Something For The Weekend (296)
Season's Hopes In Tatters.
Since Anno Domini has been taking its corrosive toll, there are not many days I don't wish I was a bit less of a saggy old sow but when I make my wish to be whisked back to the 1980's, I am usually
hoping for my face to lose that 'just back from Shangri-La' look, the increasing horrors of which greet me most mornings, these days. The deity of the mirror must understand that, its not Villa circa 1986-87, which I am after; not at all. Just less terrifying visits to the mirror.
But that's what I seem to have got, judging by Villa's performances, this past week - a replay of season 86-87.
Crones, scrotes and wrinklies, who can remember that far back, will recall how just like Villa's most recent disastrous outings, the post-match reports exchanged between Villa fans, usually contained the words, 'they looked okay until...'. The ellipsis (dot-dot-dot) invariably stood for some stupid mistake, which turned the game which looked to be in Villa's control, into a gift for the opposition.
If you ever hear Martin Keown talk about Villa fans being 'unforgiving', which he does on occasion, he is probably thinking about 1987 and the own-goal he scored against QPR, which began a series of draws and losses, which left Villa in the basement on relegation day. A disastrous self-destructive run which was coincidentally only interrupted by beating West Ham 4-0.
So no one can blame me for getting that Groundhog Day feeling, based on recent events.
If anyone has got time to spare and has a big box of tissues at hand, they might ask some grizzled sage of the Holte End, the whys and wherefores, of how it all went wrong. Some will say that the last straw was the sale of Colin Gibson to Man United, the season before - a young lad who had made an astonishing conversion from left-back to a speedy midfield powerhouse.Others will cut to the chase and blame the meddlings of Villa's owner.
But if truth be known, there were actually some decent players in that team. Keown went on to win the double twice at Arsenal and Steve Hodge a favourite of the late Brian Clough at Forest, had quite a decent England career. Hodge's departure from Villa is legend for its acrimony, as he confirmed the club's status as a stepping-stone for something better - best illustrated by Steve McMahon's short stop, where he used Villa to make an indirect move to Liverpool from Everton. Does it sound familiar?
Silent Holte In Tears!
So a bunch of players who history proved had quality, completely lost the ability to win, under a manager who, which rumour had it, was not really committed to the club. He'd already left a sinking ship at Man City, and when he joined Villa, he became one of a select group of managers, who managed two relegated sides in a season. Villa finished bottom and Man City finished a place above them.
Villa bounced straight back under the stewardship of Graham Taylor and City took another season to recover their magic ingredient-X.
In 1987 Graham was waiting.
But who now?
Whatever magic ingredient-X is, it seems that Kevin MacDonald lacks it, and that is no shame on him, as its only slightly less rare than a Higgs boson particle. Or, rather more likely, just as with the Higgs boson, the magic ingredient-X, only emerges under rare and particular circumstances, which do not include being youth team coach, at a club in flux, where giant egos have just finished crashing into each other, after some immense and destructive collision.
And, judging by some very weird decisions against Rabid Vienna, I could equally believe that Kevin just does not want the job but can't bring himself to say so. Even so, by the look on his face and the fact that he sent Petrov out to face the cameras, he looked very upset that there had been another Villa disaster on his watch.
But don't worry Kev, the fans understand what an impossible position you have been placed in, by your employers.
As for the players, it is quite another matter. The mystery of why good players suddenly look very bad is one of the unsolved mysteries of football, but for most fans, magic ingredient-X is nothing more
complicated than a well-timed swift kick up the arse. The unforced error-count for recent games has been astounding.
Slack Hopeless Irresolute Team
When Gabby left the field against Rapid Wien, threw his shirt into the crowd, with a look of someone who considered the job done, it seemed that even he could not see Villa letting slip a game they apparently were dominating.
Villa had their fifteen minutes, when they looked okay and Stephen Ireland looked like an Arsenal player amongst the industrial qualities of Reo-Coker and co, and it was quite a change to see someone in a Villa shirt play one-touch, but the European tempo just sent Villa's back-four to sleep and encouraged indulgent play in dangerous areas.
Villa lost their bearings, lost their shape and lost the game.
Now, I am not going to pretend that a club which has lost two crucial players in two years, and has announced that the main aim of the season is to cut the wages bill, has much to gain from a leg-sapping run in the Europa League but the glaring absence of ingredient-X, fills me with dread as far as Premiership survival is concerned.
Stagnant Heroes In Tailspin!
With enough teams looking in as much disarray as Villa, and with fewer resources, relegation looks unlikely for the Villans, but sixth from bottom looks more likely than sixth from top, based upon this evidence.
The only person who can change that, is a manager and coaching team, who is better than Martin O'Neill. A manager who can achieve as much as Martin did but with substantially less.
So there are a number of tasks at hand. Villa must hire a manager with experience and a reputation for adding magic ingredient-X to clubs, while the fans have the job of dealing with lower expectations and
facing the financial realities of a Premiership containing kamikaze big-spenders like Manchester City.
Superstar Heading Inevitably Thereto
The age-old Villa cycle has gone full circle and once again we must start all over again, with new hopes, based on a new version of an old and familiar reality.
For old scrotes like myself, with too many bad memories, it looks like I will need to book myself into rehab, at the very least.
Here's the Jolly Boys.
Keep the faith!