Something For The Weekend (120)
Although this year, in honour of Villa's new owner, I shall be celebrating Hanukkah, which despite the easy accusation that I am only kissing ass, I think is easier to understand than your bog-standard British Christmas, with its rather confusing messages, which combine the Dickens' test of personal generosity and all that other stuff about baby Jesus, which has been sugar-coated, but which is really a poisonous lesson in reality, so little children can understand the meaning of life as early as possible, by finding out what it is like to play a sheep or a snowflake, while the better loved get the speakng roles. Life's lessons come early, as we all know,
and are not always so well disguised by guff. Oh yeah, and some parents are rather more pushy than others.
(Written as one who only ever got to play the triangle in the school band, when all he really wanted was the drum - Please Miss, Oh, Please Miss.....tinkle...tinkle.)
From what I understand, despite modern-day Israel stressing its military significance (what a surprise), Hanukkah is about the celebration of survival (the light that refused to go out) and the re-establishment of core-values (monotheism). This I can, amazingly, grasp and it certainly justifies putting up with the female tyranny, which fills me with dread at this time of year, as the turkey threatens to go out of the window and old family hurts are re-enacted, in the style of Stanislavsky. The Nativity for neurotics - if you like - me looking sheepish, others definitely flaky. So as I sit there furtively looking at my watch, with the smile forced upon my face (risus sardonicus) mentally goading the time to tick faster, I can tell myself that my suffering is not in vain and that I am merely restating my core-value, that I still love my family enough to endure them. This fine and noble suffering in the cause of duty, should make it, if not actually bearable, then at least understandable. Whether consciously or not, Christmas usually demonstrates your core-values, whether you like it or not.
As for Villa.
The idea of celebrating survival, a year on after the total misery of last Christmas, when big egos clashed and the takeover fizzled out into nothing, is well worth its own festival and the fact that despite the negativity which lay at the heart of the club, the team didn't actually get relegated, seems a bit like the light that refused to go out. Under the guidance of Martin 'Moses' O'Neill the Villa faithful have seen the return to core-values, where the fans and the football, have superseded the old gods of thrift and egotism, in the Villa temple and that is worth celebrating too.
Although the return of a tangible feel-good factor has not been convincingly translated into bums on seats, there should not be much doubt that, had the transformation not taken place, the baseline, with which this years figures are compared, would have been very much lower. But to fill the ground more consistently, wll require more inducements than a middling squad, doing themselves proud. As it stands Villa are a big club but, as of yet they are well behind those they want to rub-shoulders with. Sentiment has certainly returned but it will need a bit more to transform the brand image of Aston Villa, especially as they quickly lost the halo-effect of having a rich foreign owner, as others not only joined the money-bags elite but may end up with substantially richer new owners.
In fact the whole business of other clubs being rumoured to be about to be bought out, has been a bit of an education for the Villa fans and suddenly the £60-70m paid out, for the keys to the Villa kingdom, don't look that impressive when compared with the £450m suggested for the purchase of Liverpool and I think it is true to say that Villa went for the least and even less than West Ham (?). According to my maths that makes Liverpool six times the size of Villa and you begin to see that winning trophies has a bigger affect on the value of a club than simple thrift and corner-shop economics. I have always understood the stakes but it is only beginning to dawn on me, what the potential winnings might have been, had Villa converted their single Championship and European Cup, into a decade of football dominance.
He who dares, Rodney; he who dares!
The slightly worrying thing is that as other clubs move into the ownership of rich foreign money-men, then it begins to dawn, that Villa's position in the scheme of things, has not substantially improved, and that when they come to compete for the best players, there are going to be an increasing number of rivals, with either as much money, or with substantially more. This kind of ruins the fantasy, just a tadge, but despite the increasing prevalence of Premiership clubs with money-to-burn owners, they are still very much in the minority, in terms of the whole football league. But money or even more money, a club's greatest asset is still the level of genius of the manager. A well run club with the best manager will always do better than a badly run rich club with a poor manager. In that respect, I think Villa are well placed and I have no trace of envy for any other club's owner or manager. And that, as they say, is worth celebrating.
As the passion of rich men to own English Premier League clubs increases, it is possible to unearth a very big incentive for present owners, to seek success on the field and to gamble with big stakes, as it seems that, as astronomical as the sums may sound, a club with minimal recent success, bought for sixty-odd million (say), might actually be worth twice that, should they get into the Champions League and launch themselves as a world brand.
Villa - may it be the light that never goes out!
But whether Jew or Christian, against Man United, we will need a miracle.
By Steve Wade