Garry Thompson: Graham Taylor sorted us and this Aston Villa team need the same

Graham Taylor sorted us and this Villa lot need the same, says Thompson

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 April 2012

If I had looked at the trend before I joined, I would have seen the club was on a downward slide.

After Graham Turner signed me in 1986, I walked through the door at the Bodymoor Heath training ground and Gary Shaw said: ‘Gaz, you’re two years too late.’

I’d come from Sheffield Wednesday under Howard Wilkinson where it was regimented and I immediately thought Villa was too laid back. Too many players just doing enough.

Pressure is on: Alex McLeish knows he and Aston Villa are in serious relegation danger

Pressure is on: Alex McLeish knows he and Aston Villa are in serious relegation danger

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Fear: Stephen Warnock

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The writing was on the wall in pre-season. Mark Chamberlain and Lee Chapman, pals of mine at Hillsborough, came down to watch one of our warm-up matches and said: ‘Is that how you are setting up You’re going to struggle.’

And we paid the price. For that season we weren’t good enough. We were a bad group of professionals. I include myself in that. I didn’t score enough goals. Standards had been allowed to slip.

Warning: Former Villa striker Garry Thompson says the current squad need a shake up

Warning: Former Villa striker Garry Thompson says the current squad need a shake up

Villa are going down the same road now. The standard of players and performance has dropped lower and lower and that’s exactly what happened in my day. You need to change the mindset of the whole club.

After that season, the then chairman, Doug Ellis, called a meeting with the first-team squad and walked into the canteen with a big smile on his face. He introduced Graham Taylor, who began his reign by slaughtering the entire playing staff.

He hadn’t got around to me and I sat smirking in the corner as I watched others writhe.

He looked over and said: ‘I can’t believe I thought about buying you. You don’t score enough goals and you’re always injured.’ That wiped the smile off my face.

The next day when I went in, I could see Taylor and his assistant Steve Harrison waiting outside the building for me. Just as I reached the door the manager said: ‘I bet you live in a nice house. I bet it’s a big detached house on a new estate. Well done.

But what do your neighbours think when they see you drive to work’

I replied: ‘They think, “There’s Thommo, going training”.’ Taylor shot back: ‘No, they don’t. They think: “There’s that scruffy excuse of a footballer”. Go home and put your tracksuit on. Or trousers and a shirt. You are coming here to work.’

Making their views clear: Villa fans hold a banner in the stands in protest against manager Alex McLeish

Making their views clear: Villa fans hold a banner in the stands in protest against manager Alex McLeish

I replied: ‘This leather jacket costs more than the entire set of clothes you are standing up in.’

And Taylor replied: ‘That may be so, but if you turn up here in that jacket again, I’m fining you two weeks’ wages. It’s up to you.’ He went through that club like a whirlwind.

To be honest, it’s what Villa need now because if the worst happens they will have to deal with the expectation of being the club everyone wants to shoot down in the Championship — and I’m not sure they have the players who can cope with that.

The fans have been good. Very supportive. But even if we stay up, what happens if we lose the opening two matches next season

Alex McLeish is never going to get them onside. I keep hearing Villa are going to stick with the plan. What plan Tell us.

I think we’ll nick it. We’ll stay up. But it will be by default. There are serious issues that need to be resolved, otherwise this situation will deteriorate. And, believe me, you don’t want that to happen in the Championship.