Villa Fans Keeping The Faith?
Having a decent manager and a board we all trust is still something of a novelty to a lot of Aston Villa fans - not in a bad way, of course, but it does raise some potential problems.
This time of year is notoriously frustrating, especially in the age of the Internet, as we all list dozens of players we want to see wearing the famous claret and blue next season, and grab any snippets of gossip to use as evidence that said players will be joining.
Not that there is anything wrong with speculation as it makes the summer go faster, and we all get to build little fantasies inside our heads about what names we will see when we grab our programmes on the first day of the season. Personally, I can't wait and I'm sure every other fan of our great club feels the same.
However, perhaps it's worth playing a game of Devil's Advocate just to break things up a bit (incidentally, for those who care, the office of Devil's Advocate was abolished in 1983 by Pope John Paul II, but it's still a great phrase).
In the past, while all loyal Aston Villa fans have continued to have faith that things might change and we might return to the big time, where we surely belong, we've always had something niggling away in the back of our minds telling us it wouldn't happen. I won't mention that 'something' in too much detail, as our club has finally moved on from the days of 'his' reign.
But was having a 'safety-net,' of sorts at least, necessarily a bad thing? We didn't expect much and, when not much was delivered, we could easily turn around and say 'Oh well, we knew that would happen because of 'him'...'.
Now, thanks to the cash of Randy Lerner, the skill and expertise of the board, and the managerial nouse of Martin O'Neill, we can expect far, far more - but our 'safety-net' has been cast away. Hopefully it won't make any difference and we can show that we are once again skilful enough to not fall off the tightrope that is modern Premier League football.
Randy has already been generous, more than generous in fact. As well as his money funding new players, he has refurbished the Holte Hotel to a high standard. While we could argue the finer points of what makes a decent place to drink, there is no doubt our chairman has gone above and beyond the call of duty.
Few of us doubt Martin O'Neill, either, and his managerial career is practically unblemished (though fans of certain Glaswegian clubs would mention throwing leagues away when miles ahead, perhaps).
We also have an overall sense of confidence in the team, in the club, and in how the whole operation is being run. It is impossible to put a price on that sort of feeling, and it could well be worth 12 or more points in a season as the fans transfer their confidence to the players on the pitch.
So it's all going well, isn't it? But...
What happens if things start to slip? We've got the chairman, the board, the manager, the players (give or take) but we've got absolutely nobody to blame. That's quite scary, because during the years of 'him' being in charge, a lot of us thought (and according to some of the posts on this site's forum, still think) that once 'he' was gone, Aston Villa Football Club would be back among the big boys within a few seasons.
If that doesn't happen - although even at the end of this season we'll still be a work in progress - will we have to accept that we'll never get to the top again? I'm sure no real Villa fan would ever accept that, but our lack of safety-net does seem to increase the chances of falling back down to earth with a bump.
Worse case scenario but as I always say: 'Expect the very worst in life, and then anything else is a bonus!'