Another transitional season to come, the secret plan and Stoke

In seventeen different posts since October last year I've mentioned that this season was a transitional one. By the sixteenth time I mentioned it I know some were getting fed up, so you're going to hate this next statement; next season is quite probably another transitional season.

I don't need to explain why this is probably the case, but I'm going to cover the basics, but I should tell you now, it isn't all bad and actually, it could be seen as quite positive. This might also turn into a fairly lengthy post.

No more Gerard Houllier

I could be completely wrong on this but I don't think Gerard Houllier will be managing Aston Villa again. I think the club will openly say what they are saying, but the club have more things than just the football side of the business to think about. There was a risk, clearly thought worth taking, in appointing Houllier in the first place, but will it be worth taking again?

I don't think it is. You see, I don't think Randy Lerner and Paul Faulkner want Aston Villa to be forever associated with the death of a sitting manager. Regardless of what the specialists say now or at the end of the season, I can not see the club taking this risk again.

I didn't enjoy writing that paragraph, but it needed to be written and it is the most extreme. How about we just accept that what happened last week could happen again - is that risk worth taking again?

Back to the secret plan

Okay, so when Houllier was brought in I wrote that I thought he was the wrong man and my opinion hasn't changed on that. My view on why the club appointed him did change though and I think I need to clarify something here; Gerard Houllier should never be the Director of Football at Aston Villa.

But he should move upstairs and this is why I think the club did the best they could under the circumstances of exactly what is staring us in the face: there is no football man at the club.

Before Randy Lerner purchased Aston Villa he spoke to a few people and the name thrown about was Martin O'Neill. He bought into it and bought into the possibilities and I remember the day it was announced and I don't think there was one negative word written about the appointment.

We all bought into it and there is nothing wrong with that. But it didn't work out and nobody is to blame. That is how those apples happen.

But the next part, I think, is crucial to remember. When everything changed right before the start of the season, we didn't have that football man on the board. When Gerard Houllier gets better, I hope we have that man at the club, but the role he takes on shouldn't be directly linked to the football side of the business, it should be linked to the brand and the entire business.

The new Director of Football should be the new manager - there can only be one person responsible for the football and that is what I believe will happen.

Fast forward the secret plan

Now, most of what I've written above is guess work but I like to believe that when we don't know the answer, the most simple explanation is usually the right one. The above fits for me, so I will happily accept it. I will also happily accept, because I wrote it the other day, that the big part of the plan wasn't just Houllier, but about the real football foundations and the next manager.

This is why we need to fast forward the secret plan. You see, if I'm right and the club are not going to want Houllier managing the team again, they can just fast forward a season or two and put him upstairs earlier than planned, but at the same time, as soon as he is able, they must start the search for the next manager and this is where he will prove invaluable.

Now, what happened last week was clearly not part of the plan, but hopefully enough of the plan was implemented or 'bought into' by Houllier that he wants to take his seat upstairs and continue it. You see, Houllier is a football man and he might already know who should replace him and in case any were worried, that won't be Gary McAllister, but it will mean another transitional season.

Why another transitional season?

It won't be a completely transitional season but with every new manager comes change. Hopefully however, the changes that come into play this time are not going to be as drastic or far reaching. Hopefully, the new manager (again, I could be completely wrong on this and it could be Houllier again next season) will want to continue, to some extent, some if not most of the work already set in motion.

You see, that is part of the secret plan. The plan, I hope, wasn't to just appoint Houllier and see what happens, but for him to be appointed, make the changes and be part of the process of bringing in the next manager, to continue what he started.

So, while the club will say all the right things right now, I think they would have come to the conclusion already that Houllier can not manage again, but as long as they keep to the secret plan (okay, my secret plan), then we are just fast forwarding it. The next manager is the most important one and the sooner he is announced the better it will be for all concerned.

The next manager has to be someone brought in for the long term and I know that is an obvious statement but there are lots of managers that could be brought in and you'd know instantly that they were not brought in for the long term, much like Houllier. However, the club told us there is a long-term plan and that it included Houllier.

The next manager has to be as radical an appointment as Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger were not for Manchester United and Arsenal. The next manager has to be someone that can build something with the complete support from the club.

This change has to be about ambition

So, there will possibly be more change and if there is, hopefully it will come sooner rather than later and it will be positive enough to help the club continue moving in the right direction, but it is going to be another, of sorts, transitional season.

But it is also going to be one that shows to all the ambition. You see, it can't now become about the next manager after the next one. Gerard Houllier was never going to be here for more than two or three seasons and his role was always going to be one of steadying the ship and taking the football from fairly one dimensional stuff to a more cultured offering.

Again, that is just me. Some might say we weren't playing long ball or one dimensional stuff before, but pundits and other managers did and while there is nothing wrong with that, it does only take you so far, but you do need it. Hopefully, like I say, we've done enough to move us away from just that and we can start to put something else in the locker.

My point is, I think we have to accept that Gerard Houllier isn't coming back, the club probably have and we have to look forward. Who the club appoint now is quite possibly the most important decision Randy Lerner and Paul Faulkner will make and it can't be rushed, but they also can't dither. I'd expect an announcement by the end of the season or extremely soon after the end of it.

Stoke, the performance and result

I'm not doing the post-mortem on this today so I just want to add something about the performance and result at the weekend.

Considering everything that happened last week, I think we just have to move on and be happy with the point. It is also worth noting that before Houllier took over, we only managed five points from a possible fifteen against Stoke in the Premier League. We got a point. An important one and I'm just going to leave it at that.


Right, I'm sorry about the length of this post, but after Engadget refreshed the comment policy they use, I've decided to refresh the comment policy here too.

For the vast majority of you this won't impact you in anyway whatsoever, but it is happening over the next few days and as long as your comments are sensible, not wildly off topic and respectful, you'll not notice the changes. But if you are here to troll, then it will impact you.

Taken from Engadget because I like this section
Trolling is also unacceptable - we recognise that a lot of you trolls don't even realise that you're trolls, but believe us - you are.

I'll update the comment policy page some time this week so it isn't in effect right now, but it is coming. On that, I have to leave. I need coffee and pain killers. Nothing to do with consumption; a lot to do with my back.

The secret plan
The secret plan is just me. We know there is a plan, because there has to be one, but it isn't a five year plan and this isn't club PR or spin, it is just me. This secret plan is also just what I think is best. I believe the next manager after Houllier is the big decision, it isn't the club. So if it turns out we get Sam Allardyce, I'll be very disappointed and I'll question the club, but that is because for me, my secret plan to win the Premier League is the best plan there is, but I'll also accept that other people will have their own secret plans and that mine, as far as they are concerned, might not be the best and that I'll debate here. But my plan is secret, even if most of it is published on this blog. My point: it is mine and not really a secret, but hopefully the club have one and you'd also hope it is a lot more detailed than mine and the phase about finding the next manager is well under way.


Good things come to those who wait. We are not going to buy silverware at Aston Villa and if we want it to happen it has to happen in a more traditional way. It can happen, but it takes time.