Villa Fan: The 12th Man Has A Serious Job To Do
We`re staring down the barrel of our first possible relegation from the Premier League.
We`ve won less than 10 games all season.
We have a manager who has been running the gauntlet of hate since it was gently whispered that he would be crossing the divide to join us.
Bearing all of this in mind, there is still a throng of supporters who believe that the waves of hate they are sending will somehow be beneficial to Aston Villa and our Premier League status. My honest question is.........how?
Since before Alex McLeish was officially announced as our manager, fans took it upon themselves to vandalise our fantastic training facilities and stage a protest at the ground, provoking scenes on Sky Sports News which wouldn`t have looked out of place at the riots.
These fans will claim that it was a peaceful protest, but this was only the beginning of what has been a season-long struggle to appease the appetites of supporters who miss the "good old days" under Martin O`Neill.
There is no doubt we`ve performed poorly this season and senior players have gone missing at crucial moments, but what does continually hurling abuse at the manager achieve? What has it achieved so far other than negative reinforcement?
We`ve made slight improvements as the season`s gone on but never with consistency, but it could be argued that we haven`t given the team or the manager consistent support either. How can the 12th man be effective when he`s nearly 10,000 lighter than last season?
Stats from previous home games have suggested that we`ve had sufficient shots at goal, set-pieces and possession play to have gained better results than we have done. We`re only a couple of players different from last season`s team, and with a better goalkeeper in my opinion, so what`s different? I believe the answer is confidence. It must be difficult to stay positive when you can hear your own supporters booing you and abusing you when you`re trying to do your best for the team, so who could blame them if their heads dropped? I know I`d struggle to do my job well if I had a bunch of people swearing at me and reinforcing negative opinions about me. We have a team full of young players coming through at an increasing rate, and they must be wondering what the hell they`re in for if they stay with us for the long run....abuse and condemnation from their own fans if they have a couple of dodgy games.
No-one wants relegation but if it happens, it seems like it will be the end of Aston Villa in terms of glory and silverware. But how would that be any different from now? We have a brilliant history, yes, but since the Premier League started what have we achieved? 2nd place in its first season, the Coca-Cola Cup, several shots in Europe that we`ve barely taken and the Intertoto Cup, as well as semi-finals and finals in the domestic cups. Blackburn won the league in 1995, now they`re in the same quandary as us.....or we`re in the same quandary as them, however you see it. Steve Kean recently went on record and said that Blackburn`s performances and results have improved due to renewed faith and backing from the supporters (or less public hatred for Kean himself). I found that extremely interesting as he honestly believes that the fans have a say in the team`s results. Come on, Steve! Everyone knows that the fans don`t affect what happens on the pitch, that`s only the players! Are you seriously saying that since the Blackburn supporters stopped abusing you and focused on backing the team that the players feel happier playing for your and are more confident of winning? They do?! Hmmm...
If we don`t influence games, why do we support the team? Why go to games? Why pay the money? Why buy the shirts? If we genuinely believe that we don`t make a difference, what`s the point? It could be argued that for the wages that players and managers are on then the fans don`t make a difference on the pitch, but if that was the case then surely we`d be pushing for a Champions League place and Heskey would be Premier League top scorer. No, that wasn`t a joke.
The reality is this: Alex McLeish is our manager, and will be for the foreseeable. We will be rebuilding in the summer. The current squad is capable of avoiding relegation. Fans DO influence team performances.
The anti-McLeish supporters will argue that they DO support the team but not the manager, even though the manager is part of the team. They will say that for the money McLeish is on the abuse shouldn`t affect him, even though he`s still a human being (a genuinely nice one at that, we`re continually told). They will also say that anyone pro-McLeish is deluded and a sheep, even though they want the best for Aston Villa the same as the anti`s do. There`s nothing wrong with trying to be positive, and the fact that friends of mine who moderate fan sites and pages are starting to feel the hate that so many of us are producing is a sign that negative thinking can influence and enslave anyone if it`s powerful enough.
Even football players and managers.