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

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Family Stability Is Needed

We seem to spend all our time in blaming the manager, but are we thus saying that we have confidence in the players to do their job properly? I feel we are expecting too much from players who are these days cossetted and made to feel as though they are worth the money they're paid, and nothing else. For me, the character of footballers generally has declined in quality, and they seem not to understand that the badge they're playing for has to be upheld as though the defence of the country is at stake. That's how it once was: a pride that once existed of playing for 'the Villa'.

Trevor Ford - a fearless striker of 70 years ago - said that when he entered the gates of Villa Park it made him feel great. And taller too: just to enter Villa Park had such an uplifting effect on him. More recently, you could sense that a similar pride and commitment existed for Ian Taylor, Dion Dublin, Olof Mellberg, Martin Laursen and Stan Petrov. Strangely, with Gareth Barry, I always felt that he would leave when the time was ripe. That his heart was never quite fully for the club, though he was a good player for us, no doubt.

Over the last 20 years, many Villa youngsters have passed on, some of whom had great talent, but lost in the search for self-glorification, and myopia in management.

So maybe I'm talking about an attitude that has now passed us by. Maybe the transition to money-consciousness has overtaken all players. And maybe that where once Aston Villa was 'a family' - and people openly said that was so - that attitude has gone; that players simply became commercial entries in the ledger. A two-sided coin that has lost its sense of real worth. All we have seen this past seven years is players coming and going, like confetti. In fact, O'Neill was shipping players in and out in numbers before seven years ago. A situation this past 10 years or more that I don't think ever existed before

To bring out the best in the player at Villa Park I believe there needs to develop a sense that the entity they're playing for has a great standard to be restored. It's not a question of simply knowing how to play footie but a developed loyalty that brings out that extra dimension in a player, just as it did for Frank Barson all those years ago who, when his team was down to eight players, played the game of three players in one. And John 'Slogger' Sleeuwenhoek, who, in the declining days of the mid '60s, defended his penalty area as though it belonged to him. And back in the 70s, players like Rioch, Lochhead, Graydon and Nicholl could always be counted on to give 100%, an attitude that the likes of Brian Little grew into. Followed by Ron Saunders and his team of captains.

How do we achieve that attitude on the field?

When today's chairman talks of the need for 'stability' in my view he must transcend that thought to take on board the view that Aston Villa is an entity that is more than simply a football club. It should be a home to players who are committed to the highest standards, in the full tradition of the club going back to George Ramsay, and a tradition that is made to grow to carry on and be absorbed by future generations of players.

In the attempt to bring about that sense of 'family' and commitment, it makes sense to me that the club has purchased the services of the likes of Terry and Whelan. But in my view, they really do have to step up and show a higher authority and example.

How else is Aston Villa to be restored to the top? After seven years of constant change, in my view, it will take more time for that plan to percolate through. Sacking the manager is an attractive option, but on reflection (and given the state of the club these last seven or more years) is it really the way forward? Would another manager be able to get over the hurdles just outlined? Not by simply changing playing tactics he won't.