At the age of 30 he gave up sales and marketing to pursue his calling as a coach and ended up in the MLS for two years. He's now moved to Seoul to start again...
There are key differences - largely off the pitch - but Liverpool fan Sam Drury has spotted five things that are similar five years on. A big sale, a big Italian arrival...
Is your club a media darling - or an unfashionable whipping boy? Does your team get a rough deal from the hack pack? Do lazy journalists always come up with the same clichés about your club? In this series, John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at the stereotypes, coverage and media agendas for each team in the Premier League...
Ex-player pundit presence
Andy Gray, but not so much since lesbians escaped from the kitchen and ruined it for everyone with their equality nonsense. Dion Dublin pops up magnificently from time to time. David Platt used to until his head became entirely ovoid and a bit frightening. Gareth Southgate is likeable and decent and doubtless smells of Imperial Leather. Andy Townsend is widely derided; Dwight Yorke seems to be in it only for the money but at least looks happy. And of course there's fearless warrior of the wireless, Stanley Victor Collymore. Perhaps the best ex-Villa pundit we've seen is Ian Taylor but he doesn't get much of an outing. Interestingly, it seems that some of Villa's biggest players of the last few decades are associated more with other clubs than the Villa.
Villa's historical, establishment credentials are franked by claiming Prince William, former Bank of England governor Mervyn King and David Cameron among its supporters. Cameron has been a fan since he was taken to see them play aged 13 by his uncle. Who happened to be Sir William Dugdale, the club's former chairman, Sir William Dugdale. See? He's just a regular guy. Other embarrassments for Villa include scruffy violinist Nigel Kennedy and phone salesman Kris Marshall, who dedicated his professional life to promoting BT, only to be ditched just when they might actually have something vaguely cool to flog, i.e. football. On the upside, Villa can claim Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath as fans. As the latter once wrote a song containing the lyrics "Fairies wear boots and you gotta believe me, I saw it, I saw it with my own two eyes" it just goes to show you don't have to be mad to be a Villa fan but it helps.
Back page leaders?
Don't make regular appearances at the top of the media agenda since the brilliant-value 'Deadly' Doug Ellis stepped down, but major club events - O'Neill departure, Lerner's spending, McLeish's head looking like a slice of breaded ham - still get big play. This may be in part because older hacks (at section-editor level and above) still remember days when Villa were a major force but also because they can still pull in over 40,000. Very hard to imagine them getting much attention outside the UK.
Gaffer's media skills
With the exception of Steve Kean, no top-flight manager was more universally unpopular with his own fans than Alex McLeish at Villa Park, so Paul Lambert was already in some credit just for taking over. Has done a reasonable job media-wise, gets the "he's British so go easy on him" instinct from the red tops and there is some sympathy with his difficult position in having to handle a chairman who has apparently lost the drive to spend. Handled relegation-threat pressure okay last season, but got narky with local press, never a wise move for a beleaguered, non-glamorous manager.
Vox pop cliché fan
Not an ounce of arrogance, they more usually have an air of melancholy, especially when West Brom finish above them. Usually in possession of much-needed self-deprecation. Always fiercely defensive about being the biggest team in the Midlands even as the golden glow of more glamorous times fades like the setting sun. Angry that things are not better but are not sure if they actually deserve to be.
Keyboard warrior ferocity
Quite low. Most bile seems to be turned inwards, at McLeish say, or club financial policy. Don't have a large rump of online rage-heads. Don't seem bothered about faddish things such a net spend or winning trophies. Would just like to win a few more games. Dangerously reasonable.
The biggest and most authentic club in the region, a founder member, a once-mighty footballing force that is now forever just a couple of signings away from being one of the major players again.
A historical curiosity, but one which is generally quite well liked: the Premier League's dotty and smelly, but sweet great auntie. Neutrals would rather like Villa to become a major player to break the North West/London hegemony and look on with sadness as they slip down the league. No more likely to become a big force again than rattles and rosettes.
Archetypal news story
"Randy Lerner now richer than God, Aston Villa to sign unheard-of Romanian on free," or "Player plucked from obscurity, turns out to be very good, now hands in transfer request."
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here
Alan's football and cricket books are all in one place here