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The inevitable happened at Aston Villa over the last international break.

As the hapless Remi Garde – the latest of a succession of managers to preside over the years – left the Premier League’s rock-bottom club by mutual consent.

History suggests Aston Villa will struggle to recover from relegationThis season represents the snowballing of a decline that has been taking place over a number of years, with the familiar feelings of despair and relegation augmented by an anger of such depth and intensity not difficult to comprehend, manifesting itself at games and on social media. Garde, however, does not rank highly on the list of those responsible in comparison to management and players. Managers starting with Randy Lerner, who has allowed the club to not merely plod along unambitiously, but has allowed it’s station to gradually diminish until it has reached a crescendo (and may not have reached the worst of it yet). Players, who are not just seen as being not good enough, but have matched this with a lack of effort.

An example of how poor the relationship has been seen in their FA Cup third round tie with Wycombe Wanderers. Escaping with a draw, the substitution of Carles Gil – a player seemingly a source of hope at times – saw groans from the travelling Villa support. This was followed by a barrage of toxic abuse from fans during and after the game. While the vileness of language used was condemned, there is also an understanding toward the depth of fan anger.

These are the bare facts. Aston Villa stand bottom with 16 points (with just three wins all season), which is one better than Sunderland in 2005-06 and Derby County in 2007-08, and one less than that of Stoke City in 1984-85. They may yet win more points, but are destined to be remembered as one of the worst sides to have played at the highest level of English football. Amazingly, they are ‘only’ 12 points from 17th, which is mainly due to the poor results of the teams above them – Norwich City, Newcastle and Sunderland, all of whom have significantly better quality in their squads. But it is not mere numbers that tell you how bad this team is. Nor was it results like a 6-0 home defeat to Liverpool. It is in the manner of these defeats that defy description, although commentators draw the conclusion that this is a side not good enough for the Championship or even League One. In fact, even A-League sides might fancy a chance.

There is thus no comparison between this and the situation Leicester City found themselves in last season before their remarkable escape act under Nigel Pearson, ironically one of the candidates to take over the Villa job, which he will inevitably find more difficult once in the Championship. Leicester already had a sound base to build their current success upon, and survived on their own merit even if aided by the sheer incompetence of teams that finished below them, including the current bottom three. Perhaps just grimly hanging on only makes a more hideous demise inevitable?

If history is a reference guide, the experience of Villa’s Midlands neighbours and near-neighbours does not augur for a quick return to the highest level. They themselves spent eight years out of the top flight between 1967 and 1975, including two years in the Third Division – many believe the club is in a worse state now with a worse team.

Stoke City took 23 years to return to the highest level after their unspeakably ghastly relegation in 1985, which drew the curtains on a period of over two decades during which the Potters had been a respected force in the game. Yet this was a squad that contained Sammy McIlroy, Alan Hudson, Mark Chamberlain (father of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and who won eight England caps), George Berry and Steve Bould – a mix of those who had been successful before, and those who would enjoy success after, but failing to obscure an unspeakably atrocious season in which they won just three League games (two of those were Arsenal and Manchester United). At that time it was a new record which has since been beaten, but today teams which attain failures of similar magnitude receive even wider exposure.

Stoke did not drop further immediately, but spent the 1990s in the elevator between the second and third tiers. In 1998, for instance, their last day game against Manchester City in what was then Division One was a relegation decider with both clubs being relegated, only to be FA Cup Final opponents 13 years later. When Stoke clinched promotion to the Premier League in 2008, it was with a 0-0 draw on the final day against a Leicester side who were condemned to League One by the result, but Leicester bounced back.

In 1986, both West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City would be relegated well adrift and would not return for 16 years. By 1991, both clubs would find themselves in the Third Division. Wolves, likewise, would go into rapid decline after their 1980 League Cup win and suffer consecutive relegations from the First to Fourth in this period, but were on their way back by the end of the decade, although it took until 2003 to reach the promised land. While Villa were in decline after the breakup of a successful side and also experienced relegation, they would quickly recover. They have now spent all but one of 41 seasons at the highest level, but it is worth remembering the comparably long memberships of football’s elite club enjoyed by their West Midlands neighbours, the depths of despair and agony they would sink to, and the recovery they had to make.

Where will this leave Aston Villa Football Club as they prepare for life in the Championship? The conclusion to be drawn is that it is unlikely at this point that they will make a quick return, such is the critical situation at Villa Park. A new manager will not only need solid backing from the board, but also to fundamentally change the culture and mentality of the club. Turning around a disastrous situation is likely to test even the most talented of football managers.

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by David Votoupal,
Twitter: @Everton4Life, Blog: thefootballwanderer.wordpress.com
for Outside 90, Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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