Something For The Weekend (431)
Condiments of the season!
Yes folks, the football season has come round again and although the summer has not quite gone the whole Danny Boy, it's getting dark before 9pm these days and there has been just a hint of autumn about on some of the cool grey mornings this week, as I counted down the days to Saturday's kick-off and
girded my withered loins for another season of Lambert's lions.
As ever, it is sad to see another moribund summer begin to slip away and as I emerge from the mind-numbing effects of July's heatwave, feeling a bit like Alec Guinness in The Bridge on the River Kwai, when he was released from the sweat-box, I find there are a lot of changes I need to reacquaint myself with and adjust to.
It is not as though I don't actually know that Man United are no longer managed by Alex Ferguson or that Mourinho has returned to Chelsea and that Mancini is no longer calling the tune at Man City, but after years of the same-old, the implications for these changes haven't quite sunk in yet.
Eventually I will get up to speed on the management merry-go-round but I think I'll need a lot longer to grasp the idea that Real Madrid are seriously talking about paying Spurs £80m for Gareth Bale. At my age I can't believe how much a bottle of milk costs these days, so how can I be expected to come to terms with a player, other than Lionel Messi, costing that sort of dough. Wasn't the financial fair-play regs supposed to stop the hyper-inflation of transfer-fees, or was it meant to ensure the monopoly of the big clubs, so they can afford to buy the first £100m player?
Whatever, it looks like the madness will continue and I will just have to get used to it. I suppose that if I was able to accept Johnny Haynes getting a £100 a week and that a certain blue-nose was the first £1m player, I should take the idea of the first £100m player in my stride. But, an old scrote or not, I don't think I'll ever grasp the idea of the World Cup being played in the winter, because FIFA now suddenly agree that their idea of holding the tournament in Qatar, was moronic.
Gladly, in an effort to ease my transition from a summer of British sporting glory and to rid my mind's eye of the glorious sight of Stuart Broad sending Australian wickets somersaulting, the FA were gracious enough to arrange a game between England and Scotland, which brought me well and truly back to earth.
It was certainly the perfect game for Villa fans to be introduced to their team's expectations for the new season, as it was definitely a game memorable for strikers and very forgettable as far as defending was concerned. And, if Villa's result against Malaga was anything to go by and unless last season's defensive frailties have been remedied, then it looks like Lambert's team is going to produce some high-scoring thrillers, in the coming seasons, where they both score and concede a lot of goals. It is certainly an exciting prospect even if it looks like finger-nails are going to get a right old chewing in the process.
If season-ticket sales are anything to go by, it looks like expectations have increased slightly amongst the fans, after Villa's Paul Faulkner announced that 20 000 season-tickets have been sold so far, which is an improvement on recent seasons (no names - no pack-drill). This is not surprising and is probably accounted for by the rebound in morale, from black doom to bat-shit-crazy optimism which resulted from the good news that Christian Benteke was to remain a Villa player.
The numbers suggest that the jury is still out, as regards what Villa's present ambitions are, and 20 000 is fairly close to what I have traditionally considered the hard-core faithful, who, to quote the Doc, would probably turn up to see Villa shirts hanging on a washing-line. 20 000 season-ticket sales represents the fans' democratic assessment, of how they think Lerner and co are doing.
These are the popeyed Villa nutters who should be cherished by club. They are not always pleasant when they defend their Villa addiction but you can't blame them for that. I have no idea how the club might do it, but these people, who are the very life-blood of the club, should be cherished and rewarded in some way. These are the people who would have kept Villa in business, had the worst happened last season. Unfortunately, the nature of business means that companies tend to take their loyal customers for granted and devote their energies to attracting passing trade. Anything which calls itself a club, should try and do better though.
The opening fixtures certainly look likely to test the patience of the Villa faithful and unless Lambert's boys can get at least a point in August, the three weeks they will have to wait until they play Newcastle, very much looks like a time to fret for the fans. But should they manage a win amongst that tricky three, which is not beyond imagining, then the fans will spend three weeks talking of the prospect of European competition.
One thing it looks certain the Villa fans won't be discussing, if things go ahead, is the future of Darren Bent, who looks likely to move to Fulham on a loan-deal. This will come as a great relief to Paul Lambert who must be sick and tired of trying to explain how he ended up with such a lousy defense, while he had a £24m duplicate striking asset wasting away in the stiffs.
I think every Villa fan recognises the contribution Darren made when his goals managed to stave off relegation. Paul Faulkner will be glad to see a rather glaring reminder of how much money the club have wasted in the early post-O'Neill era, being paid by another club.
The thing I will miss from last season, will be the 19th minute Petrov tribute, which I felt served a far broader function in terms of the fans' morale, than just showing support for Stan. Yes, I know we must move on and that Stan must be allowed to get on with his life and new role, but I will miss those moments of solidarity.
It stood as a reminder of reality, for all of us who tend to get carried away in the heat and passion of our football insanity.
Ladies and gentlemen, let the madness, once again, begin.
Keep the faith!