There was a story in the New York Times a few weeks ago about Donald Trump choosing his running mate for the coming US election.
John Kasich, governor of Ohio, was approached, and sold the idea that he would be the most powerful vice-president in history.
Trump’s son, Donald Jr, told Kasich that he would be in charge of both domestic and foreign policy, leading to the rather obvious question of, if that were true, what exactly Trump would be doing. “Making America great again,” came the airy and rather vague reply.
The idea of someone with big plans but with no concrete idea on how to achieve them sprang to mind a little this week when Aston Villa sacked Roberto Di Matteo.
It’s not that, such is the way of modern football, getting rid of Di Matteo was a particularly surprising decision – Villa have just ten points from the first 11 games and haven’t won since the second week of the season – but their reported list of potential replacements does not indicate that they have thought too much about the next step.
They reportedly have two favoured candidates to take over, one being David Wagner, the Huddersfield boss who’s been in England for under a year, and Steve Bruce, doughty old reliable soul who is coming up to his 20th year in management.
One is a young (ish), dynamic coach who tries to get his players aping the style he and Jurgen Klopp did at Borussia Dortmund, the other is a proper English football man, old school and dependable.
Both would be fine choices, but if there is a through-line joining those candidates, a definite path the club want to take, then it’s difficult to make it out.
Villa are a club in a hurry. After Tony Xia took over in the summer he declared that he wanted them to be mentioned among the best and glitziest sides in the world.
“I hope in five years, or after five years, we will talk of this club as Madrid or Barcelona,” said Xia, big talk for a club that had not only just been relegated, but relegated in the most abject fashion that a complete rebuild was required.
Not long after he took over, Di Matteo described Villa as “a house that needed to be knocked down and started afresh.”
Villa’s start to the season has of course been bad. They have only actually lost three of their eleven games, but perhaps more worrying than that is their chronic habit of conceding late goals.
In six games their defence has been breached after the 80th minute, concessions that have cost them nine points and four victories. Their style of play has also been, shall we say, not exactly optimal, but despite not showing too many signs of imminent glory, this still feels like a hasty decision.
To say a club should have more patience than to sack a manager just 11 games into a job is a predictable and obvious response, in an age where such a virtue among owners and chairmen is rice paper-thin.
But if there was ever a club that needed patience, needed someone to make a plan, stick to it and keep faith that it would turn things around, it’s Villa.
You do not simply fix a mess like this in three months, particularly given the upheaval in the playing staff: nine players came in and some 15 left over the summer.
North of £40million was spent on new talent, a huge chunk of that on two strikers, Jonathan Kodjia and Ross McCormack.
As well as changes in playing staff, coaching and ownership, those running the club are fairly new too. Steve Round arrived as technical director, and Keith Wyness was appointed chief executive after Xia’s takeover.
You’d be amazed if anyone knew where the mugs were kept. For the club to bin their plan after such a short period of time and then to line-up preferred replacements so wildly different, indicates not a great deal of forethought.
Villa, much like Trump, seem to be broadly in favour of winning and against, well, someone else winning: they seem keen to make Villa great again.
But how they plan to do that, after abandoning at least part of their plan before they’ve really had chance to see if it’s working, is less clear.