Date: 12th May 2008 at 9:35am
Written by:

Onwards and upwards

What a great season. The proverbial roll-a-coaster ride. Of course it’s disappointing we didn’t get fifth place after coming so close to it, but my word, didn’t we get close? I can’t remember what I predicted
last August but I think I assumed Spurs would cruise to fifth after spending all that cash in the summer and we would be fighting it out with Everton, Newcastle (ha!), Man City (ha!) and Blackburn for the other placings.

With our disappointing transfer activity and tiny squad sixth place is a superb achievement. Credit to Martin O’Neill, I’ve had my doubts about him over the past twelve months, I’ve been baffled by his lack of signings, his incomprehensible statements and sometimes incomprehensible tactics. I think he has been very lucky with injuries, but if he has the luck of the Irish, that’s something I can live with. No question he has proven to be an excellent motivator and man-manager, the players obviously love him, and I guess that can go a long way.

But those doubts still remain, particularly his competence in the transfer market. This summer, as I’m sure we all appreciate, is crucial. MON himself has given hints that the squad will be properly strengthened so we await with baited breath. We are in a strong position to attract good players, European football (of sorts), top six in the country, high-profile manager and, unlike others I could name, wise and stable ownership.

I remember making a front-page post last September saying the most interesting comparison this season would be between Villa and Man City. Ericksson came in late summer and burned up £40 mill of Thaksin’s money in the space of a few weeks. How frustrated we felt as Martin sat on his hands, and on Randy’s wallet. The battle lines were clearly drawn. And the result? Sven is ludicrously fired, his players so dismayed that they succumbed to the biggest humiliation of the season against Middlesborough, and Thaksin proving himself the most ignorant, arrogant and inappropriate owner in Premier league history – no mean achievement considering the competition.

At the opposite end of the pole we have our very own Randy Lerner, the embodiment of quiet dignity and effortless class. I heard someone on the radio this evening saying all the 3,000 travelling Villa fans at the West Ham game were given free Villa shirts with ‘Thanks for your support’ printed on them. Don’t know if that’s true, but if so, what a magnificent gesture! and how typical of him.

For his divinity to be confirmed all he has to do now is hand over to Martin that big old war chest gathering dust under the General’s bed. You can bet the Spuds will be spending again this summer, in fact they have already started, the richer-than-god Mike Ashley may be tempted to make available enough money to make even Keegan blush. If Thaksin wants to tempt Scolari to Manchester he’ll have to offer yet another fortune. Redknapp and Moyes and Hughes will all be ducking and diving too.

Gentlemen, even as the canon smoke drifts from the field, the battle lines are already reforming for the next campaign.

‘I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Martin! Ashley and Saint Randy!’

(apologies to Shakespeare)