Monday, September 04, 2006

Not another Glazer

To those of us who follow the Premier League on this side of the pond, Randy Lerner is that guy that just simply took over for his dad, Al Lerner, as both chairman of MBNA bank and as owner of the Cleveland Browns. Another guy following in the footsteps of his dad, or another great example of nepotism in the elite circles of finance and professional sports team ownership.

Nothing Randy Lerner has done in the NFL, since he has taken charge in 2002, after his father’s death, leads us to believe the Browns are destined for greatness. Nothing in his demeanor suggests a dogged commitment to winning, no matter what.

It is easy to dismiss Lerner as a money guy, running his mediocre franchise to consistently make money. Granted, much of this is not Lerner’s fault. Coaching changes, dysfunctional infighting amongst executives and sub par performances have marked his tenure as owner.

Aston Villa’s similarities to the Browns are evident. Aston Villa, one of the founding clubs the original football league, is a franchise that has been steeped in frugal mediocrity for many years. The Browns, one of the few teams that have yet to win a Superbowl, are one of the oldest names (the Lerner franchise is distinguished from the outgoing Art Modell franchise, moved to Baltimore and renamed the Ravens) but are steadily undertalented and underachieving season to season.

The key to Villa separating itself from Lerner’s other sporting ambition is Martin O'Neill. With O’Neill comes not a reputation as a motivator, but an experience of winning. It’s hard to visualize any championship-winning coach instilling anything other than the culture he created when he was winning, and he is sure to attempt to recreate this at Villa Park.

Doug Ellis’ departure, as any long-suffering Villa fan will tell you, is the best thing to come of this change of ownership. The stinginess of the octogenarian chairman and majority owner were legend and it was his presence at the helm that occupied the leanest years for Villa in two separate stints.

So far, Lerner has made the right moves. An admitted Anglophile, he now owns a Premier League club in addition to his home and love of the island. His choice of Villa (apparently a fan, along with Manchester United and Arsenal) seems astute in comparison to Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of Manchester United.

With Villa, Lerner can do no wrong succeeding the hated Doug Ellis, and the club can only go up in terms of revenue and commercial opportunities. And that is where Lerner is smarter enough to utilize the largesse of Martin O’Neill’s reputation, and focus on those things financial.

Times Online Lerner has big plans to make presence felt at Villa

Lerner set to make mark at Villa BBC Sport

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