Odds against

Villa lose again, but at least there’s one glimmer of hope, reports Dave Woodhall.

Birmingham became an overspill of Cheltenham last week as tens of thousands of punters flocked over the Irish Sea for the Gold Cup meeting. I don’t know much about gambling but I do know you rarely meet a poor bookie, so in the interests of evening the score I offer this advice to all those looking to recoup their losses – forget about the horses. It’s much easier and more lucrative to put your money on the Villa to lose.

This week’s adventure took us to Swansea, where a poor team played a very poor one. There wasn’t much between them so, as ever, Brad Guzan stepped up to prove the difference between the sides. It’s reckoned that a good keeper can be worth ten points a season to his club – Guzan has cost us at least that many already with his own errors, and that’s not counting the ones that have been down to his destroying what little confidence the Villa defence have got left.

Of course, Guzan isn’t the only one to blame. None of the players, and few of those in any sort of authority at Villa Park, can escape criticism. The problems start at the top and go a long way down. That’s why the final lingering hopes of survival were extinguished on Saturday and why Remi Garde’s future is now in doubt.

It was always likely that a surprise result one weekend would lengthen the gap between us and safety from lengthy to insurmountable and it finally happened at the Hawthorns. Villa could win every game six-nil from now on and it might not be enough. What’s happening on the pitch now is less important than what’s happening elsewhere and, ironically, this is one area where things are slowly getting better.

Steve Hollis’s appointment as chairman might have been seen as underwhelming at the time but his actions are definitely speaking louder than his initial ill-chosen words. The latest developments have seen the departure of sporting director Hendrik Almstadt and CEO Tom Fox, as well as the appointment of a football board, whatever that is. Of course, it says a lot that you need a seperate board to look after the football as well as one to cater for all the other trappings of modern football although anything that has Brian Little and David Bernstein involved has to be good news.

Almstadt’s dismissal was inevitable – whatever a sporting director does, the league table shows that he wasn’t good enough at it. Fox’s resignation was equally inevitable. The main role of a CEO at any beleagured football club is invariably that of chief scapegoat, but too many things went wrong that could be levelled directly at him for Fox to survive. From last summer’s signings and the ‘shortlist of one’ appointment of Tim Sherwood to the ham-fisted approach to dissent amongst supporters and his seven figure salary, Fox’s decision-making led to his position becoming untenable. Any chief executive, in any business, who needs to be protected by security from his customers must realise that his days are numbered.

There’s also the return of a familiar boardroom face with the appointment of General Krulak to the main club board. Best known for his unorthodox cheerleading methods on the internet, the general’s re-appearance will be, if nothing else, greeted with enthusiasm by reporters looking for an easy quote. Whether that’s a good thing or not, time will tell.

The biggest task for everyone at Villa Park now is to work out a strategy to not only maximise our chances of getting promoted at the earliest opportunity but of also making up for the lost time of the past six years. Steve Hollis might not score any goals (although one of his new colleagues would still have a better chance of ding that than most of the first team squad) but for the first time in ages there’s a sign that someone sitting in an office at Villa Park knows what they’re doing.