Following their loss to Manchester United on Saturday, Aston Villa saw their relegation fears finally become a reality as they will play in the Championship next season.
With just three wins in 34 Premier League games so far this year, it has been a miserable campaign which began under Tim Sherwood, and will end with Eric Black in a caretaker role following the disaster that was Remi Garde’s tenure.
For a side that hasn’t won more than 10 league games in a single season since 2011, the future looks bleak for a club considered a giant of English football given their history. Will we be seeing Villa back in the top flight any time soon?
The rot essentially began to set in during the latter stages of Martin O’Neill’s tenure, and increased with added pace following his exit in 2010, just five days before the start of the new season.
Since then, Villa have been on a steady decline, flirting with the idea of relegation and fighting for their lives with a bit of added quality making the difference in their favour in the latter stages of the year.
However, the likes of Christian Benteke only masked the growing problems at the club, and they were too big for Sherwood and Garde to overcome this season with Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish and Paul Lambert only delaying the inevitable.
Owner Randy Lerner has faced a significant amount of the blame, with his lack of investment and leadership filtering down through the hierarchy and right down to the squad.
While he isn’t the only individual that should take responsibility, the issues start from the top. Relegation comes as no surprise for Villa fans, as this has been hanging over the club for years.
The fall out
From Joleon Lescott’s ridiculous statements to Stan Collymore’s rant, as noted by The Daily Mail, the reaction to relegation has been a mix of passion and embarrassment, with many connected with the club left heartbroken over the situation that Villa find themselves in.
Chairman Steve Hollis has conceded that it has been an “unacceptably fractured” season both on and off the pitch, as reported by Sky Sports, and yet here we are still waiting to hear something from Lerner.
With no talk of a plan for the next few years, a budget for a new manager or the squad or how the club will approach the Championship, it all points at further misery and struggle.
It is a worrying time for Villa on and off the pitch, and few can realistically see them bouncing straight back given the mess that they are currently in.
Where do Villa go from here? A managerial appointment with an entire summer to figure it out would be nice, but based on Lerner’s dealings to this point, it remains to be seen if that happens.
Villa need a figurehead at the top of the chain leading this rebuild, whether it’s Brian Little or David Bernstein, someone needs to send the right message to supporters to get everyone pulling in the right direction.
As for the squad, the natural reaction would be to offload as many players as possible. However, through a combination of being awful this year as well as their wages, it will be much more difficult than such a quick fix.
The likes of Jores Okore, Ashley Westwood, Idrissa Gueye, Jordan Amavi (coming back from a serious injury will see him stay at Villa Park for the time being) and Jordan Ayew could feasible form the core to the side moving forward.
Albeit with doubts over their respective futures too, there is too much uncertainty at every level of the club at this point and that in turn has led to fans struggling to make a connection with Villa.
One of the seven ever-present clubs in Premier League history will be absent as of next year, and who knows when we’ll see them come back.