Thoughts and issues regarding the past and present of a great football club by "The Chronicler".

Saturday, 31 March 2012

What A Season This Has Been!

The situation that Aston Villa faces today is one, in my opinion, that the club has been mechanically rolling towards since the start of the season, though no-one could predict the kind of player losses that have occurred since the start of the New Year, particularly that in respect of Petrov.

But from the outset, I was not at all happy with the midfield setup. I just could not see how it's lack of strength would work, and I said then that the owner had left Villa short in that department in the process of pulling in his investment. I felt that Delph and Ireland had a lot to prove, and the consequence is that Delph has gone back to plying his trade in the lower division - perhaps temporarily. Ireland has managed to make some impression but still not, I feel, to the degree that might have been expected. I still question why Makoun was allowed to be put out on loan so easily, and did we have to put up with Alan Hutton when the reliable Luke Young had been available?

And to replace Ash and Downing we were given the mercurial talent that is M. N'Zogbia.

To that player cocktail we add the tactics of the greatly experienced and sought-after manager by the name of Alex McLeish; his winning tactics have been marvellous to behold. His wins against Walsall, Blackburn and Wigan were wonderful, and we were at one stage at sixth place in the Premier League to prove it. And, surely, the smash-and-grab win at Chelsea indicated that the club had turned the corner for the season, regardless of the internal problems that were occurring at Stamford Bridge - which now seem to be rectified.

There will be many that will say that Aston Villa's injury list is no fault of Alex McLeish, and I would certainly not suggest that Petrov's very sad illness can be laid at McLeish's door. However, as to the rest, I believe that negativity breeds negativity; why was it that Birmingham City suffered in the injury department last year? Yes, I feel that the Knight Errant's injunction to his players to win at all costs by the method of preventing the opposition scoring may actually be causing the players to be under extra stress and therefore more able to succumb to injury.

The idea that the injuries are caused by a manager with a jinx should be consigned back to where it came from - the Middle Ages.

Football, when played positively, breeds positivity; why play otherwise? It keeps the players and the fans happy for starters. Why risk diminishing attendances? Why not keep the owner happy as well while you're about it, Alex? Mmmmm, perhaps he is happy; perhaps any form of interim state is OK by him!

Now, I hadn't intended to use the 'r' word ... indeed, until this week I felt that Villa would avoid the drop. There were too many bad teams below us, weren't there? Well, they're now all winning, apart from sad Wolves. Just another 2 or 3 matches and Villa might easily be caught by the others.

And I thought the club's acquisition in 2006 had been a good thing. I was sure it would take us onwards and upwards. But I'm human - I erred in my judgment. I do hope (and pray) that my current assessment also proves to be in error.


Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Call to the Phoenix...

The Villa's lion, that once stood for pride,
has no more ambition: it has died.
Our lion skulks, waiting for a scrap,
at the basement door, where springs a trap.

Ignominy looks set for Villa,
steered by he at the tiller.
How far down can our favourites drop,
before we hear a mighty plop?

We have slipped before, memory vivid,
but never quite like this, so timid.
Oh, some ancient Villan to restore
the lion's scent for winning, once more.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Kicking and Screaming

I've only just caught up with (I imagine) a lot of football supporters by reading this book ("Kicking and Screaming") - sub-titled "An Oral History of Football in England".

If you haven't read it ... get it if you like to read about the evolution of the game. It (a 1995 hardback by Rogan Taylor and Andrew Ward) just cost me a fiver, including delivery, by Amazon. This book gives a good insight of events in the last 100 years through the eyes of many significant people in English and world football. Including Eric Houghton.

One section is devoted to the events surrounding the 1953 England vs Hungary match that Hungary won 6-3. It turns out that the Hungarians refused to be paid for their achievement!

But the snippet in the book that prompted me to write a post was on the matter of the obligation in football to entertain. At least, I think there is such an obligation, and this snippet sums it up for me. The words were spoken by George Hardwick, talking about the England team of the late 1940s. I feel that Alex McLeish might draw some wisdom from this!

"I don't think there could ever have been a team in the history of football that entertained so much because that's what we set out to do: 'Now, all these people have paid all this money, let's show them, let's give 'em a show, let's do it.' If we scored one I'm screaming at them, 'Now two, two,two,come on, let's go, let's go.' When we got two I was screaming for three, and I was screaming for four and I was screaming for five, and the only time I got a bit upset with myself was when we were beating Holland 8-0 and we got a penalty, and hadn't the guts to score with it. I just knocked it at the keeper. I thought, 'Oh, no, no, no, we've got eight,' and I hadn't the heart to go for nine."

This reality of what football should be about - purely an enjoyable entertainment - gains special significance with the sad matter of Fabrice Muamba. May God be with him and his family.