Date:Sunday March 14 2010
donegalvillan on the debate: Why Don't We Fill Villa Park Every Week?
It's an interesting debate. There's a lot of reasons for Villa supporters currently being the way they are. (Apologies, on rereading this it appears I have gone on a bit of a ramble...)
My view, in a nutshell, is that Villa have failed to promote themselves properly in the 'TV/media age' from the 1960's onwards.
We have failed, consistently, to offer our fans a genuine hope that the club was building itself up to be successful, to be a, genuine big-hitter.
The small-time attitude of previous regimes quite simply did little to stir the Second City's number one club. Anyone remember the era of the 'Big Five?' Can anyone tell me how a club that had been Champions of Europe only four seasons prior to this 1980's elite group's formation, (and a club from a city of one million souls, at that) failed to get itself into this cartel (as vulgar as it was)?
Through total and utter incompetence and poor leadership - that is how.
Also, as a club, we have consistently failed to engage with the Villa supporting community.
I believe support was taken for granted in the past for far too long. The fact that we have never produced a consistent winning team in the post 60's media era is of huge significance, also. Truth is the club has rarely been stable enough to do this.
If we take 1980-81 for example, no Villa fan at the start of the season thought we would win the league. Our average attendance up to the end of 1980 reflected this. From Christmas of 1980 onwards, however, with a sniff of the league title in our nostrils, Villa's home support was second only to Man Utd's.
We finished that season with the third highest average attendance for the season overall. For the European Cup campaign we got some very good gates, but when it became apparent that our league form was on the slide our league gates dropped. Just as now, I think people picked and chose their games.
The European Cup became everyone's priority and the league very much became a side issue. Let us not think Villa are alone when it comes to curious fan habits. Go back to the 1980's and you will find that the likes of Arsenal and Celtic were playing to very similar crowds to us. Before the arrival of MON and the Celtic Park rebuild in the 1990's , Celtic's crowds were nothing too special for a big city club.
Indeed, historically I believe their overall average is less than ours! What Celtic did, (and Arsenal and Newcastle, too) was to begin engaging with their fans, rebuilding their clubs and rebuilding their stadia. In short, they said to their fans - 'We want to be the very best: are you with us for the ride?' The result was bigger stadia, rammed full. Not once have we had such a question put our way at Villa Park.
For too long our club has existed without genuine hope and a winning mentality. No wonder the place was rarely full. Never once, until recently, have I thought, 'You know what? Something special is happening at this place. Something special is being built.' (Quite clearly getting such a mindset to filter through to the whole support takes time.
At Villa we have forty years of institutional negativity to overcome!) Such a vision lifted Celtic's average crowd from around 30,000 to 60,000 within a decade and a half. Arsenal's rose from the mid 20 thousands of the 1980's to the 60,000 of today. The key to getting our support in is to engage with the fans, make them feel part of the club and to BUILD the club brick by brick with them on board. Show the fans that the club wants to be number one.
Give them a winning team to support. 'Build it and they will come.' Not my words, but the words of General Krulak. I have no doubt - though some might scoff - that Villa, with the right vision, leadership and planning could average as many as Arsenal, Celtic, anybody.
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Date:Sunday March 14 2010
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