Who Got Lucky – Aston Villa or David O’Leary?

One of the highlights of last season was seeing Aston Villa fans put up this banner:

Aston Villa David O'Leary Banner

David O’Leary – the man who taken them to a 6th placed finish in his first season at the club, was now the most hated person at the club. The fans didnt like him, Doug Ellis wasn’t fond of him and rumours were that the players weren’t very happy either.

Matters came to a head when the players ‘revolted’ and demanded assurances from Doug Ellis that there would be investment coming into Aston Villa and that their future will be looked after. O’Leary denied any role in this, but it has been suggested that he was responsible for either convincing the players to write the letter or for leaking the letter to the press. In either case, his time was up, and yesterday David O’Leary left Aston Villa with a 2 million pound ‘compensation’.

When you consider what happened with Leeds there’s a very disturbing pattern developing here. In both cases, David O’Leary was able to take the team far beyond what they were expected to do (CL semi-final for Leeds, 6th place in 2003/2004 for Aston Villa). Then came the downward slide, as Leeds failed to scale the same heights again and got bogged down by debts, while Ellis challenged O’Leary to do a repeat without giving him any money. Both times, the team’s fortuned flagged and they slid down towards relegation. Leeds got relegated, Aston Villa survived, but only because they didnt have to sell their big players.

What does this say about O’Leary? He’s got very strange luck, for sure. He’s made money from walking away from both of his former clubs, and he’s brought both good fortune and horror to them. He’s lucked out with bad chairmen, but you’d think that this time he’d go to a club where he wouldn’t get sucked into the same cycle again. And if there are any doubts that he is a strong starter (but gets pushed down by club chairmen), we’ll find out with Sunderland, who are supposed to be his next destination.

Aston Villa will welcome any decent manager (Curbishley and Martin O’Neill are linked), but with Ellis holding the moneybag and refusing to invest in the club Villa have a long way to go before they get back on the same level as Blackburn, Bolton and Tottenham.

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