From ghoulies and ghosties And long-leggedy beasties And things that go grump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us! ...
It seemed to be no coincidence that in this week of Halloween, the Villa Dementors were unleashed, after a scruffy draw at Bolton failed to eradicate the dull ache, which continues to irk after the thrashing by Man United. Unable to confront the facts of the individual human error, which lay at the core of that rout, the tactical failure in the first half at Bolton, became the convenient focus for rehashed wrath and warmed-over feelings of humiliation.
The Dementors emerged.
The Dementor, an invention of J.K.Rowling, is just another version of Churchill's black dog - the evil spirit of despair; the destroyer of all hope. They appear regularly in fiction as well as biography, as the dark looming presence, which whispers the temptation to give up and give in, in the ears of the vulnerable. Whether it is the stranded on desert islands or the broken climber crawling back to base-camp, all report of that incessant whisper of, 'Give Up'.
This week the Dementors took on human form, as they set about their task, of destroying the optimism which has blessed the Villa fans since the new regime took over. Seizing their chance, as they detected some slight dismay, in even the most optimistic fans, they began the whispering, and started to make the first outlines of a case against Martin O'Neill. Whisper, whisper, whisper - 'Not as good a Sven'. Whisper, whisper, whisper - 'Not as good as Hughes'. Whisper, whisper, whisper, 'He was never any good'.
For these, the avenging dark angels, seeing the ground full and seeing the club transformed into something with a future as well as a past, is not what they need. They wish to disrupt this - they need to disrupt this. They must halt this walk towards the light. Their business is to explain why people shouldn't go to games, not why they should. These dark riders of Sauron, will only be satisfied, when they have gathered in their harvest of despair, and they can say, with a satisfied smirk, 'I was right wasn't I?, to their army of ex-Villans; their zombies of disillusionment.
In the past Villa's Dementors served the regime well, as they helped one manager on his way, or another.
Any Dementor worth their salt must be highly attuned to the emotions of the fans and be wise enough never to be too out of step with general opinion. They fully understand that innuendo is the wisest weapon of choice and putting their gloomy opinions in the mouths of others, implants the bad news but avoids the responsibility of ownership. Its not very heroic but it is always effective and smugly safe. The traducing of David O'Leary was a perfect example of this and the subtlety was truly wonderful to behold. One minute he was a good manager, the next he was not - just like that; a rabbit out of the hat. But there was no drum-roll, just the sour susurrations of innuendo.
Traditionally, in the process of traducing the present manager, a previous manager is called on as an exhibit for the prosecution and you'll find that David O'Leary will be making more and more appearances in that role, especially if he gets the Ireland job and begins to decorate our TV screens with that charming smile of his. Memories of Juan Pablo at his best will be unavoidable and a revisionist history will edge closer to being realised. The revisionist re-writing of history and false-memory syndrome, are other key weapons in the armoury of a Dementor, or should we call it an Arsenal.
Whisper, whisper, whisper - 'Not as good as Wenger'.
Of course, Villa's Dementors need the carrion of despair to feed on and a good performance against Derby, will leave them the meagre scraps of the Reebok road-kill to pick over. But anything less than ten-nil will not entirely hush their malevolent whisperings and they will be fairly persuasive in their mutterings, that beating such a team is no legitimate reason to feel happy. For them there's never any good reason to be happy - their mandate is for misery.
Should the unthinkable happen, however, the jackals of doom and gloom will be feasting heartily come Saturday night. They will be casting their dark shadows over every bar and chatroom, as they rip the hearts out of Villa's merely disappointed. The champagne corks will be popping as they bask in the delight of being miserably right and viciously vindicated. They will be applying the thumb-screws of 'I told you so!' and the sizzling branding-iron of schadenfreude - the screams of the victims will only be matched by the maniacal laughter of the ghouls.
I am confident that Villa will have enough to overcome Derby and that the Dementors (masked and unmasked alike) will only be feeding on a mutton vindaloo and a couple of naan-breads, like the rest of us, come Saturday night. But their time will come, as it always will, for those who make despair a life-style choice rather than just something to be occasionally and unavoidably borne.
So, I make this appeal to all those with influence and all those who ever considered themselves a Villa optimist, or those who simply thought that the new Villa era, might just break the destructive cycle of promise and failure. Its time to show some leadership and belief. In this time when the Dementors are, once again, salivating at the thought of a feast of minor failings. I ask you, to give the Dementors only what they will offer you - no ground and no succour.
Dementors offer no compromise. Every muttered disappointment is just another step, for a Dementor, as they dance you to the edge of the cliff. There is no shared ground between an optimist and a Dementor - they are two opposites and want different things. In an hour of disappointment, the Dementor will offer the poisoned chalice of empathy but refuse, you optimists, to sip from this enervating bitter brew. Accept your disappointment, deal with it, keep your own counsel, deny your soul to the living dead. Be strong my holy brothers, go forth in faith towards the Light. And go armed, brave knights, with the sword of truth and the shield of reason.
Now let us pray and seek forgiveness for any pessimism, which we may have allowed into our hearts. And dearly beloved, let us express ourselves as only optimists can: