Something For The Weekend (388)
The countdown begins with only two weeks to go before Villa must cease their dreaming and wishful thinking and face the reality of where exactly they stand in the 21st season of the Premiership. Strong challengers in the inaugural season of 1992-3, but where are they now? Can Paul Lambert pull off a miracle? We wait with baited breath.
Donec eris felix multos numerabis amicos,
Tempora si fuerint nubila, solus eris
If Paul Lambert hasn't got round to redecorating his office, no doubt there is some such message scribbled on the wall from the last incumbent, or maybe even picked out in cross-stitch on some framed sampler. But even if the brutal cynics of the Villans decide that the last gaffer got the luck he deserved, it seems that Villa's latest bottom in the hot-seat will be rather less dismissive of the importance of luck, when it comes to football management.
As good as Paul Lambert promises to be, it would seem by the look of the squad that he'll need a certain amount of good fortune, if he is to safely negotiate the choppy waters of relative Premiership success.
Even the fans who insisted that last season's squad was capable of knocking on the door of Europe (if it wasn't for you know who), view the present playing resources rather differently, now that failure cannot be so conveniently heaped at the door of a ready-made sin-eater.
Despite the kidology and the bravado, every Villa fan knows where their club should be - a little ahead of Everton and rather more behind Spurs. They will look at Lambert's squad and know exactly how Villa are placed in relation to those two markers. Even a blind Villa fan on a galloping horse cannot but notice that even as their new manager starts his first season, the club has spent less than half of the £36m received for the sale of Young and Downing.
So it seems, unless there is some hidden gem amongst Lambert's signings, Villans will be left to dream of the Terebinth valley or Thermopylae, this coming season.
I am sorry to say that I see Villa's steed as more of a Rocinante than a Shadowfax, or Bucephalus, and so to avoid too much affinity to quixotic dreamers, I am trying not to get too carried away.
I certainly didn't join in the cheering which was heard from certain quarters, at the news of James Collins leaving. It is still too fresh in my memory, that it was actually the arrival of Collins and Dunne, which proved to be the turning point which allowed Villa to get so very close to actual glory, in season 2009-10. The fact that their purchase seemed to upset Randy Lerner, was not enough for me to decide that they are poor players.
It seems ironic that it was the season when Villa actually came close to winning something that the relationship between MON and Lerner soured, and no doubt the issue was about money, despite Villa's long-overdue return to prominence.
The dreamed of AV Cobra (English chassis, American engine) never quite materialised. Even so it was a lovely dream while it lasted but membership of the Champions League elite proved too rich for Villa's benefactor.
And it has to be admitted that the squad of nearly-men, which Villa's benefactor built, actually left the fans mostly unimpressed. So in the light of the eye-watering losses which followed, its hardly surprising that Villa's owner decided to pull his horns in.
The financial fair-play rules must have come as some substantially good news for the Lerner wallet.
Personally, I do not see the sanctions of being banned from the Europa League as too much to worry about, being that the competition is such an enervating waste of time, but I am reluctantly persuaded that perhaps I should think beyond the present owner and to some future possibility of an under-capitalised wide-boy spending money they don't have and leaving Villa in the position Glasgow Rangers find themselves in, these days.
Others are not so easily persuaded, and the fact that so many fans think that Randy Lerner's sale of the Cleveland Browns, means more money to buy Villa players, demonstrates the tenacity with which they cling to old hopes and dreams.
For a start off, Randy selling Cleveland Browns does not make him any richer. When Forbes assess his wealth they take into account the value of his assets, which included his share of the Browns. Cleveland Browns is a Lerner family asset, which means every member of the Lerner family will get a share, including Randy's ex-wife. So it seems unlikely that Randy will pocket the best part of $1bn and throw millions Villa's way. It certainly would seem a folly to sell off one sports business, which usually makes a profit and invest in another which makes massive losses. Rebuilding the North Stand might make some sense but spending his liquid assets making football mercenaries even richer, would make a poor legacy of his father's money.
As we all know, there is nothing wrong with money, as long as you spend it on the right things, and the massive increases in cash-flow for the Premiership have certainly thrown out challenges, which too many clubs have not handled very well. That money is about to increase substantially.
I do like a nice rant myself about the damage which money has done to the beautiful game and so it was particularly ironic this week, when I was telling someone how much I was enjoying watching Great Britain's women footballers play in the Olympics, that after I had gone on a little too long about how the women's game was so romantic because it hadn't been so tainted by money, someone pointed out that it was only possible to enjoy the romance of the women's international game because the FA were rich enough to donate £4.5m a year to make the women's game viable.
So my romantic notions were well and truly blown out of the water, and whether it is UK Sport spending £100m a year to help Team GB win a few medals, or the FA handing out stipends to allow women to bring their football skills up to international standards, it seems money and sporting excellence are inseparable, no matter what Alf Tupper might say.
Its an ugly truth but a truth nevertheless.
How ugly that truth turns out to be, when it comes to Villa, we will find out in a fortnight.
Keep the faith!