Date: 5th September 2014 at 9:03am
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The Road To Nowhere

So, the window is shut. Jim White’s yellow tie is back under lock and key until the end of January, Harry Redknapp (or maybe this time, Mark Hughes) has wound up his window, and we can get on and see where this all leaves us for the next few months.

The majority of Villa fans feel we’ve had a decent transfer window – balance of the squad slightly better, more experience in key positions – and with the impending return of Benteke and Kozak, things look a whole lot brighter now than they did at the end of last season.

That being said, I can certainly sympathise with those fans who think we are running to stand still, while Randy Lerner is doing the bare minimum (or maybe less than) to keep us going ahead of his intended sale. £200m is an awful lot of money to ask for a struggling football club, but every time the TV deal floods even greater riches into the ‘Premier’ League, the more dollar signs light up in the eyes of owners and potential owners.

He is a businessman, and as such would want to recover most of what he has paid out, and you can bet he won’t sell until he gets what he wants. Sure, he’s spent more this summer than we might have expected for a club up for sale. But it is the absolute minimum, and having missed the boat financially when we failed to reach the Champions League under O’Neill, the days where we would spend £10 million on a player in the gamble of reaching the promised land (© Sky TV) are a distant memory.

As long as the European ‘elite’ are paid more money for UCL participation (together with the very nice safety net of failure being rewarded with a second bite at the cherry in the Europa League), and as long as the FA in this country make the prize money for a top-four finish greater each time the TV contracts are re-negotiated, clubs like Everton, Tottenham, Newcastle, and yes, even the ‘mighty’ Villa, have virtually no chance at all of competing for the title, much less the European Cup.

Barring a freak season from the top four/five (Chelsea, City, Arsenal, Liverpool and United), there is almost zero chance the hegemony will be broken. Liverpool had the leg-up they required with FSG coming in (and their appointment of Rodgers, to be fair), and so their qualification for the UCL has helped them into the last lifeboat – United can stand a year or two out of the Champions League due to their other revenue streams, Arsenal are perennial qualifiers and have huge income and reserves anyway, while Chelsea and City have their cash-rich owners to go out and buy a Costa or an Aguero when the going gets a bit tricky. Make no mistake; there is little prospect of this changing. Spurs & Everton had a look, but the door well and truly slammed in their face. As long as the top four take up the Champions League places, nothing can change. Europe’s G20 (or whatever they are called) are all looking out for each other, and it will always be that way as long as the rewards on offer remain.

Until UEFA amend the entry criteria for the Champions League (i.e., the top 2, 3 or 4 teams depending on the co-efficient and national association’s ranking) and allow individual associations to determine how to award qualification (for example, the top two in the League, plus the FA & Capital Cup winners in our case), it will always be the same teams ‘competing’.

Even if Randy sells to an Abramovich or a Mansour billionaire type, we would struggle to get the leg up we need due to the preposterous Financial Fair Play – our revenue will never come close to that of a Man United or an Arsenal, so throwing millions at the team (even if we could persuade Messi or Ronaldo to move to Sutton Coldfield!) is simply not an option. Barring a freak occurrence where one of the established top five has some kind of meltdown, the best we can hope for would be year-after-year purgatory in the Europa League.

It’s a depressing thought that things will never really get better.