Aston Villa drop player of the year vote after 'shameful' season
End-of-season celebrations called off as club prepares for the drop and job cuts
Aston Villa have abandoned their player of the year vote and shelved plans for an end-of-season party after a catastrophic campaign that will almost certainly see them relegated this weekend.
It will be the second season in a row that the club has not marked the end of the league year with a celebration, while the vote for player of the season has been canned after the idea attracted widespread ridicule.
The news comes a day after the Midlands club announced it was beginning a "restructuring" programme that will see staff and players lose their jobs once relegation from the Premier League has been confirmed, even though the club has forked out on a rebranded badge for next season.
"The club will not be holding its annual player of the year awards at the conclusion of this season," said a Villa official. "In the current circumstances, we are sure our supporters will understand."
There was a vote last year, after Villa narrowly avoided the drop, and the winner was Fabian Delph - who left the club two months later to join Manchester City and is now a hate figure in Birmingham.
This year's celebrations have been called off "after a shameful season", says the Daily Telegraph, which notes that Villa have sat on the bottom of the table since November.
"With only three league wins this season, the current squad have been branded one of the worst in top-flight history," says the paper, saying Villa is still looking for a new manager after Remi Garde became the second boss to lose his job this term.
Abandoning the vote was one of the few wise decisions the club has made in recent months, says The Sun. "The idea of holding a poll this season would have been the latest in a parade of bizarre actions from the Villans - which have prompted mass walkouts and incredulous in-stadium protests."
Villa have lost eight games on the trot and are 15 points from safety with only five games left to play, making relegation a certainty.
Awful Aston Villa would struggle to stay in the Championship
After their 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool on Sunday, Aston Villa appear doomed to relegation and have been branded "an embarrassment" by Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher, who rates them as one of the worst teams to play in the Premier League.
The Villans are seven points adrift at the foot of the table and eight points from safety with 12 games to play. And although the Birmingham club have spent all but one of the past 40 seasons in the top tier of English football, their 27-year stay among the elite looks likely to end in a few weeks' time.
So bad have they been that many observers are no longer talking about their chances of surviving in the Premier League but are voicing their concerns about how the side will fare in the second tier.
"If that team is in the Championship it will be closer to the bottom than the top - there's no doubt about that," said Carragher on Sunday.
It is a team without leaders and few, if any, of the current squad will be picked up by other Premier League clubs at the end of the season, he added.
"Watching them against Liverpool, I’d fear for them in the Sky Bet Championship," agrees Tony Cascarino of The Times. "It's dog-eat-dog in that league and you need a few pitbulls, but they won't bounce back from relegation with the players they have now."
Villa's recent signings have been a shambles and the club's management structure is "half-baked", he adds.
Others concur. "They are paying the price for appalling recruitment and a loss of interest on the part of their owner, Randy Lerner, who has long wanted to sell up," says The Guardian, which predicts they will finish 20th in the league.
Even supporters are pessimistic. The club's lowest ebb came in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when they spent two seasons in the third tier, and it could happen again.
"This was once a proud, famous football club. Right now, it’s famous for all the wrong reasons," says Howard Hodgson in the Birmingham Mail, pulling no punches as he describes the team as "overpaid, gutless, spoilt brats playing with no collective spirit or heart".
He warns: "A repeat of the late sixties period is on the cards here and we won't come back until someone gets hold of this club by the scruff of the neck and starts remembering what it means to represent Villa on and off the pitch."
But there is some hope left for Villa, says Metro. Remi Garde's team already have more points (16) than Derby managed in the 2007-08 season (11) and Sunderland in 2005-06 (15). And it strikes a hopeful note by pointing out that in 2008, Portsmouth managed to overturn an eight-point deficit in the final 12 games of the season to avoid relegation.