Randy Lerner: Aston Villa owner takes blame for relegation

Fans protest against Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner
Aston Villa fans have protested against club owner Randy Lerner in recent matches

Owner Randy Lerner says Aston Villa's relegation from the Premier League "lies at my feet and no-one else's".

The American said the club's "desperate existence is totally unacceptable, unbearable and totally incompatible with Villa's glorious past".

Villa, who are without a manager, have won only three league games, while two directors quit this week after falling out with the billionaire owner.

"I believe in Aston Villa and know it will come back stronger," Lerner added.

"Memories of Acorns on the shirt, and Ashley Young scoring a late winner against Everton still romantically nourish me."

The logo of Acorns Children's Hospice was carried on the team's shirts for free during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

Lerner, who put Villa up for sale in May 2014, said he will continue "to try to put the club into worthy hands" and "do my best to position Villa for the quickest possible return to its rightful place among England's elite".

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Villa have taken only 16 points from 34 league matches and were relegated when they lost 1-0 at Manchester United on Saturday.

Two managers have left this season - Tim Sherwood in October and Remi Garde in March after only 147 days in charge - while David Bernstein and Lord King resigned from the board on Monday.

Striker Gabriel Agbonlahor was suspended on Monday after he was allegedly pictured with laughing gas canisters on the night Villa were relegated.

Agbonlahor was already on the sidelines after being told he was not fit enough.

'A nagging sense of inevitability'

Lerner thought the season would end badly when they conceded three goals in the final 18 minutes to lose 3-2 at Leicester in September.

He wrote: "A nagging sense of inevitability set in against Leicester City despite the late lead we enjoyed. Can't say why, although I doubt I'm alone..."

Lerner, who bought the club from Doug Ellis in 2006, has become a distant figure at Villa Park in recent years.

He last attended a home match in September 2014, the first time he had been seen at the club's home since December 2012.

In the first four years of his ownership, the 1982 European Cup winners were almost a fixture in the top half of the table under then manager Martin O'Neill,.

But since the Northern Irishman's shock resignation days before the start of the 2010-11 season, a steep decline has set in.

In the past five seasons, Villa have finished ninth, 16th, 15th, 15th and 17th.

This season's relegation after 34 games is the joint third-fastest - in terms of games played - since the top division was reduced to 20 teams in 1995.

In his statement, Lerner wrote: "How many seasons after all can one hold on and hope to slide through? That is not Aston Villa."

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