Something For The Weekend (211)
A quick surf around the fans' forums and websites and it is quite amazing to find what high esteem Aston Villa football club is held in these days. While Arsenal might invite compliments for the sheer quality of their football and United might be grudgingly acknowledged as ruthless winners of silverware, Villa's status arises from the way the club is run and the feel-good of the fans - this provides Villa with what marketeers and PR gurus crave - a unique brand identity. If Villa are to complete the transition from big club to football super-power, this brand needs to be built upon, not carelessly tossed away.
So it is no small matter, that one Villa idiot, truly a tosser in name as well as deed, should put all this at risk, in a single moment of moronic madness. The fact that those who must have witnessed this act of vandalism against Villa (not anyone else), have chosen silence rather than shop the culprit, proves who cares about what and that what is not Villa. The traitorous mangy dogs.
I curse those who made this attack upon Villa's good name but leave the words to Queen Margaret of the Holte:
Stay, dog, for thou shalt hear me.
If heaven have any grievous plague in store
Exceeding those that I can wish upon thee,
O, let them keep it till thy sins be ripe,
And then hurl down their indignation
On thee, the troubler of the poor world's peace!
The worm of conscience still begnaw thy soul!
Thy friends suspect for traitors while thou livest,
And take deep traitors for thy dearest friends!
No sleep close up that deadly eye of thine,
Unless it be whilst some tormenting dream
Affrights thee with a hell of ugly devils!
Thou elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog!
Thou that wast seal'd in thy nativity
The slave of nature and the son of hell!
Thou slander of thy mother's heavy womb!
Thou loathed issue of thy father's loins!
Thou rag of honour! thou detested-- Villan.
Of course, it would not have happened in the old days, because the rumour that Ellis had his own metal-detector and used to send his man out after every game to collect the donations, tended to put people off. And years before that, the idea of someone throwing the equivalent to ten shillings onto the pitch would have suggested that the men in white coats were required. Shamefully, for it exposes us as northern oiks, at posher grounds down south, the well-heeled are known to launch the unwanted detritus from their Fortnum & Mason hampers onto offending linesmen. A sun-dried tomato may not take your eye out but it sure can sting, especially when doped in Fortnum's famous vinaigrette. Obviously the aerodynamic qualities of the prawn sandwich, excludes it from the idiot's arsenal. But Oddjob might have made lethal use of a stale balti pie.
A coin is just barbarous.
Things have definitely changed, as not so long ago, after variously dire performances (no names no pack-drill) it used to be the thing to do, by way of expressing disgust, to ostentatiously rip up your season ticket and shower it on to the pitch. In fact some people used to do it unfeasibly often and it took me quite a while to twig that they were only tearing up useless vouchers from the back of the book. And of course they were back the very next week. But it really was quite harmless and just added a bit of histrionic flare to someone's flounce, so they would not be confused with someone just leaving early to catch their bus.
Obviously, on the Holte, things were rather more serious.
In the Seventies, it was generally agreed, that as long as the GBH was confined between rival fans and the officials of the game were not included, then anything short of actual murder was considered mere youthful exuberance. In fact there was that old joke that did the rounds, back then, about the guy who turns up at a game wearing a crash-helmet. So someone says, 'Why you wearing that?', and the guy answers, 'they are throwing bottles from the back', and the other guy says, 'You'll be alright as long as your name is not on one of them', and the guy in the helmet say, 'That's right, but my name's Sam Smith'.
Football back then was about GBH and murder, and people like Jasper Carrot built a whole career on telling jokes about it. But gladly, no longer - it was a miserable and disgusting spectacle - and we don't want it back.
It truly was great to welcome back European football back to Villa Park on Thursday though, and the fact that the place was only a few short of a capacity crowd, while it was being shown live on TV, proves it was the place to be for all those wise enough to know that a packed Villa Park for a big game played under floodlights, is unbeatable for atmosphere and an authentic adrenalin-pumping live football experience. Even Stan Collymore's enthusiastic and articulate commentary, could not deliver that atmosphere to those at home.
Even though Ajax looked technically superior in the opening half hour, it was a consummate performance by Villa and once Martin O'Neill had altered his tactics in the second half, there looked like there were more Villa players on the pitch than Ajax players, which is always a good sign.
It was not a spectacular performance and the quality of passing, never quite reached the standard of the Champions League, although it was better than Celtic's, but there was plenty to write home about and the number of excellent personal performances, were too many to list. Any worries that I had about the absence of John Carew proved unfounded and might have actually confounded the opposition's expectations, as Villa's width caused them endless problems all night. Obviously Ajax aren't the European force they once were but Villa's vim and vigour certainly proved more than they could handle.
There is only one description of my emotions, which greeted this performance - total pride.
A very memorable night for all Villa fans and enough positive feelings to wash away the dismay and bitter disappointment which the actions a single Villa tosser had imbued.
Onward and upward, my friends - onward and upward!