There were reports again last night on Sky Sports that Villa have received a bid from Arsenal for Downing, but his preferred club is Liverpool. They also went on to say that a deal with Liverpool could be finalised as early as today.
Like all other stories of this nature, they should be considered to be speculation and nothing more until we see Judas holding up a Liverpool shirt.
It did, however, pose the question of what effect this would have on Alex McLeish’s relationship with the Villa fans and, subsequently, his prospects to succeed in the role. It would significantly undermine him both within the club, and the club itself amongst other teams in the league.
It is not to say that Downing should not be sold, but it is more to do with McLeish’s recent statement that he was NOT for sale. This stance would have undoubtedly been discussed with Lerner, so to do a u-turn on it now would result in a serious lack of respect for his position.
If there was a chance that he could have been sold at the right price, then he should have said so. Now that he has declared that a player is not for sale, that is the way it should be (regardless of what clubs may offer) in order to retain dignity and stature.
There will be a backlash from the Villa fans, whether they wanted to get rid of Downing or not. Not because of the player, but because of the way the club has gone back on a public statement of intent. It effectively makes a mockery of any future statements Villa may make.
Dalglish and Wenger have shown a disgraceful lack of respect. When Downing was deemed not for sale, they should have moved on. Perhaps it is a tactic to both steal our standout player of last season and to undermine a manager that is already walking a tightrope in terms of fans’ popularity. If this is true, then Randy needs to step in and protect our new manager.
I am 100% behind McLeish, and I believe that any decision to sell Downing will, ultimately, not be his. It will be Lerner’s. If it transpires to be true and he is sold, then a Chairman who undermines his own manager is a recipe for disaster. O’Neill left for similar reasons surrounding Milner, and McLeish would not be blamed if he did the same thing.
Not that I would agree with them, but I would not be surprised if the ‘Lerner Out’ banners started to appear.