Struggling Villa's owner takes back seat in ops

LONDON • Randy Lerner, the Aston Villa owner, has distanced himself further from the crisis at the English Premier League football club after appointing a Manchester City fan as his new chairman.

He admitted that Villa have been unstable for the past five years and claimed that the appointment of Steve Hollis would help to restore order at the Premier League's bottom club.

The American billionaire revealed that he will scale down his day-to-day involvement at Villa after the appointment of Hollis, a prominent name in Birmingham's business community but a novice in the football world.

It will leave Villa controlled effectively by Hollis and Tom Fox, the chief executive, although Lerner will retain the final say on key decisions while he continues trying to sell the club.

"Villa's success is dependent in aggregate on the skills, determination and commitment of the manager, chief executive and chairman. I believe Steve can contribute meaningfully alongside Tom and Remi (Garde, manager) and identify opportunities that can take the club forward," said Lerner.

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Villa are eight points from safety and host second-placed Leicester City today, having ended a 19-match winless run by beating Crystal Palace 1-0 on Tuesday - which was also Garde's first win.

But the Frenchman is not getting carried away and knows his side are huge underdogs to claim a second-straight win against a Leicester side level on points with leaders Arsenal at the top of the table.

A point at Villa Park would see Leicester, who have made a £6 million (S$12.4 million) bid for FC Copenhagen's defensive midfielder Daniel Amartey, 21, go top ahead of Arsenal's trip to Stoke tomorrow.

But Foxes manager Claudio Ranieri has been quick to urge calm.

He told the club's official website: "If we get a good result at Aston Villa, then we can say we are confident, but it is also important that we keep our feet on the ground."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'Struggling Villa's owner takes back seat in ops'. Print Edition | Subscribe