Trap door gaping for relegation-bound Villa
The writing has been on the wall at Aston Villa for months and defeat at home to Bournemouth on Saturday combined with Norwich City avoiding defeat would signal the end of their ever-present membership of the Premier League.
For fans of the seven-times English champions and 1982 European Cup winners it may come as a blessed relief.
Three wins from 32 league matches, 22 goals scored, 62 conceded and two managers sacked barely does justice to a season of ceaseless gloom at Villa Park, a magnificent old stadium that has hosted top-flight football for the past 28 years.
The club’s imminent relegation, they are 15 points behind fourth from bottom Norwich with 18 points to play for, means only Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will be able to boast ever-present Premier League status next season.
And the current malaise on and off the pitch hardly bodes well for Villa rejoining the elite at the first opportunity.
To make matters worse Midlands rivals Leicester City, a club without Villa’s rich pedigree, look well-placed to win the title as they hold a seven-point lead at the top of the table.
Eric Black has been handed the managerial reins after Remi Garde, who replaced Tim Sherwood, was sacked last month following five fruitless months in charge.
He has the task of trying to salvage some Villa pride with a squad that appears to have thrown in the towel.
“Last week was difficult because of the turmoil with the manager leaving,” Black told a news conference on Friday.
“The potential of relegation didn’t come about yesterday, it’s been going on for a while.
“I’m trying to change whatever happened previously. I’m not pointing fingers. We’re bottom but we need to put in a performance for our supporters to get them back onside.”
Disillusioned with the club’s steady decline under the ownership of American businessman Randy Lerner, fans held up placards saying ‘Proud history, what future?’ during last week’s 4-0 drubbing by Chelsea.
Lerner, who bought the club 10 years ago from long-time owner Doug Ellis, has been trying to sell since 2014.
Dropping out of the Premier League will hardly attract buyers and new chairman Steve Hollis’ immediate task will be to try and move out high-earning players ill-equipped for next year’s Championship dogfight.
“The problem will be shifting out those players Villa no longer want who will still be on decent money,” former midfielder Ian Taylor told The Times newspaper.
There is also the question of whether Black, a former Aberdeen striker, will be allowed to rebuild the team or whether a new manager is in charge next season.
“I’d always be 100 percent professional whether it be for two days or seven weeks,” Black said. “I want to see progress, even little steps.”