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

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Unravelling The Bare Bones of the Matter

With Fox looking confident, Villa splashed out the £50 millions received for Benteke and Delph and sat back. But he was utterly out-foxed – by the Foxes, whose preferred starting XI value is said to be £22 millions.

Now – at the end of the season – the Foxes are triumphant, and with Ranieri talking of “love” and “harmony” in the club there must be something spiritual happening there! In fact, it appears that the club’s Thai owners have, for the last 3 years, had Buddhist priests flying in from Thailand to bless the turf. And that all happening since Richard III’s bones were recovered from a Leicester social services car park!

I will always remember the Channel 4 documentary on the Humpback’s discovery. The archaeologists in fact didn’t know where to start digging, but one of them had an inspiration that the digging should start in one particular bay – and that is exactly where his bones were found; they had hit the spot at the first attempt. Ever since then (in 2012) it’s been upward and onward for the Leicester footballers. Whether Richard III and the Buddhists prayers have any connection is for the reader to decide.

But one thing is unquestionable: the togetherness of the Leicester players, and their utter team spirit and committed play. That in utter contrast to the Villa’s disunity and powder-puff play, most of the time giving the impression only of a reasonably competent League One team. But even such a team would surely play with more spirit! Even though Villa looked better against Watford, it was primarily only because Watford were poor for most of the match until they woke up to the fact they had a chance against 10 men and a defence with holes.

With so-called Villa fan Tom Hanks declaring: “I put money on Leicester City to win Premier League” (believed to be at 1500-1), Aston Villa have suffered yet another humiliation in a season of humiliations. And this Saturday we may be witnessing yet another defeat, and with that the creation of another unwanted record: the most number of league defeats Villa have sustained in a string.

The experience of relegation is now something not that entirely new to Villa fans, though nearly 30 years have transpired since the previous occasion. The first time Villa was relegated, in 1936, was exactly 80 years ago, and on that occasion a Sports Argus reporter tried to capture the feelings of a very old Villa stalwart as he heard the news on his radio:

“The even, casual tones of the announcer came with an accompaniment of atmospheres from the dilapidated valves in the corner of the room. In a worn leather chair by the fire sat a white-haired man, his face marked by the years. Pale and old though he undoubtedly was, his eyes at that moment in the early evening of April 25th, 1936 were ablaze with keenness. He listened intently; the atmosphere was tense.

“Still the announcer read on … there was no trace of interest in his voice.

“Then, suddenly, the aged listener caught a familiar word; he braced himself. The moment he awaited had arrived.

“’Aston Villa … two … Blackburn Rovers … FOUR’. On he went. But one listener had heard enough. Silently, almost painfully, he rose, and, hobbling across the room, switched off the wireless. Then, returning to the fireside he sank once more into the chair.

“As I watched, the fire died from his eyes, the lines on his face grew harder. In every respect he was once again an old man. I would not bring myself to speak lest I disturbed the thoughts I knew were in his head. So I left.”

That ancient report needs no comment, and in 2016 our shock is perhaps even greater, that the old club has appeared to lose all its pride, and only in the short space of six years. I don’t need to remind the reader that it was seven and six years ago respectively that two great Villa combatants, Laursen and Boerma, had to hang up their boots. And not long before that Mellberg had left, but only after he had donated hundreds of Villa shirts to the fans, in appreciation of their support.

Foreign players? So long as you have players of the character of Laursen, Boerma and Mellberg then there never will be a problem: those three served Villa exceptionally well. But today’s squad – with the exception of only two or three – hardly bear a resemblance to them. It’s significant perhaps that the three players just mentioned came to Villa before Lerner bought the club.

The future? Well, according to Ranieri the blend required should be based on “love” and “harmony” and to be “professional, play with passion and [a] desire to win”.

Pearson for manager? I more fancy Ranieri and the Buddhist priests to be honest. And perhaps we should start digging under the Bull Ring for the bones of the original Boerma, who founded Birmingham! Well, if not that then we know where Archie Hunter’s and George Ramsay’s bones lie.

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