Date: 19th August 2007 at 10:49am
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Article submitted by VillaCross:

I had my worst fears confirmed last week. I read that Cap’n Barry has been awarded a bumper pay rise to £45,000 / week or just over £2million a year. This presumably must therefore be the ceiling on player’s wages in our club’s “Five-Year Plan”. I’m not sure how the fans have taken this news. Some will think well-done Gareth; you’re worth every penny of it. Many will say £2million+ pa is more than any footballer is worth. That’s more than the whole squad earned in the year when we were “Kings of Europe”, 25 years ago.

However, times have moved on since then. We now have Sky TV and foreign managers at the Top4 Clubs (sorry 3 foreigners plus 1 Scot). The average annual football staff wages for these same Top4 Clubs, over the 2 seasons to May 2005 was £73.6 million, At Aston Villa under HDE it was £30.3million. So with this recent news that the ceiling is now just over £2million pa with an average wage for all the senior squad of certainly no more than 1.5million pa, the current annual figure will be probably be less than the £30.3million spend under HDE.

Maybe Martin O’Neill can “walk on water” and will be able to achieve success with the smallest senior squad ever seen at Villa Park. Or perhaps his mystic powers will be able to convince players to ignore the “lucre” and come to us for the joy of adulation from us Villa fans.

But coming back to reality, to achieve and sustain real success at Villa Park again, we must be at the forefront in all aspects of today’s modern soccer industry. That means we must pay the market rate to attract “top-class” staff, whether business executives, IT staff, marketeers or footballers and their support staff. The new commercial and operational management teams appear to be doing their part. We can see massive improvements almost everywhere except in one, which in reality, is the one we are now most concerned about – the size and the quality of the senior squad!

We have been told by the CEO, Richard Fitzgerald – “Martin O’Neill’s ambitious plans are fully supported”; he also said “I expect to see big-name signings”. I therefore assumed that the association between “ambition” and “big-name signings”, was that at last, our beloved Club, within the much publicised 5-Year Plan is prepared to carry a football staff wages bill of at least £60million pa with a range up to at least £70-£80,000 per week, even if only for a few of the senior players.

Apparently, this is definitely not the case, so forget about ‘big-name signings’ at Aston Villa. Also, forget about a “bright future” and the “big-nights” and excitement of European competition again. We must continue to look forward to scrambling to finish near the top-half of the Premiership. Lucrative pay structures and success in football today go together like “peaches and cream”, or should I say like “Rooney and Ronaldo”? The Top4 Clubs have consistently proven this every season over the last decade, without any doubt whatsoever.

As I finish this post, I am thinking about both Tony Blair and his “hand on the shoulder of history” speech after his success in finalising the “Good Friday” peace agreement in Northern Ireland. I am also seeing Norman Lamont, standing outside No11 Downing Street on “Black Monday”, admitting, but not apologising, for failing to beat the world’s financial markets by trying to “prop-up” sterling against the ERM; which was followed by near perilous financial consequences.

Twelve months ago I was excitedly looking forward to a future of “Good Fridays” under a billionaire owner and the brilliant Martin O’Neill; but alas, one year on and I cannot see such a rosy future. All I can now see is a series of “Black Mondays” with Failure…. Failure…. and more Failure. A replication of what we’ve endured for the past two decades and more.

On behalf of tens of thousands of fans both here in the UK and in all corners of the world, I make a single and humble request to Randy Lerner – repudiate my assertions that our pay structure is a barrier to attracting “top-class” signings of International calibre. Alternatively and better still, prove my assertions unfounded by ensuring that at least one such “top-class” signing is made within the next two weeks.

Otherwise, if neither of these two options are executed by Mr Lerner, this period in Villa’s proud history will be remembered as a “Black Monday”, from which those ultimately responsible for this short sighted, miserly pay policy will pay the price of failure. I then hope that those remaining will adopt the same successful strategies pursued by the current Top4 Clubs. Maybe then, we will have a bright future as well as a proud history.


17 Replies to “Good Friday Or Black Monday?”

  • Am i naive but i want players who want to want to play for Villa and be proud not what West Ham are doing and asking how much they want. Give me Reo coker anyday ahead of a Upson.Neill,Bellamy,Dyer etc…

  • Must admit I’m not totally sure that there is a ceiling on earnings, just depends on what player is available. Agree I’d not like us paying £70k a week to bring in the likes of Bellend but if we were paying that for a star (or more) then I’d be very happy. We do have to match wages to compete but don’t think anyone has said that they won’t as yet?

  • The Fear – but it would be good to hear that there isn’t a ceiling on wages and we will stand side-by-side the other Top4 Clubs if MON believes the player is worth it. I just feel that our wages structure was the reason that Gordon signed for Sunderland without even coming to Villa Park.

  • Famous US coach said if you want a good team get good players, if you want a great team, get great players. Once again we are only guessing at reasons why things are happening, or not as the case may be, but this central fact seems to support Villacross main argument. Incidentally I understand that at least one premiership club tops up wages by paying off-shore too – hence the recent breakdown of a transfer in January because the other club would only pay UK based wages. . So you better believe it, money talks.

  • imavillan – I’d love to but everything I seem to read and hear lately is that we still don’t think and act like a Top4 Club, despite having a billionaire owner plus an excellent manager with a proven track record.

  • You can’t suddenly change the wage structure as we would need to buy several new players who would merit the pay. At the moment we haven’t got anyone who is that good. If we did get a couple of high earners then the rest of the squad would want more wages and it would cause unrest. The team needs to be of an equal standard and this needs to be done gradually over a period of time.

  • Villan444 – I can see your point but what about if that top 22 year old Brazillian RB (can’t remember his name) wants to play in the Prem. Both Newcastle and Spurs are interested but is asking for £60k/week. Spurs are unlikely to pay it but Newcastle will. Should we go for him or is it too soon?

  • I think you will find that many clubs incl some of the “top4” are living on the edge of financial disaster. Manure have increased their season ticket prices to such an extent that the once ridiculously long waiting list to secure a seat at Old Trafford is now non existent. I too want top players and a large part of me wants it to be with a money no object philosophy. However I also do not want to see The Mighty Aston Villa Football Club go the same way as Leeds Utd.

  • Do we honestly think that any of our players are worth this in the big scheme of things though? If we were likely to want to sign any of the Wet Spam Cheats you mention are we REALLY going to pay them £70-80K per week? Honest answer is a big fat NO!!!! Now Rooney, Ronaldo, Gerrard I agree with but Petrov, Carew et al? If we could attract class players like those to VP I think Randy would pay top dollar. Until that time when we start becoming a club that players want to play for we will have to accept this. Get us into Europe and this will happen. I know it is a Catch 22 situation but that’s the reality of todays footballer and it is time everyone realised it.

  • villacross, we reportedly didn’t even agree a fee with Hearts concerning Gordon, thats why he never met with MON and co.

  • bassettmax – You say “you think Randy would pay top dollar”, but where is the evidence for that? For Villa to move forward, in my opinion, we have to break the “catch22 spiral” and put down a “marker” by signing at least one top-class player (and I mean top-class). It just needs one and I believe others will follow. Otherwise as I’ve said, we’ve got no chance of competing for Top6 honours. I realise that we have an excellent youth policy but what do you think will happen when the “cream of the crop” become international standard. Stay at Villa for £45k/week when £80k+ is the market rate? Gareth is exceptionally loyal but don’t expect that from all the other up and coming players – they’ll be off, and who can blame them?

  • and that 1 top class player (the one you mean is top class) will come to villa over a champions league or UEFA team because? yes the money is important but before the top class players want to come to villa we need to prove to them we can play them in the top competitions, it’s all good offering someone £120k a week but if someone with european football offers them the same amount we’ll lose out, before we can get the top class players in MON needs to build a squad that can get us into at least the UEFA, and it’s possible to do that with £45k a week players, do you think Blackburns players are on a lot more than that? Reading almost made it last season… yes money has a lot to do with it but it’s about more than that, and before we can start splashing the BIG money on wages we need to show to the players who we’ll be splashing it on that we can support them how they want to be.

  • Makai- Sensible reasoning using the softly-softly approach but I’m not even sure that Lerner will allow O’Neill to have sufficient strength in depth with a squad of 26 (min.) £30k-40k/week players (at a probable cost of £50mill pa) let alone paying £60k-£80k/week for a few additional real top-quality players. But we will see what happens over the next two weeks, eh.

  • I’m as bored with this transfer window as everyone else, i just dont think we’ll get anyone top class yet, regardless of how much we offer/ are willing to pay. MON took a team who were almost relegated and got them 11, i think he’ll bring in the players to get to borderline UEFA (dont think we’ll get there this season though) and then we can start thinking about the top class players, till we get close to UEFA standards with a squad of players we wont get top class players.

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