The Supporters Trust have been receiving a lot of communication from our members since the lack of action in the January transfer window. After a brief respite in January, the performances on the pitch have again nosedived into the dismal and we find ourselves waiting for the trapdoor to open beneath us.
With that as a backdrop, it is no surprise that our supporters are angry and made their feelings known with a walkout protest at the Everton game. The view of the AVST board is that, whilst people have every right to voice their displeasure, our role is to ensure that lessons have been learned and that the club is now putting all possible effort into ensuring our swift return to the Premier League, after what now appears inevitable relegation.
Last week, we asked for a meeting with Tom Fox to discuss what the club were doing in preparation for the Championship and to change our fortunes. Tom accepted the meeting, attending with Lee Preece. The meeting took place at Villa Park and an open and honest discussion was held which covered six key areas.
Firstly, we made the point that we need a statement of intent from the owner. Over the last 18 months we have been put up for sale, then told he was “not a motivated seller” and had a new Chairman and board member added. The club recognised that there were questions around the owner that they needed to address with supporters and that they would do this as part of a wider communique before the end of the season. We pointed out that uncertainty just leads to more frustrations from the supporters and that we want confidence that the manager will have the appropriate means to get us back up at the first time of asking. This was acknowledged.
We also asked about the future of the manager. It was clear that Tom had belief in Remi Garde and there was no suggestion that the board may look elsewhere in the summer. With that in mind, we also questioned the lack of activity in January. Tom confirmed that deals were in place for a new goalkeeper and striker but both broke down late in the window. He was particularly upset at the FA in respect of their decision not to ratify the transfer of the goalkeeper. He made clear that it was not a question of promised funds being withdrawn.
We had a lengthy discussion about ticket pricing for next season and repairing the fractured relationship between the board and the supporters. We were assured that they are working on a ticketing plan already and that they were intent on us being keenly priced in order to fill Villa Park next season. We offered our own ideas to include rewarding supporters with discounts for long term loyalty or offering a rebate on the cost of a season ticket next year for those who have suffered through watching the last five. Our ideas were taken on board but a full ticketing plan will not be released until we know what division we will start in. This will likely form part of the wider communication noted earlier.
Also to be included in this will be a statement of intent that clearly sets out how the board intend to move us in the right direction. The findings of the current ongoing review you may have heard about will form the basis of this. Whilst there has been widespread speculation about the purpose of the review, this is wide ranging and looking at all parts of the Aston Villa operation.
We also talked about the public relations disasters that we seem to be running into all too frequently of late. This was acknowledged and there was an appetite to set the agenda with the press rather reacting to it as we seem to currently. This will again be covered by the communication later in the season.
Ultimately, it was a productive meeting and we got a genuine sense that our views had been taken on board. We look forward with interest to seeing what part they form in the clubs plans going forwards.