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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Something For The Weekend (90)



By Steve Wade

As is usual for this time of year the airways are crammed with TV programmes about diet and fitness. And despite the general belief otherwise, it seems that January is a time of fasting. Every conversation you are likely to hear between two females of the species, will undoubtedly be about de-toxing or Weight Watchers. It is absolutely certain that the sprung-flooring of every
school gymnasium in the land, will be taking one hell of a pounding these days, as the nation's bingo-winged lard-arses expiate the guilt of Christmas indulgence. Blokes of course, being particularly health-conscious just smoke
a bit more and eat a bit less. Or, if they want to incorporate a bit of lechery into their health-kick, they loiter with mild intent around a chrome-plated gym, thinking about jogger's nipple and their next cigarette.

Its all science these days, and there are numerous firms who will relieve you of a substantial wedge, in exchange for telling you, you have a physical age of a hundred and three. Logically, I would have thought, if you are a
hundred and three, then you should really be taking it easy and perhaps start to enjoy your final years, but no, a hundred and three or whatever, it always leads to the same thing, you give them even more money and they get a bossy person to shout at you until you are a person who is only a hundred and two years old but who now has a sports injury.

You can forget all that scientific guff - the fat-callipers; blowing-up hot-water bottles and tearing telephone directories in half because there is only one real test of how old you are. If you can stand listening to Radio 1 in the morning, then you are certainly young, if not, you are definitely old. I personally am at the Radio 4 stage and even Enya sounds too raucous for me in the morning. Give me gentle voices talking about abstract stuff I don't care about every time. This makes Farming Today just about perfect. But the thing that really renders me cosily insensible to early morning woe
is the shipping forecast, with all that stuff about Dogger Bank and Cromarty. Life would not be quite the same without it and is part of that poetry, which seems to be as permanent and as freakishly symmetrical as the
rocks which make up the giant's causeway. A perfect verbal tessellation.

It seems that the names of our football teams are held in equally high esteem the world over and for the same reasons. Echoing Pythons North Minehead By-election sketch, where Palin reeled off 'Bobby Charlton, Dundee
cake, Piccadilly Line, and 'don't you know old chap'', in an effort to substantiate his Englishness; I had an amusing chat with a Swiss bloke in some remote mountain village, some years ago, who recited a list of English
football teams he'd heard on the radio, from his childhood, and which had indelibly stuck in his mind and for someone who had never strayed from the Upper Engadine, they remained remote and exotic-sounding. Magical.

The ones he liked the best were those which he thought held some deep mystery and seemed both arcane and ancient. Names such as Sheffield Wednesday, West Bromwich Albion and of course the most mysterious of them
all, Aston Villa; which he said sounded Spanish and 'was there a place called Aston Villa?'. It is on occasions like these that you begin to realise that Aston Villa is indeed a world-famous brand name and that wherever a ball is kicked, on every continent of the planet, people have heard the name of Aston Villa.

Its at this point that you start to realise that the idea that the value of the club extends only as far as its tangible material assets, is totally absurd. Aston Villa is a world-famous name and as such it should be as
valuable as any other international brand. If the likes of Rolls Royce can virtually sell the business twice, which they did to the Germans, by selling the business to one lot and the rights to the name to the other, then the same should apply to Villa and it is obvious that the name is worth a lot more than any estimation based solely on the land they own.

Based on this Chairman Doug is right to hold out for the full value and 65m doesn't seem unreasonable at all. And anyone who comes in and thinks they can make a profit from the club must think again. The real value of Villa is as a heritage brand and the most eager customers for buying such a piece of history, is the new money from the east. It has to be faced that anyone
with less than a 100m need not bother bidding because they can't afford to fully exploit the brand.

Nostalgia and an affection for the club, is unfortunately not enough - the future success of the club will depend entirely on hard cash and not much else. The club has not prospered thus far, on a diet of affection alone.

In the meantime the fast continues and the team survives on a steady diet of nothing. While every club around them have strengthened their squads, as they get down to the business of trying to survive, Villa have actually sold players and reduced the numbers available, while keeping other players out on loan to keep the wage bill down. So the Villa fans find that they are paying full price to watch a team in yet another transition and as is their wont, they translate their frustration into hatred - hatred of the manager and hatred of certain players. Hatred is a fine Villa tradition and unable
to accept the fate of their withered and atrophied club, they must vent their spleen on someone. David O'Leary says, let it be him. Many will oblige.

But who can blame them. Despite the much vaunted myth about football fans, most do not attend to express positive feelings. Almost every fan leaves whatever human sympathy he might be in possession of, at the turnstile and takes on the persona of the slave-driver and unforgiving martinet, as soon as they come within sight of the pitch. All compassion is set aside and
morals are temporarily suspended. Moderate speech is replaced by the brutal proto-fascist slogan. The down-trodden become the unforgiving gods and the ruthless master, as the morality play and Greek tragedy is played out before them. Football is about the empowerment of the dispossessed and the disenfranchised.

Football extends the emotional repertoire way beyond, what is allowed on any other occasion. And if Villa are to be judged by the opportunities they offer their fans, for the expression of these feelings, then at the moment
they are top of the league. But if the team carry on producing performances similar to that against Chelsea, the fans will even be deprived of this.

Fast, famine and reasons to hate - can we rely on nothing.
The Journalist

Writer: J P Fear Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday February 3 2006

Time: 8:15PM

 

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