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

Sunday, 27 October 2019

What's A Little Defeat When Hope Is Around?

Well, did we expect to get anything at Man City? Beforehand I felt the score would be 2-0 or 3-1 to them, and in fact, if we were to go by the match stats it looks as though Villa deserved to get a consolation goal.

But just as our efforts at Spurs and the Gunners fell apart in the second period, so too it happened that we were found wanting after a good first half. This time, though, we failed to carry a lead at the break.

So, my overall view of the Villa is that just like way back in 1975-76, in the first season then back in the top flight, there is a lot of feet-finding to do. And bearing in mind that a lot of the team looks different from last season's, they have not done badly to adjust together. I am quite hopeful and, indeed, expectant, that the Villa will finish in the top-12 or thereabouts.

There is good quality in most departments of the Villa team, and that surely supports a certain level of optimism. I would just like to pull some Villa supporters back down from the clouds, however, after Villa's two back-to-back wins prior to yesterday, particularly after the outstanding scoreline at Norwich. That is that if we would look at the bigger picture, the three wins we have so far obtained have been against clubs that are no great shakes in defence. Conversely, in our matches against teams in the top few places of the Premiership, we have buckled somewhat when the pressure was eventually applied against us.

If we were then to look at a couple of the star-rated Villa players - like Grealish and Mings - they have shown up well against the lower teams of the Premiership, but have been seen wanting at crucial times in the matches against the big 'uns. Not that either of the two named players played badly yesterday. Not a bit. But Mings - who seems to do something a bit wayward in every match - did not do his proper job at the start of the second-half and we got punished for it. Grealish, for his part, failed to pick any locks. He looked the part, but did not deliver in the final third. And then he got crocked near the end of the match, so if he does have to miss a match or two it will be interesting to see how well his place can be filled.

And, yes, VAR has been haunting us all season. It was certainly in question yesterday. As things stand I certainly prefer the old system of leaving it to the ref, that if he makes a mistake against us then hope that the error is balanced out in another match. In my view you simply cannot make things perfect through automation in a volatile scenario. Robots have worked well in areas like car production for a long time, but that is an utterly different ball game. VAR worked well in sorting out "was it over the line" issues, but, as things stand, the way the VAR system is now applied seems to make officiating that more laughable.

Nevertheless, things are not at all bad for the Villa, and I suspect that as things progress over the season we'll pick up more reasons for optimism rather than the other case.

Certainly, I feel the ship is in far, far better shape than it was three years ago, and in that light, I rest easy.


Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Time For A Sing-Along?

Well, we had a good win at Norwich, and there are positive thoughts that the upcoming Brighton game will yield another much-needed win. And, hopefully, a win of the same sort of calibre as at Norwich.

And since then two favourites - McGinn and Mings - have been doing all the right things on the international front.

So, while all Villa fans should be in a positive state of mind right now, perhaps the time is ripe to raise an issue or two that surely need to be addressed.

While racism has taken up a lot of the headlines at the moment, a good friend and long-time Villa supporter recently wrote to me and expressed his unhappiness with what he termed vile chanting heard at Villa Park, which, he says, "not only contains foul language but is often personally abusive to people. What some players and managers have to put up with is also unacceptable. Some of the hand gestures towards opposing supporters, players, manager and referee are also highly offensive."

He adds that this scenario is made worse by the fact that women and children are present. And this concern reminds me of words uttered by the late great Phil Woosnam - once a master of ball play on the Villa Park turf - who looked forward to the day when football grounds could be places fit to receive families. But that was back in the 60s, just before rowdyism in football truly began. Nevertheless, after the 1968/69 takeover, there was a big attempt at making a Villa Park football match a family-orientated occasion, and I know that ideal is still very much present.

Clearly, however, there are some fans that don't agree with such ideals, and hence my friend's concern.

How can this matter be addressed? Well, to some extent I put such rough attitudes down to a sense of over-competitiveness on the part of those particular fans, who clearly do not have the civility that you find in the other football sport - Rugby Union. Why is it that what I consider to be a much rougher contact sport has almost no record of incidents that match my friend's complaint? I find that very odd, and always have.

The solution? Well, rugby followers - particularly the Welsh - are famed for their singing which, let's face it, unites people. You also hear England supporters singing the Queen's praises when soccer's all-whites are winning!

At Wembley, there used to be the pre-match community singing at Cup Finals and other matches, but this has sadly subsided into an opera-singer led rendition of "Abide With Me". Nevertheless, at least that is in place - a means of uniting all supporters in a very positive way.

What I suggest is that at Villa Park, and all football grounds in the major divisions for that matter, a form of community singing should be introduced in, say, the 10 minutes before the players come out onto the pitch to start the match. Personally, I feel that "Abide With Me" should be a mandatory item on that agenda, but perhaps there are suitable alternatives to generate a sense of unity and civility amongst all fans.

If this isn't a solution to "the problem", then what is?


Sunday, 6 October 2019

By George! Is this the turning point?

After a win like this you sing the National Anthem or, better still, thank Prince William and Kate for bringing son George along so that we can see him celebrate like any other proud Villa supporter!

The pic reminds me of when I first went down to Villa Park as a lad and saw Danny Boy and Tommo wipe Man City off the park. That was back in the early 1950s - baggy shorts and all.

But to return to this match, yes we were fortunate that Norwich had been hit by injuries, but the fact is that the score at half-time could have been much closer than the 2-0 lead that we had, but for some stalwart defending. It could have been 3-0 to us at that point, though, as Wes failed to take the opportunity to seal his hat-trick from the penalty spot.

With the caveat that injuries to both the Brighton and Norwich sides helped us to comfortable wins, the next match (again against Brighton) is surely going to bring out the maximum number of fans to VP in anticipation of seeing their favourites take their improvement one step further.

It cannot be a coincidence that Villa's improvement as an attacking machine has come about with the inclusion of Conor and Marvelous - who is! I have rarely seen such a cool cookie as he in front of defence. He is full of skill and determination, and seems to act as the perfect springboard for the Villa attacks. Conor, for his part, glides along and anticipates very well, taking charge on at least 3 significant moments yesterday to set up a goal, win a penalty and then score himself. He now has the remarkable record of scoring in all the four major levels of English football.

But the whole team seems to me to be playing as a team should be right now.

I wonder how long it will be before we see that Man U not only want to buy McGinn but the whole Villa team! For me they all - on this form - look to be on a par in terms of quality.

Yes, the Villa are moving up! Please, Dean, let's keep it that way!