A Dirty No Good Villan
A Dirty No Good Villan
When Ian Fleming penned his sumptuous escapist Bond novels he did so in an austere era of the 1950's when luxury was in hard supply. He understood, as a writer, the psychology of luxury and the lure of delectable items to a nation getting off its knees. Long before designer culture and the power of logo became a defining aspect of modern culture, Fleming meticulously described in fetishistic detail the beauty and pleasure of things. From the gold rings on Bond's personally made cigarettes to the twin exhaust of his Bentley. It was all unwrapped with literary aplomb; the antidote to the isolation, sacrifice and fear that marked the life of the lone western hero sent always into the Lions den.
Throughout some of the lean periods of my life, times when I was depressed, bored and flat out broke I have found suitable heroes at Villa park. They have supplied me with my own anti-dote to woe: luxurious moments to duly distracted me from life's difficulties, memorable because they were needed and in short reply. Perhaps then, despite the money and the shirts, I am not a supporter but a pariah? I'll let you decide.
Case in point: December 1998. I went down to watch Villa take on Arsenal only to find that we were two nil down at half time to two Dennis Bergkamp goals. I was cold and in a bright yellow fleece, worn in the vein hope that I might see myself on television and now the team were losing. Worse, Santa had crashed into the Trinity Road Stand, falling 100ft to sustain near fatal injuries after an ill fated parachute attempt. I wasn't sure I could stomach football after that though I stayed. After an extended half time Villa roared back and when a lion roars it roars. Dubbers hammered our third and winning goal into the roof of the net a few minutes before time. The Holte went into meltdown. Grown men cried, hugged and cheered as though an extinction event meteor had been forced from its impact at B6. The bliss and ecstasy felt in that moment extinguished the fact that the same world I had left at the gate would be waiting for me outside of it. What I wouldn't do for a taste of that bliss now, though if Saturday's fare is anything to go by I may be waiting a while.
When Prawn Sandwich Gate reared its head, fingers were pointed by top ex-players at supporters turning out out in supposed silence to watch top four teams: teams that won games, got points and stuck silverware in the cabinet. Their money, however, is the same colour as those who sing and it all goes into the same pot; a pot that helps to pay for an Ashley Young or a Juan Matta? Isn't that the 'business end' of things? Does not success swell the coffers and attract big names? Maybe but as you take your seat in the Stretford End, camera phone at the ready, I feel envious. How dare you feel this good without ever feeling low, the risk of footballing obscurity ever far from view as balls fly in hither and thither.
Perhaps the problem with modern 'support' does not end there though. Silent in the ground? Try not in the ground at all. Many do not attend games and not solely because of finance. In an armchair generation where mass consumption of satellite football hits ticket sales, some punters are now just buying merchandise, content to watch top flight games from the best seat in the house, a seat usually found in the lounge or front and centre at the local boozer. Sucked in by media hype and romanticised mythologies they cheer on teams they'll never travel to see. Yet the ball goes in the back of the net each week and trophies get raised aloft and they all go home happy. In a league where only four teams have ever won the Premier League in 20 years who can blame them. Glory and sporting luxury are in short supply.
In light of the above I have to ask myself the following: In supporting Villa will I always be that drenched 15 year old watching Mark Brennan score a last minute free kick for Middlesbrough in the Zenith Data Cup, on a night too wet for ducks? Probably, though I am also busy being a 37 year old watching David Dunn head home between the Colossus of Rhodes and Nelson's column, so he may have to wait. Where, I pray, will the nights of glory come from?
As Champions League progression and the the drive to land a Champions League spot takes priority, top teams have fielded relatively weaker sides in cup competitions. Perhaps this is our best bet of silverware and a clearer way into Europe given the financial stresses of climbing the Premier League ladder, a league we can never hope to win until financial fairness reigns. Then there is the 'youth argument.' As clubs tighten the purse strings and invest more in home grown players won't this be good for us given our great academy? Not necessarily. Even if we were to groom a great generation of youngsters how long would it be before Europe's elite came calling with promises of glory and wealth that we could never hope to match? And if we find a bargain basement at Bosman circus and he puts our name in lights how many seasons before he declares a deep affinity for Liverpool or Manchester City and signs for £90,000 a week. It is a dour thought that doesn't warm the Villa bed at night. So where does that leave us other than eight points off a dog fight, collectively booing the manager?
Simply, I think it leaves us looking for moments to cheer and points well earned. Though is that what all my support has come down to? If it is (gulp) and austere times are ahead I'm surely not asking a lot for my dollar in willing, nay begging, Emperor Zog to go careering down the wing, smashing the winner against a dumbstruck Fulham Defence or for Agbonlahor to burst like lightning through the Bolton back line, sliding one under the keeper at the near post. I'm looking for the distraction, the drug and the fix of Aston Villa bursting the net on a cold night. I want to feel good, shaken not stirred and driven round in the Villa Bentley even if it's just for a bit.
In the worse recession since the 30's, in which I am doing my bit to ensure that the nations bankers do not have to downgrade to business class or drink anything less than the 68' Beaujolais, I am putting money that could go elsewhere (we do really need some fitted wardrobes) into following Villa, as we all are. I am resigned to it. I am Villa till I die. I would no more date my neighbours wife than I would cheer on Arsenal in the Butter and Crumpet. I do ask though lads, given the misery I have experienced this season, that you bust your claret and blue socks to give the Villa faithful something to cheer about because we've been hanging about for a while now. A bit of Imperial Leather or Ferrero Roche on the pitch, if you will. Why should you do this for me you cry? Because I'm a dirty no good Villan of course, with no place else to go.
Previous by Mr Grizzly:
An End To Villa Boom And Bust?
Far From The Madding Crowd