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Something For The Weekend (382)



Veni, Vidi, Villa!

Which, if my memory serves me well, is Latin for: we came, we saw and we drew. But what a draw it was. No one could have expected Villa to get anything from the Spurs game but the gods smiled on McLeish's boys, and what with a deflection off Gallas, which gave the feebly follicalled Friedel no chance, and Hutton being on the end of some GBH, instead of him dishing it out, Spurs' multi-talented, £170m team, had to settle for a point.

And after some substantial help from the Baggies, Villa were declared safe.

This came as some relief. There are just too many unhappy associations for Villa, when it comes to Carrow Road and the thought of Villa's travelling supporters having to make that dismal and disconsolate trek homeward, after a relegating defeat, was just too miserable to contemplate.

Even the most stout-hearted Villans have been broken by that endless journey home, across the featureless flat landscape of East Anglia. Even now I can remember the haunted look and the thousand-yard stare, which was etched on the faces of the gutted Villa fans, who returned from that match in late March 1993, when a one-nil defeat by Norwich more or less ended Villa's Premiership-winning dreams.

I can still remember the words of a famous Villa centurion, known as Gregorus Giganticus, who had led many a cohort of Villans into the hostile territories of the northern barbarians. He described his trip back from Norwich as the 'longest and most miserable journey' of his life, after he finally staggered back, like some battered straggler from Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. I am not sure he ever got over it.

Yes, hell and no heaven, on the A47.

And speaking of Moscow. If Villa felt it appropriate to mollify the travelling fans who went to Moscow a few seasons ago, with an apology and a Happy Meal voucher, what sort of compensation are the fans due, after such a terrible season as this one?

Obviously, a lot of fans seem to think it is all McLeish's fault but ultimately the responsibility for this utterly disgraceful season must rest with the suits whose plans brought it about.

Personally, the sense of relief which was so palpable, on the realisation that Villa had retained their Premiership status, was quickly followed by a sense of hopelessness and then spitting anger, at all this crap which has been dumped on everyone who cares about Villa. I really can't see, on what basis anyone would gamble their hard-earned on a season-ticket. The trust has gone and the sort of players Villa are linked with these days, are just not the sort of players likely to inspire much hope in the bosom of even the most sanguine of supporters.

Paying good money to be made miserable, does seem like an act of complete folly, if not actual idiocy.

Not even Birmingham's failure to win promotion through the play-offs, can offer any consolation. They at least enjoyed an honourable season battling against the odds in the Europa League, and then making a late challenge for promotion with a meagre squad, before losing by the narrowest of margins. What is Villa's claim to honour exactly? What precisely was Barry Bannan taunting the Bluenoses about? Escaping a custodial sentence?

It is not even certain that Birmingham's absence from the Premiership is actually good for Villa. If, as they keep telling us, that competition is what improves outcomes for customers, then logically the loss of Villa's nearest competitive Premiership brand, cannot be good for the club.

But no one can deny that had Blues been in the Premiership this season, the misery would have been even worse, if that is actually conceivable.

Alas, despite the misery which has been gratuitously and unapologetically inflicted on Villa fans this season, and it does feel like we are under a frog's arse, down a coalmine, it will not make any difference to proper Villa fans, because for the true fan, supporting the club is not about love, its about habit. And, unless, they suddenly find the will to go cold turkey, they will be shelling out for their season-ticket, whether they like it or not.

Its almost certain, that the angriest fans right now, are the ones who are the most addicted, and it is knowing that they have no choice but to feed their habit, which enrages them. Others, will take the opportunity the present miserable situation provides, to jump ship, while they have the chance.

I've lost count of the number of fans I have known who do a few years as a proper fan, and then pack it in, when the opportunity arrives to move on to something else. Just like their former fanatical following of Duran Duran, or what have you, they consign it to their past and do something else. They'll still be seen wearing their Villa slippers out of sentiment but they will cease to be proper fans in all but name.

But obviously, these ex-fans will always be grateful to the likes of Ellis and now Lerner, for giving them the perfect excuse to save their money and do something else.

Of course, for true Villa nutters, who represent the elite amongst fans, nothing makes any difference. Success, or failure. Stingy owner or generous. Dream manager or nightmare. None of this makes any difference at all. Your true Villa nutters are kind of admirable and just a bit sad too but they are the very embodiment of the spirit of the club.

I was watching the Europa League final in the week, as Atlético took on Athletic for Europe's consolation prize. Two clubs desperate for some mark of success, which a cup would bring. Two clubs handicapped in their own way. Atlético by having to live in the shadow of the world's richest football club. Athletic, handicapped by their choice to restrict the players eligible to play for the club to those with a Basque connection.

As we know, the trophy was won by Atlético who are an ordinary team who happen to have a £35m striker, who they do not actually own but who won the game for them. So at the end of the game, when the Bilbao players and fans shed tears at their loss, I concluded that the result would make no difference at all. I just wanted to ask them whether there would be more honour in them scrapping their selection policy and hiring a Columbian mercenary to win them a trophy, or less? And, I think I know the answer.

The consolation cup was Atlético's but surely the honour was all Athletic's because they are a rare example of a club which is willing to put a principle (not necessarily approved of by all) before winning. I find it impossible to imagine an Athletic supporter throwing the towel in because their team failed to win a trophy, due to the fact that their club valued its principles more than winning.

Win or lose, it makes no difference.

At the other end of the spectrum, Juventus won the scudetto, but not just happy with completing the recovery from their dishonour, disgrace and the consequences of the Calciopoli scandal, they insisted that the two scudetti which were taken from them because they were bribing referees, were still in fact theirs.

Two instances which illustrate that, win or lose, honour or disgrace; it doesn't seem to matter for a true fan.

Even after a particularly miserable season, which has managed to burn out so many fans, there are still supporters who, despite the levee coming so close to breaking, are already planning to follow Villa on their American tour and will be going to Chicago.



Keep the faith!
The Journalist

Writer: Steve Wade Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday May 11 2012

Time: 4:19PM

Your Comments

Suberbly written article as always.....and yet......what exactly are Villa's 'principles'. What do Villa stand for exactly, SW? I could tolerate the three decade absense of 'silverware' if the club had a reputation for exiting forward thinking football. If the club had the odd run in the Europa League (like Bilbao). Sadly, AVFC seems to stand for MOR (Middle of the Road) mediocrity.
VillaWillRiseAgain
Btw, I don't condone Bilbao's player selction policy.
VillaWillRiseAgain
If there are any other clubs in Europe of comparable size to Villa who haven't won anything for three decades I'd like to know who they are?
VillaWillRiseAgain
How many of us will spend 8 weeks worth of Saturdays shopping, cutting the grass and walking the dog smugly thinking of how much money, time and pain we've saved on that moronic waste of time and effort called the Season Ticket. Then those pesky inscrutable Jockinese go and kick off two weeks before us to taunt us. You will have to cancel the Sky subscription to avoid temptation. PS, Heart do a mean Zepp.
jbd656
How many of us will spend 8 weeks worth of Saturdays shopping, cutting the grass and walking the dog smugly thinking of how much money, time and pain we've saved on that moronic waste of time and effort called the Season Ticket. Then those pesky inscrutable Jockinese go and kick off two weeks before us to taunt us. You will have to cancel the Sky subscription to avoid temptation. PS, Heart do a mean Zepp.
jbd656
Spherical objects. Do not recycle straight after submitting a pearl of wisdom.
jbd656
Villawillriseagain, " what exactly are Villa's 'principles'. What do Villa stand for exactly, SW?" That's the point, if Villa aren't to win anything, they better find themselves some principles and quickly.
Steve Wade
Excellent article once again Steve. An enjoyable read.
Pride of Lions
Absolutely brilliant opening piece, Steve (enjoyed that!), but then when we get into the meat of it, I find a little variation of your conclusions from what I understand to be the facts in numerate terms. I believe that Villa are having a heck of a problem in selling STs (5,200 to date has been quoted from somewhere) - is the non-purchase of more STs just down to fans simply breaking a habit? I'd analyse it a bit differently. Perhaps I've misunderstood the point being made.
the_lergy
Just re-read your eloquent piece ... yes I did misunderstand a bit, but I also think it's not altogether consistent ... Oh, shut up, Lerg!
the_lergy
Lergy, I never mentioned any numbers, I only use the term 'proper fans' to describe the 'elite' whose attendance is habitual and unconditional. Unfortunately Villa have never had a great number of these and a club which can only attract 38k as they are about to clinch their first championship in decades, cannot be supposed to be well-supported. In the 1960s those 14k crowds which all too often attended Villa Park were fairly representitive of the number of true fans there were then and I don't expect there are that many more now. If you insist that there are only 5200 fans whose allegiance is unconditional, you would get no argument from me. I have absolutely no delusions about the actual numbers of proper Villa supporters.
Steve Wade
When I saw my first Villa game (home to Man U, Dec 67), everyone was a Spurs fan 'cos they did the double a few years before. Then they were all Liverpool fans, now they are split between Arsenal and Man U. Never really felt there was much of a hard core Villa following and never will be until they start giving away prawn sandwiches on the door. Have we got a Jack Walker, Jack Hayward or Peter Coates in our midst?
jbd656
What Lergy said..... Steve, you can't determine a "proper" fan by someone who will watch any old sh11te. I'm a football fan first and foremost. What we play under Eck is barely passable as football and certainly has no entertainment. If he's here next year I'm lucky enough to be able to get my hands on an Arsenal season ticket if I want. Doesn't mean that I'm not a supporter of Villa, just that I love football and want to watch it being played properly. When he's gone I will return. Those that turn up regardless have surely got to weigh up whether their support of Villa overrides all other supports ie. support aginst Eck or support of watching the beautiful game, (something that we haven't seen for 12 months.) It's like going to your favourite restaurant and they've substituted all the meat for wood (it really is that bad at the moment.) Most wouldn't go back. If Villa is a religion, main way to get a break from work ( like some have cigarette breaks,) main social event of the week or just a time to relax away from screaming kids and moaning missus' then people will return regardless. Is that a "proper fan" or someone who doesn't know any better, have any other getaways or simply does it through habit???
Villan444
Agree with villain 444!
mickatkins21
Villan444, I state that there is no basis for a fan to gamble their hard-earned on a season-ticket. I say that spending money on something that makes you miserable is idiotic. I describe those who go no matter what as 'nutters'. I describe them as both admirable and just a bit sad too. I suggest the the whole thing is irrational. So the reaction just looks like people have been forced into considering seeking deprogramming by this horrible season and are just projecting their own self-accusations. The process of deprogramming from Villa nutter to sane citizen is a painful and distressing process. And just when you think you are out....they pull you back in. One day at a time, my friend, one day at a time.
Steve Wade
LOL... lerg telling yourself to shut up!!!!!!!!!!

I think I agree re: admirable and a bit sad. I'm often embarrassed at just how much Villa/football matters. It shouldn't, I know the real world only too well but can't kick this habit. I don't like those who attend and believe themselves to be above others but flipside, not keen on those who don't go for whatever reason judging us season ticket holders either!

In conclusion? I think I need a cuppa and a sleep!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Fear
 

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