Talent infusion and announcement of sale intention have Aston Villa ‘galvanised’

'The fans have had a hard time of it of late,' says Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert, but adds Randy Lerner's decision to announce his intention to sell the club have gotten everyone 'behind the team'.

Philippe Senderos, left, of Aston Villa celebrates the club's victory over Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday with teammate Nathan Baker. Alex Livesey / Getty Images / September 13, 2014
Powered by automated translation

When Randy Lerner put Aston Villa up for sale last May, the end game of the American billionaire’s reign was predicted to cause only further doom and gloom for the Premier League strugglers.

Instead, even those with a bit of blue blood in their claret could hardly have credited how, rather than worsening the dispiriting climate of uncertainty, Lerner’s announcement has, almost perversely, given his grand old Midlands club a new lease of life.

The idea of Villa lying second in the table and still unbeaten after four games – topped by a win at Liverpool at the weekend – would have been considered a wild fantasy by most supporters when Lerner revealed his plans to look for a buyer.

Yet, even if Villa fans do not feel quite so dizzy after a tough run of upcoming games including tests against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, manager Paul Lambert is adamant that, by making his intentions clear, Lerner has somehow helped provide a fresh “feelgood factor” at Villa Park.

“The fans have had a hard time of it of late, everybody knows the situation at the football club,” Lambert said at Anfield.

“I think the chairman coming out and saying what he has said has actually galvanised the supporters and I really think they’re behind the team.”

Of course, the cloud of uncertainty over Villa’s future cannot evaporate until a buyer is found to take over from Lerner, whose £300 million (Dh1.78 billion) investment in buying, modernising and professionalising the club has marked him out as one of the worthier Premier League owners.

Yet while the search continues, nobody could accuse the 52-year-old Lerner of losing his focus on Villa and of not trying to ensure that he leaves behind a thriving concern.

He has chosen the final days of his regime to appoint a new chief executive, the former Arsenal high flyer Tom Fox, who has been instrumental in trying to pin down key players to long-term contracts.

Striker Gabriel Agbonlahor has already signed for another four years and Villa are confident midfielder Fabian Delph will follow suit.

After one of the least distinguished spells for Villa in a generation – the club have finished 16th, 15th and 15th in the last three seasons – it seems a strange accident of timing that Lambert should finally hit upon the right recipe for onfield success.

The “feelgood factor” he talks about stems largely from the sense that, as he suggested after the Anfield triumph, his team had finally come of age, with the club’s thrusting young talent having “grown up and become men this season” in front of some streetwise defenders such as Philippe Senderos and Alan Hutton.

It appears an encouraging mix with the new loan signing from Manchester United, Tom Cleverley, looking as if he may enjoy being freed from his Old Trafford difficulties.

By the way the trio suffocated Liverpool’s midfield, he is going to savour playing alongside the ever-improving Delph and Ashley Westwood.

Behind the scenes, Lambert’s decision to appoint Roy Keane to his coaching team has evidently been a roaring success too.

Villa’s highly-rated teenage midfielder Jack Grealish has talked about how the former Manchester United captain’s presence “flooded” him with confidence, even if their first meeting evidently gave a reminder of how Keane also comes armed with a touch of the fear factor.

“On the first day of training, I didn’t start the session that well,” recalled Grealish. “He tapped me on the shoulder after a half an hour, saying ‘Are you all right?’ and I replied ‘yeah’. Then he asked me: ‘When do you start training then?’”

You can imagine that, combined with the terrible cold-eyed Keane stare, that might have been a little intimidating but it may be more than coincidence that even with the future far from clear, Villa are learning winning ways again with a serial winner on their case.

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE