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

Monday, 19 September 2016

You can’t please everyone … can you?

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” So said Joe Lydgate, a medieval monk and poet, even before organised footie had been invented!

So there’s nothing new in the world, going by that statement. Football supporters generally simply expect the single pleasure of gaining maximum points from the match aided by the pleasure of supping a can or two of their favourite beer. Nothing else will do as many a supporter will not want to know how long it takes to get from utter cr*p to perfection: “Get rid of the old lot, replace ’em with new, and that’s it” seems to be the philosophy of quite a few.

Now I don’t blame my fellow Villa supporters one bit as I can’t get down to watch matches these days and therefore don’t experience the pain of being there and seeing maximum points whisked away from their eyes in the dying minutes. Nor do I expend the cost of the match ticket nor anything else that forms the accoutrement of the average supporter’s day out, especially those that haven’t had a significant pay rise in years. Nor the mournful journey back home.

The total experience has been awful as we have seen the ominous slide from grace over 5 long years. But of course I remember all too well, and experienced, an ominous slide from grace in the 1960s: the return took a long 8 years, and in the end a mostly enjoyable journey back. But Villa’s recovery was initially not aided by the intransigence of the old board who stayed in power for more than 15 months after top-tier relegation and waited until the results had miserably declined and the attendance had dropped below 12,000 before stepping down amidst the fans’ vehement protests.

Then we had the arrival of the mercurial and charismatic Tommy Docherty as coach under a new club management. The crowd numbers suddenly leapt into the 30,000s and ‘Doc’ played out a plan to save Villa from relegation to the third tier. He was lauded as an overnight hero as ‘Doc’ watched the fans stream out to watch the washing on the line. “Promotion next season (1969-70)” the fans said. Wrong!

‘Doc’ changed the club strip to something unrecognisable, bought the young Bruce Rioch for a new club record (a fine step), and Chico Hamilton, and took his Pets out on a gruelling get-fit regime and a hard series of pre-season matches. The fans streamed in to watch the new season but the new season fizzled out before it had started: all the hype came to nothing. It wasn’t too long before Doc was booted, but too late to stop relegation to the third tier.

There are not too many supporters still around that clearly remember those days of the late 60s. At that time, they were the worst years (1963-69) that Villa had ever experienced: not until the most recent 5 years has anything similar been experienced at Villa Park. And there is one big similarity – that once the downward spiral goes beyond a certain point, it takes some Newtonian force of gravity to reverse the trend. Yes, even with a new regime and a new set of players. It was not a far different situation in 1969 to that of today.

In my view the nettle has been grasped more quickly this time. The old ownership more quickly realised that the game was up and now we have quite a different – and more positive – structure in place. We have a new ‘Doc’ with us today, but this one is the owner. As back in the 1960s era, the inertia generated these last few years is taking its time to be replaced with something to satiate the fans’ needs. Perhaps a survivor of the tail end of those last 5 years – Ayew – is a reason why we’re not making better progress: if just some of his misses had been turned into goals we’d probably be a lot more happy. Maybe the negativity of last year has retained a place in his soul. So why, then, are some fans taking their frustrations out on the manager?

As fans we need to tread carefully. More negativity in the stadium might surely cause the ruin of the whole enterprise.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Will The Doc's Surgery Heal The Wound?

The one thing that the previous owner of Aston Villa finally succeeded in doing was to transform 30,000+ Brummies into being totally miserable while at the same time putting grins on the faces of the fans of the local opposition. And this coinciding with a time of government-sponsored austerity since 2010! Oh, how the Villans were shocked out of any complacency they might have retained since the days of Big Ron, and the smirk of contentment when Doug made his exit. 

The previous owner did not succeed, however, in causing the extinction of the football club he claimed to love, but (as Wellington once said) "it was a close run thing."

Enter the Doc. In what is hardly 3 months since his arrival he has totally transformed the mood, though it is noted that a number of fans are still not happy that we are not yet top of the Championship or that we have failed to score 11 goals against any opposition as Villa did in November, 1959, during another sojourn in the second tier. But wait: there's still time!

Yes, Wolves have managed to sign even more players than Villa during 'the window', but the Doc has made it crystal clear that he wants no-one playing for the club who has not the right attitude or the right level of experience to meet the situation the club faces. And the Doc has put his money where his mouth is, without a doubt, as well as removing almost all the demoralised dross that we saw last year.

So, Roberto di Matteo has been provided with what must be regarded as a very tantalising set of fresh ingredients to make a team that can get back into the big time, and also act as a basis for future development. Amidst the amount of experience that the manager now has at his disposal the right framework should exist for the times when injury strikes, or the Africa Nations Cup intervenes, and a youngster or two has to be thrown into the lion's den. It was a bit like that in the 70s, wasn't it, when what we would now regard as great players materialised from the youth ranks to take their rightful place in a mature and capable Villa team: players of the ilk of Little, Gidman, Deehan and Shaw, and others who were not too far behind in stature. It will be fascinating to see if Villa's youngsters of today can emulate those names of yesteryear.

Well, the manager has over a week to try to massage his new brood into some kind of shape that might resemble a team that will challenge for the main prize - promotion. And what better place to unveil his new pride of lions but at Villa Park in what should be a match to savour. We should not have expectations that all will 'click' in one go, but I feel the promise is there.

There has never before been so much emphasis on the "Up" in "Up the Villa"!