Something For The Weekend (109)
By Steve Wade
The flop has flipped, and things seem to have gone in reverse, as far as Villa are concerned. I used to dread the matches but enjoy the time in between, spent healing from the latest disappointment, which required various offerings at the alter of St Jude and endless speculation on what the missing ingredient-X might be. But now, nothing, as Villa hammer in the pitons in preparation for their ascent of mount Mediocrity, where they used to have a well-established base-camp, and then on to the daunting north wall of Success, a peak which has suffered some massive tectonic uplift, since they last planted their flag, a whole geological age ago.
It has left me feeling rather nonplussed - as neither the manager or the players, now need my advice. No psychoanalysis for the players. No tactical advice for the manager. No overlooked players for the team-sheet. And I feel kind of left out. In fact I am almost tempted to hope that they start losing again so I can I resume my bedpan duties and I am beginning to see how nurses need patients just as much as patients need nurses.
The trouble is I am not alone and no Villan has much to say, other than they are better than last year, or 'we should be okay'. Its too early to talk of Europe and with the transfer-window closed there is no point in speculating on who might be bought or sold. This just leaves us in the very unsatisfying position of guessing how long the team can keep up their present unbeaten run, an occupation about as interesting as flipping a coin and guessing the outcome. There's just not a lot to say and as someone pointed out years ago - there is always more chat after a defeat than after an easy win, on the bus home. Good results leave me purring as languidly satisfied as a well-fed cat but sometimes, all you really want, is an excuse to scratch the furniture
Schopenhauer had a few things to say about this sort of thing and it was his belief that pleasure was merely the actual absence of pain, which made it negative, while pain was rather more concerning and therefore was positive. He summed this up by comparing the experience of the animal being eaten to the one doing the eating - one experience was rather more intense than the other. It might be a bit simplistic but it is undoubtedly true. In my experience, the threat of relegation is rather more intense than a bland mid-table finish. Its just one of those perverse truths about football.
Its possible that it is just the case of us having new roles to take on and that after years of playing tragic doom-laden parts - sort of Villa as by Chekhov - there are new and unfamiliar scripts to be learnt - sort of Villa as by Molière. It seems apparent that a lot of us are struggling and the transition is going to take a little bit of effort, but I am not optimistic. Having concluded a very long time ago that the choice of a glory-hunter is inspired entirely by shallow laziness, I have serious and unassailable doubts. In the meantime the expression of pleasure is inarticulate, almost mute.
My memory is bad but not that bad and I seem to remember that the habit of arriving for every game with the comfortable expectation of another routine win, eventually becomes as bland as a prawn sandwich, and quickly precipitates the fans towards the habit of churlish nit-picking. Do I remember correctly that there were many who found fault with the championship-winning side? Of course I do. There is something heroic about supporting a crap team and I can tell I am going to miss that slow painful martyrdom. But as sure as eggs is eggs, success will not increase my love and admiration for my fellow fans, where as, defeat has often managed to do so.
Its hard to believe that anyone would miss that Sunday morning feeling, when the recall of your team's embarrassment arrives almost exactly at the same time as the fresh symptoms of this week's hangover. Somehow the fuzzy-head and the slight biliousness underscore the misery of that doleful trek through the Sunday Shame, and your team's inability to work an effective off-side trap, seems no less a disgrace than a school teacher shagging one of his pupils. In fact the front half of the paper acts as a sort of warm-up act for the latter half, like the comedian before the stripper at the local pub. And lets be honest, they both achieve the same outcome - they tend to put you off your dinner.
So what is to replace my long-standing and habitual Villa fretting? This week I have been trying out a bit of net-curtain twitching and have been spending a little bit of my old 'Villa Time' worrying about the romance of my neighbours Howard & Hilda. They are not actually called that but ever since they bought themselves His and Her cars of identical make and model, I cannot but think of them as anything other than that couple out of Ever Decreasing Circles, who wore matching clothes. They seem to have drifted into a sort of passion dance with these cars and when you saw them parked head to tail, you just knew it was Friday night - if you know what I mean.
Alas, Howard's car has gone missing and as Hilda has been known to have quite a few cars park in her drive, I am left to fear the worst........I'll let you know.
I guess, like me, Howard is feeling rather unneeded these days.