TEAMtalk Soccers: Failure of the Season

Michael Graham steps up to plate to name the Failure of the Season on day three of the 2011-12 TEAMtalk Soccers ceremony.

Last Updated: 23/05/12 at 13:11 Post Comment

Venky's: Our Failure of the Season

Venky's: Our Failure of the Season

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Intrinsic to the compelling nature of football is the quite unique ability to be defined by its failures as well as its successes. Newcastle United's failure to turn a 12-point lead into a Premier League title was the defining memory of the 1995/96 season, for example, and the relegation of the previous winner of this award, West Ham, was a headline feature of last season.

In a season which is being widely hailed as the greatest ever Premier League campaign, it comes as no surprise to find it littered with spectacular failures. The selection was sumptuous to say the least, and is probably best illustrated by those who didn't make our final list.

Joey Barton, for instance, the self-styled 'best English midfielder' and pacifist, only has a Jon Walters penalty to thank for not ending the season with a second career relegation to go with his lengthy violent conduct suspension.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa's failure to reach the 40 point mark is a veritable can of worms that also brings Alex McLeish and Charles N'Zogbia under the spotlight, and I am not sure that a solitary league goal was quite what Sunderland had in mind when they secured the much-coveted services of Connor Wickham last summer. The less said about Manchester United's European campaigns the better, too.

But enough talk about who didn't make our top five. Lets see who did.

Failure of the Season - by Michael Graham:

5. Stewart Downing:

OK, so he finished up the season with a League Cup winner's medal and an FA Cup final appearance. Neither really detract from the fact that Downing has been a huge disappointment this season, however.

He isn't alone, of course. Liverpool have overspent and under-achieved all season, and the former Aston Villa man hasn't been alone in under-performing. However, where Jordan Henderson and Sebastian Coates can be given a little leeway due to their youth and long-term potential, Downing is a senior pro very much at his peak.

Ultimately, without a single Premier League goal or assist to his name in a Liverpool jersey, he just hasn't come even close to justifying the reported £20million fee. It tends to be the managers that take the flak these days, but Downing owed Kenny Dalglish considerably more than he showed.

4. The Wolves board:

If there was ever an example of how not to lead a club through a crisis then this was it. It would be fair to say that more could have been expected from Mick McCarthy this season, and he certainly cannot be fully absolved of blame for the the farce into which the Old Gold's season descended.

But to take the decision to replace the manager without any kind of strategy in mind for replacing him was simply unforgivable as it quickly turned a desperate situation into a hopeless one.

When McCarthy was sacked, Wolves were only dipping their toe into the relegation zone on goal difference and still had a third of the season left in which to save themselves. With the right leadership and a decisive plan of action, they had as good a chance as anyone of survival.

Yet, inexplicably, all the board seemed to have to offer was procrastination and indecision before eventually doing absolutely nothing and allowing Wolves to slip into the Championship with barely a whimper.

3. Andre Villas-Boas:

I do have a little sympathy for AVB. He inherited a Chelsea dressing room that contains some very strong and influential characters, and there was some merit in his intentions to phase out the old-guard and inject a little youth and energy into the club.

Unfortunately, his approach to his 'project' bordered on the belligerent and only served to isolate him. Rightly or wrongly, the senior players at Stamford Bridge such as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole are central to the club's modern identity and for Villas-Boas to fail to recognise he needed them on his side was a huge and costly failure on his part.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Since the former Porto man's departure, Chelsea have added the FA Cup and Champions league to their trophy collection. Clearly, despite his admirable intentions, Villas-Boas provided more problems than he did solutions.

2. Liverpool's handling of the Suarez race row:

There is an argument to be made for Liverpool featuring far more prominently in this list of failures this season than a mere two entries. Expensive signings failing to produce, stuttering home form, the continued inconsistency of Andy Carroll, and a modest final league position don't exactly scream 'gone to plan'.

Nevertheless, they did deliver a trophy and ensured the return of European football to Anfield, so whilst it has been a disappointing season it could also be construed to be a progressive one.

But one thing that Liverpool got very badly wrong was the way in which the Luis Suarez race row was handled.

I'd like to insert a disclaimer at this point. The decision to list this as one of the top failures of the season has not been made under the presumption of Suarez's guilt.

Wherever you stand on that particular issue, it is difficult to deem Liverpool's reaction to the situation as anything other than grossly misjudged, persistently insensitive, needlessly inflammatory, and very damaging to the reputation of both the club and the English game itself.

The specifics have been debated over and over so we will not re-open that can of worms here, but the salient point is this: Liverpool as a club - from t-shirts at the DW Stadium all the way to Kenny Dalglish's bizarre post-match interview at Old Trafford following the non-handshake - singularly failed to display any kind of anti-racism sentiment what-so-ever.

An attempt to close ranks and rally round one of their own it may have been, but it proved a quite remarkably poorly chosen battle.

1. Venky's:

There are some failures that embarrass, some that frustrate, and some that disappoint, but this was a failure that burrowed down to the core of a football club and and brought it to its very knees.

Of course, it is quite difficult to really assess the extent to which Venky's have failed at Blackburn as no one really seems to know what they are trying to achieve there. There-in lies the problem, really. Nothing they have done has made any sense at all.

They stubbornly stuck with Steve Kean when it was clear he was out of his depth. Their transfer policy seemed to be restricted to working their way down a list of names associated with the same agent - starting with his own son, and poor old David Dunn may never live down his big acting debut.

Everyone has known where this has been headed all season. The Blackburn fans certainly knew. They screamed it from their seats and begged for sanity to prevail. They were ignored and, sometimes, even criticised. You get the feeling they'd have been sacked, too, if it was possible, just like the club's former Deputy Chief Executive Paul Hunt who was mysteriously relieved of his duties a matter of days after it was revealed he dissented.

Whatever the intentions, all Venky's have succeeded in doing is disconnecting a well-run, friendly, and established Premier League club from its fans and community, humiliating it, mismanaging it, and dumping it unceremoniously into the Championship - and all without barely setting foot inside Ewood Park.

Lets face it, the chicken commercial alone was probably enough to see Venky's deservedly crowned our failure of the season.

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