Aston Villa have sacked their manager Tim Sherwood after a disastrous start to the Premier League season, he left the club sitting in 19th place after 4 points from 10 games, 4 points from safety. They are now bottom after Sunderland's victory over Newcastle United which came a couple of hours after Sherwood's departure.
Text by Thomas Giles
When former Tottenham Hotspur manager Sherwood first arrived in February there was optimism from the fans as they saw him as a man with fresh ideas after the unimpressive record of previous managers Alex McLeish and Paul Lambert. Before he even took official charge, Sherwood gave an inspirational half time team talk during Villa's FA Cup fifth-round win over Leicester City. Villa were playing poorly and were lucky to be at 0-0 at the break, during which, Sherwood had given them a few choice words. These clearly had the desired effect as Villa won 2-1.
Survival in the Premier League and a run to the FA Cup final followed as Sherwood's charismatic personality looked to carry Villa back up to the heights they were at under Martin O'Neill.
At the end of last season, Sherwood promised that Villa wouldn't be in a relegation battle again during his tenure at the club. However, chaos ensued in the summer as a rather questionable team of people responsible for transfers was put together.
This new team recruited inexperienced players with raw talent who were meant to become future stars at Villa Park instead of signing players for the task in hand - Premier League survival.
One of those questionable appointments was Sporting Director Hendrik Almstadt who was recruited from the marketing department at Arsenal, the former club of Villa's Chief Executive Tom Fox. Despite no previous experience in the role, his supposed knowledge and interest in analytics, scouting and contract management landed him his position at Villa.
Paddy Reilly was appointed as Director of Scouting and Recruitment, he has previous connections with Villa owner Randy Lerner and this showed as the Villains recruited young players who could be developed and sold on for a profit, a priority for the American owner.
This policy of recruiting youngsters was the last thing that Villa needed, they needed experienced players that understood the rigours of the Premier League. It is not as if Villa got these players on the cheap either and overall they spent around £50m on players, including £9m on Barcelona youngster Adama Traore. Sherwood said Traore was a 'prospect for the future', a very odd statement considering the amount of money the club spent on him.
Most of these players were signed from French Ligue 1, an experiment which worked a few years ago with Newcastle United under the stewardship of Alan Pardew and his excellent Chief Scout Graham Carr. However, before being dismissed, Sherwood apparently told club owner Randy Lerner that he now has a worse squad than he inherited last season. Villa's manager was clearly puzzled and disappointed with the club's transfer policy.
In defence of Sherwood, he did lose the spine of his team in Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke. He could do nothing about these departures due to minds being made up by players and the daft release clause in the contract of England international Delph. Sherwood must also be credited for bringing youngster Jack Grealish into the first team , a player who has set the league alight and has been watched regularly by England boss Roy Hodgson.
However, it is not purely down to poor recruitment that Sherwood's reign has ended in disappointment. The players could not understand his tactics, perhaps something to do with the lack of English speakers in the squad, something Sherwood alluded to earlier in the season. His team selections were also rather strange and difficult to comprehend. It seemed the team and fans lost confidence in the manager and even his charismatic approach could not lift the team.
Despite this, Tim Sherwood cannot take full blame for Aston Villa's recent demise. Back in 2006, Martin O'Neill spent a large amount of Randy Lerner's money and then promptly left when he was told that the funds had run out. This has led to all subsequent managers having to slash wages by selling top stars such as Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, James Milner and Gareth Barry and bringing in poor replacements.
During this time some players have become far too comfortable at the club, an example of this is Gabriel Agbonlahor, who seems to have become complacent as there has been nobody to challenge for his place in the side. Once an England international tipped for big things, his development has stalled as he has not had to improve to keep his place in the side.
Overall, Aston Villa need to find a resolution quickly if they are to avoid relegation from the Premier League this season and it will be interesting to see who is appointed in Sherwood's place. Recently sacked Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has been mentioned, as has Real Sociedad manager David Moyes but the current favourite is former Lyon manager and one-time Newcastle United target Remi Garde - a manager who despite his lack of Premier League experience would at least know the large amount of ex-Ligue 1 players in the squad.
Fans may point the finger at Sherwood but clearly the whole structure behind the scenes at Aston Villa is not right. Chairman Randy Lerner used to own American Football team the Cleveland Browns, a team that were starved of success and had a poor recruitment record under his stewardship. For fans to expect anything different to this whilst Lerner is at Aston Villa is unrealistic.
Aston Villa have never been relegated from the Premier League, ever since its inception in 1992, and the next managerial appointment will go a long way into deciding whether that impressive record is still intact next season but it seems that the club must take a long hard look at itself behind the scenes as well as on the pitch.