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

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Cats ... and the Villa

We are suckers for cats. Well she indoors started the whole thing and I followed ... like a mouse!

So over the decades the unhoused cat population - wherever we have lived - seemed to hear about us and tracked us down without too much difficulty. Free food and housing? Any self-respecting cat would pounce at the chance!

Five years ago we came to Brum with the one remaining survivor of our brood. She's still here, aged around 23 and hanging on as the matriarch. But gradually the homeless cats have homed in on us all over again. By last year we were supporting a total of 4 cats, and this year 2 more arrived.

Now, last week something very intriguing occurred. We had suspected that one of the new arrivals had recently had kittens, and last week she turned up with the (probable) surviving one ... clearly showing it where we lived and the opportunities that existed. But all of a sudden, one of the most extrovert of our bunch - a beautiful black and sleek variety - went a.w.o.l., and has remained so ever since. But the kitten suddenly moved indoors with its mother. It has taken over from 'black streak'.

The kitty's mother - sweet little thing she is - has clearly and cleverly mugged us. She engineered a situation for her kitty and made it happen.

Do you know what? - the feeling of being mugged is just what I've been feeling about the owner and his crew at VP for some time. But, pottering around the Villa blogs that I respect the most, I find the main writers saying, effectively, "well we just have to go with the tide ... we just have to lump it. The owner, nor Lambert, is not going anywhere."

We most likely have to experience some more pain yet. But how much more will the Villa supporters take - those that have paid good money to see regular first-class performances at VP at least?

I reckon that signs to indicate that the Villa's lion is properly waking up must occur by the end of October, 2014; one year's time. It took until Ron Saunders' third season to show the benefit of his reign, so Lambert deserves the same chance. But if he fails, is it simply the manager that deserves the chop?

As I said - cats fascinate me. But more so the Villa lions. Perhaps they've been over-domesticated these last few years?

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Yo-yo effect!

When we saw the fixture list for this season, it was as plain as the nose on my face (no comments please!) that the fixtures up to the end of October were tough. Very tough. It was hard to see where Villa would pick up points in the first 9 matches apart from the matches against Newcastle, Norwich and Hull.

But the matter got turned on its head when the Villa went to the Emirates on the first day to extract the only defeat that the Gunners have so far suffered this season ... and when Man City came to Villa Park and we actually won - without Benteke - we became all of a flutter. And the stats show that compared with last season against the same teams, we are 6 points up.

But the latest match (against Spurs) brings us right back to earth again with regard to our performances at Villa Park. Yes, Villa Park, where signs have now been hung in the players tunnel to remind and motivate the players as to just what kind of club they are playing for. The signs tell the players just what trophies the club has won, and the years when they were won. And the effect of all this? Some 38% possession in the match and 2 shots on goal. And this against a Spurs team that is a shadow of the greats of 50 years ago.

We are left with an abysmal home record over the past 3 years, and next week's visit of Everton - complete with a certain Gareth Barry, who we refused to re-admit to Villa Park - is not going to raise our hopes too much. Perhaps we'll get a draw.

I think no-one would have said that we could expect too much from this season except that it would be an improvement on the last, but - and I continually trot out this line - where, oh where, is the sense of belief in the Villa team; and where is the player in the team that can act as a true leader for the rest?

It wouldn't be so bad if we didn't get our hopes raised by unlikely wins over Arsenal and Man City. This yo-yo experience can make you feel quite sick.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Holding on to that spirit!

The news filtered through this week that Peter Broadbent, aged 80, had died. A lovely player in the old tradition of inside-forwards.

What connection does he have with Villa, some might ask! Famous with Wolves and England in the 1950s and 60s, of course, he did have an interesting sojourn with the Villa, joining Villa only a few months after the departure of Phil Woosnam in 1966. Phil only died (strangely enough) just a few months ago, also aged 80.

Now the recent death of these two makes me recall that Phil Woosnam's departure left Villa without much by way of creative talent. Alan Deakin was often out with injury by that time, and that did leave Villa short on skills. The situation was made worse by the fact that Villa's coffers were at a low ebb, despite the lucrative sale of striker Tony Hateley a few months into the 1966-67 season. Owing to this combined situation, Villa purchased Peter Broadbent, not from Wolves but from Shrewsbury, as this veteran had by then gone down to the third tier!

At the age of 33 Peter's skills were still visible in the top flight, but by himself he was insufficient talent to prevent Villa's relegation that season and their resulting absence from the top flight for eight years. Interestingly enough, however, striker Barry Stobart was re-introduced into the first-team half-way through the season and that successfully re-ignited a partnership as he and Broadbent had been at Wolves and both had played in the 1960 Cup Final. Stobart had his best scoring patch for Villa at this time with 11 goals in 18 games, due to Broadbent's skilful prompting. But it was not enough.

After a spell in the reserves, Peter (by then aged 35) came back to play in season 1968-69 and was outstanding in a couple of marvellous FA Cup games for Villa against top-flight Southampton and Spurs and in these matches scored his only goals for Villa. These matches were played shortly after Tommy Docherty came in as manager, but despite those performances Broadbent was dispensed with to make way for youth in the summer, probably just when Broadbent's skills and experience were most needed. He made a total of only 68 appearances for Villa over 3 seasons.

But this reminder of a time that is now over 40 years since causes me to recall the late 60s too well - a time when I still went down to Villa Park even when reason told me there was no basis to expect a win. But I have to agree that even in those days of desperation, the players' will to fight (at least well into the 1966-67 season) stood out even though they didn't have the skill of the best teams. You continued to support Villa then because you knew they'd try to make a match out of it.

Of late (this season, and the previous 2 seasons), we noted the absence of will in the players in many of the home matches. We looked to the Man City match with trepidation, particularly as our main 'guns' were not playing. What a marvellous surprise we all had, instead, and how pleased I am (we all are!) that a true spirit seems to have returned!  However, we thought the spirit had returned when Villa trounced Sunderland 6-1 at the back-end of last season, but since we've had a few disappointments.

Team spirit has been a traditional aspect of the Villa's play since the club was founded, and when that spirit has waned then the warning bells have sounded. Let's hope we see the spirit maintained - but not through the imbibing of whisky!