Though the players have to shoulder a considerable portion of the blame, you'd be hard pressed to find an Aston Villa fan who doesn't consider Randy Lerner in some way culpable for the club's relegation. Having put Villa up for sale in May 2014, Lerner has since significantly scaled down his investment in the playing squad and been widely accused of disinterest and absenteeism. As unpopular owners go, he's plumbing the same murky depths as Mike Ashley, Roland Duchâtelet and Karl Oyston.
Still, he may have just changed his public image for the better. Not only has he accepted responsibility for Aston Villa's relegation via an official statement on the club's website, he's also admitted he still has strong feelings for the club.
The crucial part of his statement reads: "I write to Villa supporters to make clear that this relegation lies at my feet and no one else's. And because I believe in Aston Villa and know it will come back stronger and more able, with love and care for the community it serves, with the edge and attitude it must have to represent our history and tradition. Memories of Acorns on the shirt, and Ashley Young scoring a late winner against Everton still romantically nourish me. I know Villa will return better, stronger."
Yes, you've read that correctly: memories of Ashley Young's late winner against Everton in 2008 "romantically nourish" Randy Lerner. If that's not a beautiful tribute to Villa, we don't know what is.
Imagine Randy, a loose silk kimono draped about his meagre frame, watching DVD highlights of Aston Villa's 2008/09 season and being romantically nourished by Ashley Young. Imagine Randy, sitting in a pedalo bedecked with roses, dreaming wistfully of Young's pacey wing play. Imagine Randy, splayed over a vintage divan, beckoning invitingly toward a cardboard cutout of Young secretly purloined from the club shop prior to his move to Manchester United in 2011. This is what it looks like to be romantically nourished by Ashley Young. This is what it is to be a true fan.
Picture, if you will, Randy running through a field of swaying corn, tumbling headlong toward the object of his desire. There, in a Victorian bonnet and tight, lacy bodice, stands Ashley Young, a physical symbol of pure longing. Randy hungers for romantic nourishment, thirsts to behold that goal against Everton once more. Is there a Villa fan on earth who can honestly claim that he has not shared this exact fantasy? That he has not hungered for the romantic nourishment that only Ashley Young can provide? No, of course there isn't.
If Randy Lerner looks to ageing clips of Ashley Young for romantic nourishment, maybe he isn't so bad after all. Sure, he's played a major part in the abject, disgraceful decline of one of the country's most venerable football clubs, but melancholy detachment is only natural when a man is mourning the departure of his favourite footballer. What is a man without romantic nourishment? And how can a man be expected to take charge of a football club, when he's not even the master of his own heart?