The recent history of a once dominant, now fallen club makes for sober reading. The victories, players and trophies from more successful years, followed by barren spells, which simply serve to amplify frustration from the terraces.
Since the turn of the 21st century, time has only compounded the misery and disrepute endured by the fervently loyal fan base. For now, the club is rebuilding after the ‘Randy Lerner years’, and new leadership dares to bring a genuine optimism to the B6 faithful, some of which have never seen a trophy won in their lifetime.
You’d be right to assume this bleak account of glory, pain and hope alludes exclusively to our beloved Aston Villa – only that’s not the entire story here. This unfortunate portrayal aptly describes our apparent long-lost relatives from across the pond; a fallen giant of their sport, now laughing stock of the league… Aston Villa fans, meet the Cleveland Browns. We’ve got a lot in common.
It might not be football as we know it, but the National Football League in America spans the States with thirty-two franchises, and culminates in an annual leviathan – the Super Bowl – watched by more than a hundred million people the world over.
Not quite the ‘beautiful game’, yet the sport still harbours a once-great side, now so derisory and insignificant that they have amassed a grand total of four wins in two years. Fresh off the back of a 1-15 2015/16 regular season, the Browns almost went the year without victory, a rare and unenviable feat.
Still feel relatively unacquainted with our new friends from Ohio, Villa fans?
Having inherited the Cleveland Browns franchise upon his father Al’s untimely passing in 2002, Randy Lerner set about emulating the relatively positive season just had by the Browns; reaching the Playoffs for the first time since the club’s reincarnation in 1999.
2002 remains to this day the last time Cleveland featured in the NFL’s post-season, having finished last in their four-team division, the AFC North, in all but two seasons since. With no relegation in the American sport, the worst teams receive the highest picks in the subsequent Draft of college students, so to perennially readdress the balance of power in the league.
Pick good players, and your team gets better again, right? Not if you’re the Cleveland Browns, that is.
Having squandered valuable choices on college superstars that didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons, Cleveland have gone nowhere. Inexcusable antics off-the-field were an unwanted side-show, whilst the team struggled to find a way to win. Since 2007, the Browns have lost twice as many games as they’ve won, in all but one season. This is an impressive ode to incompetency, which isn’t all that unrelatable.
It was only last season – one in which Aston Villa won just three of 38 games – that Villa struggled too with a number of off-field incidents. Tales of drinking, smoking, and mistakenly-tweeted Mercedes-Benz images continued to irk fans, particularly after suffering humiliating 6-0 defeats to Liverpool.
After Villa were finally consigned to relegation, the club announced a new badge would be unveiled; signalling a new beginning from here on out. A radical overhaul was evidently required, and a new, united identity seemed fitting.
A radical overhaul, however, is not what the Villa fans got…
It would appear that only Aston Villa could have conjured such an uninspired unveiling. Unless, of course, you’re familiar with what the Cleveland Browns did in 2015…
After a decade of sub-par NFL and multiple public displays of disaffection from indignant supporters, the Browns head office announced a revamp of the franchise branding and, most importantly, a replacement for the outdated helmet logo. What the board promised, however, bore precisely no correlation at all to what they eventually presented to the media:
However, there appears to be a brighter future on the horizon in both Birmingham and Ohio. Fans may be starting to look to the head of each organisation, with a faith that they are once again guiding their respective teams in the right direction again.
Browns General Manager Sashi Brown has demonstrated judicious footballing knowledge in more recent drafts, and those sat in the ‘Dawg Pound’ have real prospects to cheer on in their latest crop.
Meanwhile, 3000 miles away in Birmingham, Dr. Tony Xia’s enthusiasm and fiscal aptitude are encouraging, whilst the Holte End has this season christened a new cult hero in Jonathan Kodjia.
Both the Browns and Villa are now led by coaches once of former local arch-rivals too (Hue Jackson, once of the Cincinnati Bengals; Steve Bruce, once of Birmingham City), and as both managers enter their second seasons with their respective sides, hopes of marked improvement are shared by supporters of both the orange and brown and the claret and blue.
Here’s to the new eras for both the Cleveland Browns and Aston Villa – let’s hope this symmetry trends upwards.