Something For The Weekend (389)
So it's back!
Yes folks, the football is back, and after witnessing the dedication (okay, so the greatest all-time Olympian likes a drink and a smoke) and sheer excellence of Great Britain's Olympians (okay, so not the relay), we must set all that good stuff aside and welcome back that shower of over-paid narcissists, we affectionately call footballers, in a competition reduced to a joke by stupid money, and something between incompetent and pusillanimous regulation.
After two years of abject misery, broken promises, obfuscation, worry and failure, here we are again, as we await that garishly painted, over-priced old merry-go-round called the Premiership to start up again. With everything else now vanished, Villans are left to scrape around the bottom of Pandora's box in search of a little hope.
I am not sure that there is much to hope for.
Things even look hopeless for the likes of Arsenal, now that they have handed their crown jewels to United, and in the absence of Van Persie, that £48k super-box at the Emirates must look a little less attractive to even the most golden of Gooners.
Liverpool have swapped one manager who played some pretty good tippy-tappy football but which never got translated into goals, for another manager who likes tippy-tap but is equally lacking goal-power.
Spurs ditched Harry who had brought the club to new heights, for a manager who lost the dressing-room at Chelsea and who is certain to mess with Harry's magic formula. Newcastle have to avoid the second-season wobbles after their stand-out performance of last term.
So it looks like it will be Premiership and Champions League aspirations for the top three, and domestic cup aspirations for the impoverished pretenders.
Which, of course, leaves Villa and the rest no where. Even a quick look at the Villa squad is guaranteed to worry the most ardent Villa optimist, and when it comes to defensive cover the situation looks dire, for anyone who thinks Premiership experience is essential.
As the Romans used to tell the Christians as they were about to face a couple of hungry tigers in the Coliseum; its not the winning which counts, it's the taking part.
Obviously, for sporting purists like myself, who dream of the platonic aspects of sport and find all this money vulgar and corrupting, the current state of the Premiership offers boundless opportunities for learning uplifting and ennobling lessons about losing with dignity. What better way is there of teaching a child the sheer emptiness of the modern Lefty mantra, that 'there should be prizes for all', than for that child to see their team thrashed every week. What greater pride could a parent experience, than seeing their child applaud a Van Persie hat-trick against Villa, with genuine Corinthian spirit?
What better opportunities to demonstrate parenting skills, than explaining to young Johnny why he can't have a Man United shirt for Christmas.
But hopefully the demands on little Johnny's stoicism and Corinthian spirit won't be too severe, and should Villa fulfil their aspiration to finish half way, he should be able to see Villa win a little over half of their nineteen home games, which will at least offer some consolation.
A quick look at the fixture list and it looks like Johnny won't be too desperate in the early months of the season and he will probably be able to avoid too many taunts from his glory-hunting school pals until November, when Villa must play both Man United and Man City in the same week. But although a certain amount of collateral damage would seem unavoidable for little Johnny, there is the possibility of a little respite during December, but not much.
With two difficult away fixtures at Liverpool and Chelsea in the week leading up to the festivities, little Johnny will no doubt be seeking his Mum's help in bypassing paternal prejudice and persuasion, when finalising his Christmas wish list.
But obviously for little Johnny's dad, like the rest of the adult Villa converts, none of this will make any difference. For the sad sacks who have spent a life-time supporting Villa, accepting the impossibility of winning anything is no great leap from accepting that it is unlikely, and without a domestic trophy to their names for 16 years, we are more than used to the idea.
Obviously, if things don't go well, the penny will drop and many Villans will reach the conclusion, they have been desperately trying to avoid, that there is something more wrong with the club, than the manager. This season truly is the last-chance saloon, as regards the present owner and if he values his reputation, even a little, he will do his best to back Paul Lambert.
But what do we find?
Once again, lady luck smiles on the Villa management because in these times of doubt, what could rally the fans round the flag more, than Robbie Savage tipping Villa to get relegated. No one can doubt that his opinion is probably mischievous, or even vexatious but it is in fact exactly what Villa need right now. There is nothing like a bitter word from an enemy to focus Villa minds and encourage the fans to form those wagons in a circle.
As things stand, he may actually be right, but I can't think of a more inviting challenge, and we may have cause to thank him for throwing down the gauntlet, which should provoke everyone to do with Villa, into proving him wrong.
There can be nothing more potent in turning the tide of Villa complacency, than such a comment by Robbie Savage.
So thanks Robbie, I didn't know you cared.
Keep the faith!