to agree. We can cross that road when we come to it.
For the foreseeable future, whatever may come, Dean Smith is the man for the job. Aston Villa, now more than ever, needs stability going forward – especially in the short term. We can’t go back to the managerial merry-go-round. Judging by comments made by Christian Purslow, the owners agree.
Hopefully that’s the case.