Writer: J P Fear
Date:Friday February 27 2009
Villa went from proud flag flyers in the home tie against CSKA Moscow to white flag wavers in Moscow. Hopefully the man making the decisions won't come to regret such actions, it certainly calls into question what is the point of the UEFA Cup and more especially what was the point of us entering the Intertwobob in order to qualify. Martin O'Neill admitted himself the irony that the focus all of last season was to qualify for Europe only for us to decide to rest the sort of players who need European experience in order to - hopefully - make a good account of themselves IF (WHEN?) we qualify for the Champions League.
The opinions in our forum and I'm sure all other Villa forums has been mixed to say the least. I understand football has changed and everyone is now in love with the cash rich Champions League and that to gain qualification (remember, if we finish 4th we go into the qualification stage not the group stages, think that is the case with 3rd as well) and that we would be able to attract a higher caliber of player - if indeed that is what our manager wants as he has shown little to no sign of wanting 'big names' before now.
For me it does leave a bitter taste in the mouth. I've only just received my copy of Claret and Blue and within it there is a big splash about how great it is to be in Europe once again. Why the fuss when squads like last night are played against a quality opposition? If we aren't going to take these Cup games seriously, lets at least declare that at the start, if I'd known I might have saved myself a good few quid going to the intertwobob game and the home UEFA Cup games. I'd certainly have calmed my dreams and not worried so much about the excitement and expectations which have been raised time and time again with the constant talk and quotes on the official site from players and management.
Maybe I'm just struggling with modern football - or some people's interpretation of modern football at least. Coming 4th years ago used to be called losing the league. Now it is apparently more important than lifting some silverware. No, not for me. I know the politics, I know the importance of raising our profile, I know we need top class players (hopefully MON does as well), I know the Champions League is now the holy grail but I also know how it feels to see a Villa Captain lift a cup. I know the rush of adrenaline. I know the emotion and forcing back the tears of joy. I know the pride and swagger that follows.
THAT is kudos.
THAT is football.
A few changes to rest a few players is a great idea, to surrender the game before it starts - to me - is an insult to the history and heritage of this club and a major mistake. If the players are that tired, how come they are rarely if ever subbed or rotated? I've had so many texts, calls and emails in the last week from others just as downhearted and de-spirited.
It has saddened me greatly and I can't help but question what football is now all about. Not about what I thought it was, WINNING. COMPETING. DREAMING.
Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate - under just as much if not more pressure with where Boro are in the league - on their cup game the other day:
'It's important because football is about dreams and we're keeping the dreams of our supporters alive....It's something to look forward to, it keeps some enjoyment in the season and gives us some confidence for the league.'
How nice, how true, how exciting would it have been to have progressed? Today I'll be mostly gargling to take the bitter taste away. The threads in the forum are fascinating as some are saying it is the lowest they've ever felt as Villa fans and others are sure what was done was for the greater good. Hopefully the latter day Saints (!) are correct and we do have the messiah in charge. With 6 transfer windows now under his belt, I can't help but wonder why we don't have the strength in depth so obviously needed for our apparent ambitions.
We'd best hope Arsenal don't win the Champions League this year if they fail to catch us: Rule 1.3 states: At the request of the national association concerned, the Uefa Champions League title-holders may be entered for this competition ... if they have not qualified via the top domestic league championship. If, in such a case, the title-holders come from an association entitled to enter four teams for the Uefa Champions League, the fourth-placed club in the top domestic league championship has to be entered for the Uefa Cup.'
If we finish 4th and they win but don't finish in the top 4, we go into the UEFA Cup. Maybe I could suggest a few songs to have the players run out to, we might as well be honest?
Now at least we have the focus of the league, hopefully starting with a blistering win against Stoke.
COME ON THE VILLA.
Date:Friday February 27 2009
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