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

Monday, 20 January 2014

There's Hope After All!

There have been two teams in particular that have been oozing class on their own ground this season and I am sure there were some palpitations amongst the Villa supporters before the 'Pool match as to how many Villa were going to lose by.

But straight from the 'off'', the Villans went at them and did not let them get into their stride. Villa showed attacking menace, but my thought was that 'Pool would ride this upstart's early pretensions and get into their game. Not a bit of it. Villa could easily have been going in at the interval 3-0 up instead of 2-1.

Yes, a careful sub by 'Pool in their midfield caused the second half to be a different matter, but it was also partly due to the fact that the speedy Gabby had to go off. He had been causing 'Pool all kinds of problems and had provided two skillful assists for Villa's two goals. And, later on, after a disputed 'Pool penalty, Villa were able to show they were well worth the point they came away with.

This was Villa's best footballing performance of the season, no doubt. It was helped by the fact that there were no major injuries to interfere with team selection apart from that to Okore, which has been long term. Also, a very useful left-back has arrived and straight away fitted in and prompted the midfield. What a difference that made to have someone reliable in the LB department. 

So this Jeckyll and Hyde that is Aston Villa continues to mystify us. For so long they have been a subject of derision from their own fans and then they go to Anfield and produce a performance like this.

But Villa supporters are not to be fooled. Nothing less than a win over the Baggies at home in the upcoming fixture will satiate their desires. A one-off at 'Pool (if that is what it is) will not be good enough. Villa have to maintain this level of performance for the rest of the season - but particularly at home, where results and lack of goals has been the source of huge disappointment.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

To blog or not to blog, that is the question...!

Some may ask why I maintain this blog. Well, it's just to unload my thoughts about the Villa when the occasion arises; I don't feel the need to write something every day, or every week, but just when something 'grabs me'.

But I no longer write on any other blogs (except one, a monthly 'Then and Now' historical contribution to Jonathan Fear's Vital Villa site), so that's another reason to maintain this blog. I like to express myself in writing and this blog provides an outlet whenever I feel the need and I haven't something else on the go.

My drift away from other blogs (I was once very active on Villa Talk from about 12 years ago to fairly recent times) is because I became acutely aware of the vitriol that can be expressed - most of it graituously - towards people connected or loosely connected to the Villa. And, indeed, a blog that I recently joined as I felt it to be safe turned out to be a disappointment in that way. Even there, inaccurate and unpleasant comments were expressed against someone of another blog without any forethought (it would seem) that they might just be wrong on the issue. Even the blogmaster supported the writer. So I left when no withdrawal of the accusation took place, even though the matter was not directed at me.

Why does this vitriol occur? Well, football is an emotional experience for the fan, and there are sometimes when matters are affecting the fans so acutely that people simply discharge their emotions - assuming it's OK to do that, perhaps because someone else does it. But it is not OK. Is it justifiable to spit at someone in the street, in a restaurant or in the home? Of course not. We have a higher self. Let's find it and live by that.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

No action yet in the January sales?

I've yet to speak to, or read anything from, a Villan who is not deeply concerned about what's going on at Villa Park. But the good news is that something has hit a chord with the management that something does need doing, and they're apparently ready to spend some loot to kick-start Villa back into life.

Now whether a reported 750k offer for a Norwich midfielder is the kind of stuff that's appropriate, I don't know, and it sounds a bit unlikely. However, as the player in question previously played under Lambert then perhaps there's a rapport there that will reap dividends. Perhaps; but it's still not the kind of spend that one associates with a serious attempt at putting things aright.

And then there's talk of a 6m bid for Lescott - but is a CB the real need? I would support this bid (if it is true) as Lescott may well be the kind of player to help lead the team out of trouble. I would expect him to show a good deal of commitment.

But the main man that's really needed i.m.o is a playmaker. And a good 'un too. A Gordon Cowans or Garry Parker replica would do me. However, Villa perhaps need 3 decent players in to make an acceptable difference.

Lastly, I have to say that the overall plan to put a halt to silly wage expenditures was, in my view, a necessary one. I was saying that even in Doug's day. But to build a team purely from young players without sufficient experience also existing in the team (and in the key positions) was always going to be a big risk in my view. And injuries have not helped at all. It has resulted in a lot of suffering for Villa's fans and that experience is almost unforgivable ... well, almost.

The need is to correct the situation, and if that is done then I am pretty sure the fans will be supportive. But the boss needs to act - and quick!

Saturday, 4 January 2014


In all its near one-forty years,
this club has rarely known such tears!
Since when, at home, did this club suffer
and appear such a duffer?
It goes on, and on, does it not?
this gross insult to man and tot.
Paul Lambert probably made the right decision to include Benteke in the line-up - after all, he's not been scoring and needed some shooting practice against a lower division side!

Oh, dear - so what went wrong?

It wasn't even until late on that Villa had their first attempt on target.

This is really getting very sad.

Friday, 3 January 2014

The FA Cup Stays, OK?

The birth of another year, and what do we find but the fact that the club is coming very close to its 140th birthday.

As it happens I was born in 1944 when the club was 70 years old, so this year I become exactly half the age of the club!

And I happen to have been born just weeks after Villa won the wartime League Cup (North) to celebrate its birthday.

That League Cup competition was shelved at the end of the war, but League secretary Alan Hardaker was determined to have it re-introduced, and it came back in 1960. It was cold-shouldered by many of the top clubs of the time as they thought it was just getting in the way of fixtures (42 league matches in those days!) but some First Division sides, like Villa and Burnley (who were then a great side) went with it despite the fact that the final was played over two legs (home and away) in those days. No Wembley to look forward to.

The fears of the bigger clubs were realised. Villa eventually won the trophy in its first season (having beaten Burnley in the semi-final), but there had been so many replays that Villa's fixtures were utterly congested and they didn't play the Final (away then home, against Rotherham) until the start of the next season! What was almost worse was that Villa's great centre-forward - Gerry Hitchens - had been transferred to Inter-Milan in the summer and his replacement, Derek Dougan, was cup-tied. But Villa eventually scraped through after being 0-2 down after the first leg of the Final.

Since then Villa have won the League Cup a further four times, and those included memorable wins over Man U (1994), Leeds (1996) and Everton (1977). There was also that memorable Final of 1971 when Villa (then in the old Third Division!) might have beaten Spurs in one of the early Wembley finals - they certainly had their chances to do so. Villa had beaten Man U over two legs in the semis, so those were great times.

Now, this week Paul Lambert has claimed that even the FA Cup is beginning to get in the way of Villa's league programme.

While I can see why he is saying this, surely the fact remains that the FA Cup is one of the greatest of football's events. I cannot acclimatise myself to thinking that the FA Cup should be downgraded; after all it remains Villa's only chance (other than the League Cup) of winning anything. And, in any case, a good run in the Cup could do wonders for confidence - something that Villa are short on.

But I do think that maybe the doubters about the League Cup (in 1960) were right. Despite Villa's memorable runs in that trophy over the 50+ years of its existence, it has never quite captured the glamour of the much older competitions.

Perhaps the League Cup should be dropped, and as the FA Cup does not come to life until January, we would go back to those days when we used to wait for the FA Cup to give us that extra 'buzz'. Thereby the FA Cup would surely regain its great attraction.

Drop the FA Cup at their peril! Johnny Dixon would not be pleased!