Something For The Weekend (198)
It is a measure of how low BBC's Midlands Today are willing to stoop to get an audience, when they send a film crew to capture world-shattering footage of the Villa fans booing Gareth Barry. Sadly, and quite possibly because the arrest of a suspected war-criminal and a skateboarding duck, were hogging the main news, the biggest news story of the week failed to get promoted to a cause of national concern. It was not picked up by Newsnight and sadly, there was no Paxman harangue or interview, either.
Naturally, I tuned in for my nightly delectation of the sweet charms of Suzanne Virdee and with the hope that I could get a glimpse of some Villa action. For one who is struggling to survive on a famine of football action, it was manna from heaven, even though the director was more intent on hunting down the Villa totty (of which there was at least one fine example) and garnering some opinion from those amusing Brummy folk with that funny accent, rather than detailing the sporting event in question. But in between the said totty, considered opinion and a few (I've been on the telly) crowd scenes, we did get to see Wayne Routledge's fabulous volley, which won the game for Villa.
I am not really that much of a booer and even when some opposition player has done something despicable, I still find the convention to be a bit silly - like I'm booing Captain Hook, in Peter Pan or something. On final analysis, I am definitely more of a seether than a booer but when it comes to screaming personal abuse, I find myself in my natural element and free from any sense that I have been reduced to being an eight-year-old at a pantomime. And since when has your average eight-year-old ever shouted, 'You total *%$^!' and really meant it? Although, certain nascent blue-noses might have certain advantages on that front - they have got eleven to pick from.
The booing of a Villa player is always a delicate issue with the fans and a certain amount of holier-than-thou tends to break out (usually from me), when the subject comes up. I've never liked it, or found it fulfilled my best Pollyanna aspirations for the desired relationship between fans and players. And, in my incurable sentimental wetness, I somehow believe that, unlike every other walk of life, the likelihood of cynics, sulkers, deadbeats, bludgers and skivers, wearing the Villa shirt, is very slim indeed. However, I do recall a rare few, who so regularly had 'a cigar on', they were assumed to be sponsored by Hamlet.
Players can generally get away with an awful lot but they must play the game and must at least pay lip-service to the whole gamut of pretence and role-play, which underpins the whole drama and ritual. The players must put in the effort and try to live up to the levels of competence expected of them, but most of all they must pretend that, no matter how dumb they think the fans are, that the adoration and respect is mutual. That is all the fans ask, and will play their expected role of infantile adoring punters and credulous members of the Greek chorus, who offer their comment on the drama presented before them. They will set aside the knowledge that most players are mercenary money-grabbers, who would kill their club rather than forego, a single penny of their inflated contract.
The fans ask for very little and the away fan is a special breed, which very few players can come any where near to matching, when it comes to loyalty and financial sacrifice. Any fan, willing to spend disproportionate amounts of their hard-earned, travelling to the nut-freezing, rain-sodden, distant plastic palaces of the Premiership, to witness an odds-on defeat, need respecting and cannot be denied their right to boo a player who has broken the tacit unwritten contract, which is understood to exist between every player and the fans.
But one thing is for certain, the clubs know the nature of this honourable contract between the fans and the players and are not above blackmailing a player who wants to move. It is no coincidence that when a club is the initiator of such a move (Gibson, Platt, Cowans, Rideout etc), the relationship between the fans and the player is allowed to remain unmolested but when the club wants to keep a player, the big fall-out and accusations of disloyalty are bruited abroad. In some cases (Yorke) the club wants the money and to save face at the same time. In these cases, the cynical machinations of the club can
never be entirely ignored, when condemning the player .
Without doubt, Liverpool seem to have sought to wreak as much havoc as possible, in their dealings with Villa - their arrogance has been astounding.
But when all is said and done, what happens if the Gareth Barry deal doesn't go through?
Would Gareth want to stop? Would the fans consider him, to be now beyond the pale? Some say yes and some say no. More interesting to myself, is the question: would Martin O'Neill ever spend the receipts (£17m?) on a single player of similar calibre? Is this the reality which the fans are dreading having to face? How annoying would it be, if Barry went and MON's net spend, come the close of the transfer-window, was minus £10m?
Certainly, the ease of access to the Lerner cheque book remains a mystery and you can't avoid noticing that there has been a substantial amount of drift, amongst the fans, about what they can now realistically expect. The cynics are saying that the cheque book, was last seen in Jimmy Hoffa's inside pocket, while the rest hold their breath, with a mixture of familiar dread and naive hope. I have to admit that it is all driving me nuts.
Forget the boos, I need booze!