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Villa - A Top Four Struggle

The comment made on the Breaking into top 4 thread seemed worth expanding on.

Villa breaking into the top 4, or 5, or 6?

This is a huge question and not one that can be summarised in a few sentences.

What Villa fans have to come to terms with in my opinion, is that we aren't, even with Randy Lerner as owner, anywhere near a big club, able to hold our own with the present top 4.

If you look historically our level of success has always been at best mediocre, even when we have peaked, in 57, 79,80,81,82 we have never managed to build on this, which when you consider our location and local competition is surprising.

The ground is decent but short on capacity, but then we have never consistently filled it or got near to filling it. We have a huge tradition, true, but its not a recent one, like Arsenal, Liverpool, and Man Utd. or even Chelsea. If you consider the opposition we have locally, there should be a huge fan base to tap into, but its either not football crazy enough in comparison to most other parts of the country, or there isn't enough on offer.

If you look at those competing to beat us to that top 4 spot, Spurs for instance are at capacity and have been for years, even without much success, Newcastle have huge gates and a huge fanbase, most of whom are fanatical. Everton, similarly, although they too are looking to a new ground, new finance and have Liverpool on their doorstep as competition. Others like Sunderland, the Sheffield clubs, and so on have as much if not more available potential than us to be bigger than us, simply because they seem able or have more fanatical fans.

So no matter how much O'Neill spends of Lerner's or the new Premiership money, achievements on the pitch are only a part of the sustainable needs required to keep us as a top 4,5,6 club. The owner knows and is addressing it, but its probably a bigger problem long term, than O'Neill's to achieve success quickly.

Before long the Premiership, even Europe will contain an elite group of clubs, tradition, past history, fan belief, will be an integral part of being in that group, but sustainable finances from big capacity, always
full grounds, will be the essential requirement, that brings in the revenue elsewhere too.

One of the desperate needs to rid the club of Ellis was to avoid being left behind, in the race to this new Premiership. Thankfully he's gone, but its going to be a huge fight to get us into the leading pack let
alone sustain it, success on the pitch is a major part, but removing the complacency within the local area of support is equally if not more important.

Will it happen?

Well as one who rarely missed a match for too many years, who now because of circumstances, travels down 5 or 6 times a year due to circumstances I can appreciate the problems involved in attracting
enough fans to achieve 60k supporters each week and a list of waiting fans keen to jump in if you vacate your seat, and that's I feel what is needed to sustain a top of the Premiership team, unless a benefactor is willing to finance without question or prices rocket.

First off its 43 k each match that's required 60k will maybe come and its not going to be easy.

Times have changed of course, there is a greater desire to go to football, despite or because of the plethora of it on TV, and a more successful side with bigger names in it will attract more, I'm sure.

Lerner I know, is keen to bring a change to the viewing experience, to one more in line with the NFL experience, but will he succeed. My own experience of such can testify its a great idea, but then the 3 matches I have seen were in sunny Miami and a warm New York.I don't fancy a cold, dank and dismal Villa Park such an ideal location, especially when its a pain to park, not the best entertainment before the match, the catering is both expensive, and a brawl to obtain, the toilets basic and always crowded and often cold, and of course the after match battle to get away, heart destroying, especially when you are frozen, starving, thirsty and like me knowing you have to face the M6, M54, A5 and so on for the next 2-3 hours to get home.

That of course doesn't apply to those around the ground, those within easy walking distance of the ground, or those on a single bus route from the ground, how many of them are not regular fans.
You and I know not many, the ethnic mix of the surrounding area isn't that keen on football I'd guess, cricket maybe, and that's a huge challenge. Not that those in walking distance of Villa Park are the only
potential, as a kid I walked with a stream of fans from Kingstanding, the bus money went on chips and leftovers, how many of those in Kingstanding, Sutton, even Edgbaston, Yardley, and Solihull could be
persuaded, Blues have less to offer, surely.

As I said its a hard task Randy Lerner has set himself, success on the pitch, will bring a bigger profile to the club and revenue from further afield, worldwide imaging and such. Filling the ground each match remains the basis of the bottom line success, the revenue from regular crowds is the single biggest none commercial, ie TV and such, contributor until Villa become a global entity.

Turning the club into one able to hold its own long term in European football is for me a much bigger prospect than many fans appreciate. With new overseas owners taking control daily, the competition for those top spots is and will become even harder each season, Newcastle have the ground, the history, the fan base well beyond ours, a decent basis of a squad, have attracted a decent manager and have Sunderland back to spur them on, thankfully they still have Freddie in charge, but you get my gist.

Chelsea have been able to buy themselves in, albeit with two half decent managers help and have an, if wealthy, judging by their prices, fan base able to fill their ground, Lerner isn't able to repeat that, so its
going to have to be done another way. I'm sure he's up to it, I'm just not confident even those who are cosset Villa fans are, I'm even less sure there are enough viable newbies that can be converted
Remember getting them down is one thing, getting them to come down ,and fill the ground year in, year out, like I used to and many of you do now isn't easy, if it was, we would have well before now.

Days and nights like the 82 day out like the evening wins against in cup competitions are what we want, what we will need not once in a while each season, but every other week. Here's to it, although being honest, I hope it still means I'll be able to pop down once in a while without, as I sometimes have to, get in on the back of a corporate do ;)

Will changing the viewing experience work, what other ideas are there in the pot, its hard to know.

Good luck Randy you can do it, I hope, I still don't believe without question..


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The Journalist

Writer: J P Fear Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday May 18 2007

Time: 9:46AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
great article, spot on. I think that the only way it can be done is through success on the field and a lot of luck on and off it. This can only be done with with business and marketing nous (which is a pity but it is the way the game has gone). From what i have seen and heard of the board at villa they are going to put a lot of effort in selling the name internationally and locally, which i think will be important. Chelsea has done it well, their fan base around the world has muliplied probably 20 times in recent years not just because of the money they have spent on players but because of good marketing. With Doug Ellis in charge Villa was in the dark ages not many people outside of Birmingham followed them, with Randy in charge villa are starting to become 'trendy' which is what the modern game is about and what is needed for a team to become successful on and off the pitch. Villa may not become a big club overnight like Chelsea have, but hopfully Randy if fully commited to achieving this goal. So far i have been quite impressed with every decision that has been made, during the new era. Whether Villa becomes a big club or not, the gap between us and them is not widening at the moment in fact i would say that it is becoming smaller. This at least gives the fans hope for the future, if its just hope to get into europe or winning a cup, its something in which we have been deprived of for too long.
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18/05/2007 10:50:00

The main problem for me is that although Villa Park may be the Mecca, there is nothing else around other than a couple of pints. Whereas in London there is something to do everywhere and you can commute easily.
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18/05/2007 11:21:00

I know Brum a little bit and the area around Villa Park does not appeal. For Villa's sake I hope Randy and Birmingham City Council get on and redevelop the area so that Aston Villa can offer a match day experience before and after the game. As for breaking into the top 4 as a neutral I would say Villa are one of a small number of clubs that CAN do this. Or rather make the big 4 a big 5.
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18/05/2007 11:27:00

Yep agree totally - we also need the lure of Champions League football to attract players and fans - that wont happen for a number of years. Thats why it annoys me that people on this site think that the likes of Malouda, Ribery etc. will want to come to the club at this stage. Even Sidwell, Bellamy etc. who are 'in our league' will be looking for teams who can compete THIS year. Thats why I will be happy with a few players in who can strengthen such as Carson, Jagielka, Milner and someone like Dean Ashton (who I also think may be out of our league unfortunatley!!)
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18/05/2007 11:29:00

Interesting to know that you are one of the fans prepared to complain that Petrov is rubbish but have hardly been to see him. Watching a player from the top of the Holte lets you actually see the bigger picture rather than the snapshot that can be seen on the TV. Your comments on players have pretty much become null and void. Leave your negativity to the supporters who put their money in. A lot of what you say in this article is not rocket science. You have just used a lot of words to make a very simple point. Very simply, having Ellis in charge during footballs era of massive growth has left this club light years behind our competitors. Some things that other clubs have as an advantage are counter balanced by areas that are more beneficial to ourselves. For example Newcrapstle are a one team city with a ground in the city centre. Spuds on the other hand have a ground 20 minutes from the nearest tube station and is a nightmare to get to. I remember going to Spuds when Bosnich saved a couple of penalties and the crowd was just 17,000. Chelski have had crowds as low as 29,000 for a Champions League game and in the late 90's were struggling to get 20,000 for Premier League games. You use Everton as an example but they very rarely sell out. Our location in Witton (not Aston) is not ideal for local fans but in general terms in easily accessible to nearly 8 million residents within one hours travel. You use the example of getting away from Villa Park as a problem. I live in Solihull and can be in my house by 5.30 after a match and I never leave before the end of the game. Arsenal fans have to queue for 90 minutes for a train away from their ground but they still fill the stadium. It is the part time fans such as yourself that can make a difference. Stop moaning and looking for negatives and start getting down to VP every game. I lived in Kent for 2 years, I still came to the games. In fact I even used to take along in-laws and their kids to get them in to the Villa way. You will know that I have consistently (many will say over done it) stressed the need to fill VP. This in itself when it happens, will deliver the snowball effect that is, supply and demand. Unfortunately you are one of those who is very keen to give their views but is not prepared to do what is necessary to make a difference. Until you change your stance from being a lapsed supporter to one that is a contributing supporter, then I find it hard to take your opinions with any seriousness.
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18/05/2007 12:57:00

So according VOTH if you don't go to every game week in week out then you can't support Aston Villa well i say you can go ********* mate! I have followed Villa now for 20 years ever since my Dad took me down to the Holte end, WHEN HE COULD AFFORD IT. LIfe ain't just football. Just because i don't go every week does not mean that i don't care passionately about "OUR" football club, curse when we draw, scream when we lose to the *****e. You have no idea of other peoples circumstances or other more pressing commitments. You are are making Villa fans sound like inbreds "WE" are not a local club for local people. You want us to be a bigger club with a world market then your going to to have to change your views
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18/05/2007 14:04:00

...lighten up, the revolution has begun!
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18/05/2007 14:14:00

I agree, the revolution has begun but when people make such insular comments then they have to be addressed
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18/05/2007 14:21:00

nottinghamvilla you have obviously missed all the posts on this particular subject over the last 12 months. I have and will continue to agree that there are many fans that can not get to every Villa game(I missed the West Ham game at home this season but still felt the passion). This could be for many reasons such as finance, disability, work, location etc. We are no different to any other club in the world on this. There are fans of the Villa (those who have Villa as their favourite team but who do not go to games for whatever reason). There are lapsed supporters (those who used to go to games but because of the Ellis era have found other things to do on match day). There are part time supporters (those who go to some games when the feeling suits or the game is deemed attractive enough). Then there are season ticket holders. 99% of visitors to VP fall into one of those categories. There are many thousands of fans who said they would not return to VP until Ellis left and the club showed ambition. This has not really proved to be the case. We got 27,000 against Bolton this season. The week after, but sold out many weeks before, we got a full house against Manure. It is this 15,000 group who are influential in making the difference + all the many other thousands who pick and choose their games. There is nothing wrong with having Villa as your favourite team. There is nothing wrong with being a lapsed supporter but it would be good to have them back as season ticket holders. It is not a crime to be a part time supporter but it would be nice to have them as full time supporters. What is objectionable are those people who could go to more games, but who choose not to, slagging off the club, players, board, support, atmosphere etc. Regarding the original post, avfc48 deems it fit to say that Petrov is rubbish but he has hardly been to a game. This is the type of attitude that holds this club back and has given the club its perceived lack of passion over the last few years. avfc48 says Newcastle fans are more passionate then in the next breath says he comes to Villa when he is corporately funded. What hypocrisy. I am not sure of your personal situation nottinghamvilla but I do know that nottingham to VP is about 45 minutes. If you get to every game you can brilliant. If you pick and choose your games, even though you could get to more then you are a part time fan. Unfortunately part time fans seem to be the most vociferous but they get least repect. Supporters such as the editor of this site are the ones who get the utmost respect because of what they put into the club from a supporter level. I never said if you do not go every week then you can't be a supporter but people have to look at themselves to judge what level of support they give.
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18/05/2007 14:41:00

Just had a quick look on oddschecker,Villa are 500/1 to win the league but just 25/1 to be relegated,i think that speaks volumes dont you......??
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18/05/2007 14:46:00

That seems par for the cousre for 75% of the division chalky. However the world loves a good underdog. Woof.
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18/05/2007 15:10:00

Do you agree that people are allowed their own opinions? AVFC48 is obviousley entitled under your rules to have an opinion on the players, fans and management for those games he has attended as like you, he has paid his money. Are we then not allowed to form and voice relatively well informed opinions from the various press resources, internet sites including the OS and this site where there are articles from season ticket holders and part time fans alike covering the under 18's through to the first team. I'm afraid that i class myself as a full-time fan who is unable to get the games regularly, reading all reports (including the biased for and against) which in turn forms the basis of my opinion of the club as a whole. I just think that you need to let go of this insular view that no-one except those privileged few that get to every game can have an opinion of the clubs directions and what happens on the pitch.To play with the big boys like man u, arsenal, chelsea, liverpool you need part-time fans to buy the merchandise and to fill the seats when they can or when they fancy.
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18/05/2007 15:22:00

we'll get in the top 4 next season mark my words...
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18/05/2007 15:27:00

If the press or various internet sites could be believed then you may have a point. Unfortunately what happens is that those who do not go to a majority of the games tend to believe what they read rather than what they see. The next thing that happens is that a player who may have had a bad game is rubbish and isn't fit to wear the shirt again and mass hysteria sets in. avfc48 is the perfect example. He attends 5 or 6 games and apparently on this basis Petrov has been rubbish all season and then goes on to state how other clubs get varying degrees of attendance but that Villas attendance is under performing, when he is one of the culprits. And what is this about VP being 'cold, dank and dismal'??? For christs sake pass me the razor blade now. What a manic depressive. Some of the best night s I have had a t VP have been in the cold, the dark and the rain. This doesn't make it dank and dismal. It is supposed supporters with that attitude that make it feel that way. Well done on being a full time fan nottinghamvilla. Hopefully in the forseeable future you will become a full time supporter.
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18/05/2007 15:58:00

Now you're playing with semantics VOTH. I support our club to the best of my abilities, attending matches when i can afford it, i buy a shirt every season, go to the pub when they are on Sky and even pay the 34 a year for Villa World so i can see the highlights of every game (admittedly they sometimes miss off things shown on MOTD so they are not too complete). I have even argued with Villa Supporters whilst at a game over players. So you see opinions differ whether they are taken from the press, fan sites or whilst attending games and they always will. Everybody sees things differently. I must agree with you over the dank and dismal comment as i too have enjoyed many a game in cold and dark
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18/05/2007 16:22:00

Hello Chalky - I mean Statto. What you neglect to mention is that Villa are 6th favourites for the PL, you are 5th, and that you can get odds of 33/1 on Spurs being relegated. Lies, damned lies and statistics eh.....Seems others on your site are more worried about us thann you let on - rightly so in my opinion.
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18/05/2007 17:15:00

We are all for Villa mr nottingham. Filling VP is one of the biggest objectives facing the club and we are all doing our bit. Unfortunately my 'bit' is to be self opiniated and to really moan about the stayaways. Being really semantic, people within a reasonable distance of VP watching Villas home games at the pub, are supporting the pub, not the Villa. Away games are a different matter.
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18/05/2007 17:26:00

Im not a betting man but I see Tottenham are 66/1 for the Premiership which might be worth a punt if you are superstitious like Spuds fans are. It ends in a 1 and includes 61, the last time they won a league of any kind.
Hoss The Villain
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18/05/2007 17:33:00

Who will give me 1,000 against 10 that we hit Top6 within 2 seasons and maintain it for at least another 2 seasons? All you doubters, does this concentrate your mind? Twelve months ago, I would have expected 100,000 for the same 10. Doesn't that tell you something.
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18/05/2007 17:40:00

It tells me you're a tight git if you've got the same 10 in your wallet which was there a year ago.
Hoss The Villain
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18/05/2007 17:47:00

A truce mr voice and toast to all things Aston Villa you semantic git ;)
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18/05/2007 17:49:00

Is it worth a survey on how long it will take us to get a CL spot? Some people seem to think next season, which is very optimistic!!! Surely 4 or 5 years minimum before that happens? What is the general consesus?
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18/05/2007 19:07:00

Apart from Newcastle, what comes first, success or the crowds? Unfortunately in this day and age I think it is the former. Success will bring crowds, there are just too many other distractions these days. VotH, agree with everything you say, but nagging people won't help. Sky is to blame for much of it - there is just too much football for the average consumer. Why go to see it live when you can watch 3 games in a row at home? This is not my view, but I see it in other areas of my life. The fans that come will be glory hunters, ala ManU and Chelski, so not real fans anyway. It will happen, but like everything at VP I am afraid we will have to have a little patience!!
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18/05/2007 19:16:00

Dont you mean 66/1 to win & 100/1 to be relegated Hoss...??Hills have us 80/1 & you 250/1 joint 6/7th with Everton.Maybe if we had your defence i would have an E/W flutter,maybe if you had our forward line you would do like wise....!!As it Hoss i cant see past Manyoo.............Cheers Chalky76 THFC
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18/05/2007 20:33:00

Hoss - which bet do you fancy then - win 10 or 1.000? - or do you still fancy the Spurs to do it first?
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18/05/2007 21:04:00

Success b4 crowds - Look at all the top Italian sides - they never fill their stadiums yet we deam them to be top European clubs. The revenue from home support is only a small part of the revenue needed to become a 'big' club (unless you charge higher prices and you are getting 60k home crowds). On the subject of part time support - I used to a full timer but now I only get to 6 or so games mainly because I live in Australia. However, I'm a fanatic and have been since 1969. The world has moved on and there are lots of other distractions to occupy people on Saturdays - what % of the UTD, Arsenal crowds are tourists looking for theat certain 'experience'. These are the people we need to attract as well as selling more season tickets. PS - I'm prowd to be a Villa Supporter - to me it will out last religion as a emotional experience. My son who has only ever been to Villa once is a fan who has the potential to become a supporter if he decideds to moves to England is the audience Randy is aiming at. The thousands of people who are fans who could with success on the field become Supporters.
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18/05/2007 21:04:00

You can choose whatever makes you look better Chalky - but don't think you've fooled anyone. Skybet have you at 200/1 for the PL and 33/1 for relegation. Same for Villa on the Title, with 25/1 on relegation. You see it one way, I see it another. Either way, we are 6h favourite for PL, and 15th favourite to get relegated - funny that isn't it.
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18/05/2007 22:21:00

CLVilla-Yeah fair enough,however EVERY High Street bookie has us ahead of the rest by some considerable margin.The market to get on is the "without the top 4" or the "top 6 finish".We would this year be about 6/4 to finish 5th (last year it was 11/4),Villa for a top 6 finish i would think would be about 4/1 & probs 10/1 for 5th.Its a poor league & i can see only you or Everton for a top 6 finish next year so 4/1 would intrest me.I still maintain however that Spurs will be in the top 4 next May,i also maintain that if King hadnt missed a huge chunk of the season we would be there allready....!!
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18/05/2007 22:55:00

I think I've figured it out. Chalky has been banned from all the Spurs fansites so has set up camp in ours. Lucky us....
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19/05/2007 01:44:00

gwyllum... as long as it's light hearted banter and not personal or obnoxious comments then din't worry about it. Chalky is giving us the facts and the basis of the bookies odds are reflected on the positions of the clubs this year. It would be a brave punter to bet on any team out of the top 2 to win the league but IMO it isn't going to be long before the top 4 is broken. It needs to be if the Premiership is going to regain it's competiveness.
Hoss The Villain
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19/05/2007 08:18:00

Villacross, I would take your 10 bet but is it still legal tender if it's been in your wallet for so long? :-)
Hoss The Villain
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19/05/2007 08:21:00

As for Spurs who knows what will happen. The last 2 seasons have been their most consistent run in the Premier league in 20 years. I think if they can hold onto Berbatov and bring in defenders who can defend crosses and set pices or a defensive coach they may progress further. As for Villa if we can find a play making midfielder and a striker who can score 25 a season we'll be pushing for top 6. We have turned the corner from the Ellis demise but we need to build and learn to walk before we run. That said, depending on the summer signings, anything is possible.
Hoss The Villain
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19/05/2007 08:39:00

Good to see a villa suporter who actually got his facts right "AVFC48". Villa isn't a big club and have'nt been for a long long time. The prospect of villa joining the Champions league is as likely as villa being among the top 6 or 8 teams in premiership, and thats none what so ever!!!
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20/05/2007 13:25:00

I'm surprised some supporters can be ao arrogant and so filed with their own interior regions. What will make the Villa great as a top 4 club is outward thinking. Thank Heavens Lerner didn't learn his football from sitting in the Upper Holte if that is the insular view one gets there. Its easy to see when views like those from voiceoftheholte, are expressed that many a prospective fan is discouraged. I'd also suggest if O'Neill and Petrov himself says he's had a bad season then perhaps my 'limited' view which is far betetr than suggested, is maybe more insightful than his from the Upper Holte ;)
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20/05/2007 17:02:00

Excellent article avfc48. Dont agree with all you say, but overall you paint a very realistic picture concerning the challenge ahead. Its not going to be all champagne and roses, far from it. There's a long road ahead of us to establish ourselves as a top premiership outfit, and its not going to happen in five or ten minutes.
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21/05/2007 05:40:00

avfc48 you do like to play with words don't you. M'ON never said that Petrov had a bad season ..... he did say that he expected a little more and that he expects this to happen next season. But what would you know, it appears you only turn up occasionally for the odd prawn sandwich. When you actually put your hand in your pocket and attend the games, then your views on players may carry some weight.
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21/05/2007 09:25:00


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