Aston Villa did not end up in the Championship because they were getting it right. The same as any Premier League team, really. Poor recruitment, poor managerial choices, poor executive decisions; there are many reasons for relegation and few signpost administrative excellence.
Incompetence: that is the common denominator. That is why fortunes are often spent and wasted scrambling to survive. Queens Park Rangers had one final, costly splurge before disappearing below the surface. Sunderland bought 80 players during Ellis Short's time as chairman and could sell only six of them for a profit.
Aston Villa are no different. In the season they went down, they sold Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph for good money — which might explain it — but frittered away those proceeds on players who disappointed or were powerless to arrest the decline.
Just within the grasp of the Premier League, haven't Aston Villa been punished enough?iPhone transfer software
Jordan Amavi, Idrissa Gueye, Jordan Ayew, Rudy Gestede, Jordan Veretout and Adama Traore cost a combined total of £47.5million. Not one was sold on beneficially after relegation.
That is what demotion does. It makes a player damaged goods and ruins his asking price.
The seller begins with grandiose claims — Stoke want £30m for goalkeeper Jack Butland, it is reported — but then reality sets in and they take what the market dictates.
Relegation in 2016 destroyed Villa's finances. Their most recently reported figures confirm that. A loss of £29.6m was posted in the relegation season.
Then turnover dropped by £35.6m in 2016-17 as all commercial revenues fell, including £2.9m in gate receipts, £17m in broadcast rights, £9.1m in sponsorship and £6.4m in merchandise, royalties and corporate entertainment. Villa shed 122 full-time staff and 539 personnel in total.
Villa frittered away income on players powerless to arrest relegation, such as Rudy Gestede
Despite the signing of John Terry, the last two Championship years have been austere
Despite the acquisition of a stellar name in John Terry, the last two Championship years have been austere. Finishing 13th in the first season inspired the determination to recruit a player of Terry's stature and experience but, in reality, times are hard. Steve Bruce, the manager, spent only £2.5m last summer, while raising £18m in player sales.
Villa missed out on promotion to the Premier League in the play-off final against Fulham and now the vultures are descending. For there is nothing the Football League enjoys more than tearing through the carcass of a Premier League club that has stuffed up.
Villa still have an estimated £40m hole in their finances, left over from trying to compete in an elite division, and the Football League will not rest until it is plugged.
If Villa have to give up everything that is good about the club, if they have to surrender players, prospects and facilities, if they have to embrace the mediocre, join a race to the bottom, that is fine. The Football League are only too willing to embrace mundanity. It's ambition that terrifies them.
Item number one: Jack Grealish. A tiny flicker of hope for Villa fans these last two seasons that they might have a young player at last emerging as a significant performer. Grealish has had his disciplinary issues but this season, in particular, he appears to have grown up and grown comfortable with his ability, accepting responsibility as a key member of the team.
Jack Grealish has been the highlight of a tough few years but naturally, he has to be sold
He is a Villa supporter, Solihull-born, and has been around the club since he was six. At the age of 16 he was named on the bench for a Premier League match against Chelsea and now he has made more than 100 appearances.
There hasn't been much for Villa fans to get excited about of late, but Grealish is the best of it. Naturally, he has to be sold.
So, what is the purpose of that? What is the purpose of a rulebook that punishes a club for its past mistakes, that strips away the best of it, the promise of it just at the time when it could most do with support?
There is even talk of Villa having to sell their Recon Training Complex, formerly known as Bodymoor Heath, one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the Championship. This is where the next generation of Villa stars learn their trade.
The League are not making Villa economically viable. They are forcing them to cash in on their only assets. If Villa were becoming streamlined by shedding waste, that would be different but this is a yard sale of the family silver.
How does it benefit Villa to lose Grealish and the facility that helped produce him. How is that beneficial or healthy?
From the going to the already gone: Terry, the man Grealish credits with encouraging his new professionalism and a player Bruce says has been inspirational in his influence, was not even offered a new contract. Villa cannot afford a second season of that positivity, so he has already said farewell.
James Chester and Robert Snodgrass are also likely to leave the struggling Championship side
Other loan players, such as Robert Snodgrass, a Scotland international, are expected to follow.
Quality is in short supply where Villa are heading. James Chester is another likely to be sold. Villa took him from West Brom in 2016 for around £8m and would have expected to turn a profit, but can they now, in the circumstances?
As this is a very public fire sale, clubs will try to force the price down — particularly with the transfer window closing earlier than ever, another bright idea. Take it or leave it will be the option in the knowledge that leaving could result in drastic FFP fines, and further ruination.
The old cliche is that Financial Fair Play prevents another crash like the ones at Portsmouth or Leeds, but Villa were not about to go skint. Owner Tony Xia has not been able to turn them back into a Premier League club but the sustainable future that he spoke of this week did not have to be reached in a state of panic.
Villa have suffered losses and setbacks, but the signs are Xia was beginning to bring that under control. To then have to lose his best players, maybe a good manager and a prime club facility to avoid further unjust financial punishment is a savage penalty in itself.
Tony Xia on Wednesday evening said that Villa 'will face severe FFP challenges next season'
As ever, FFP causes measures to be undertaken in a mood of haste or anxiety. Wolves bet the farm on winning promotion this season, knowing if they failed the Football League would be after them. Villa fell short, so now it is their turn.
Far from achieving financial security, does anyone seriously believe Villa will be better off for losing their best players, including one — Grealish — who is the greatest beacon of hope?
In its current form, the Football League's financial rules are not fair but spiteful and potentially devastating.
Just by being within the grasp of the League's