Date: 27th March 2009 at 2:10pm
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A loss has more to teach us than a win, even if its only patience.

Villa all at sea – I feel like a Queen Mary.

As I was otherwise engaged and cut off from news of Villa’s result at Anfield, I was left to indulge myself in what the mathematicians call the gambler’s fallacy. For those who can’t be bothered to look it up on Wicki, the gambler’s fallacy is, that if a number comes up a number of times in a row, on a roulette wheel, then the chances of it coming up the next spin are less. Not so, say the maths geeks, every spin of the wheel is a discrete event and is not affected by the discrete events which occurred before it.

This is kind of counter-intuitive but in theory, when you fill in that lottery ticket, choosing six consecutive numbers is as likely to come up, as the family birthdays. I’ve never seen anyone fill in the lottery like this but doing the lottery is more about superstitious hope than logic.

So, there I was, fallaciously speculating on the chances of Villa getting a result at Anfield.

Having scored four goals in their last two games, I decided Liverpool couldn’t score another four (which turned out right – they got five). And, as Man United and Chelsea had both lost, then Villa beating Liverpool would mean all three of the top three, would have lost, which seemed to create an unlikely symmetrical cluster (also right). So I decided that Villa would lose narrowly – perhaps two-nil or two-one. I saw virtue in my flawed logic and based all my expectations on that. It just seemed so reasonable.

But, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the saints – five-flipping-nil: that was just too much to take. The Red Scouse had definitely opened a can of whip-ass on the Villa boys.

I didn’t take it too well and it was one of those laugh or cry moments and I decided to laugh; laugh at my own hopes, delusions and denials,

It am sure that when the news came over, that the battlecruiser Bismarck had sunk HMS Hood, they could not have been more shocked. I got a little bit hysterical, I really could not believe that the team I had so many hopes for, the flag ship of my ambitions, had been so completely out-classed. Had I really been so deluded? Had I so hopelessly over-estimated the quality of the players and the charisma of the manager? I really got that sinking feeling.

In my shock, I had overlooked the obvious: that if Liverpool could humiliate one of the finest teams in Europe (Real are second in La Liga) and do the same to Manchester United (the best team in the world), then Villa’s rather utilitarian credentials, were unlikely to represent sterner opposition.

So I changed, as you do, from thinking of Villa as HMS Hood (which obviously was United), to Villa and myself being more of a Queen Mary (I did get a bit hysterical). The Queen Mary was one of the battlecruisers which blew up, during the battle of Jutland (the other was Indefatigable) and prompted Admiral Beatty to say, ‘There is something wrong with our ships’. The parallels were uncanny. The Queen Mary had made the mistake of stacking cordite around the gun turrets (to maintain firing-rates) and a hit from a Bismarck shell blew it to pieces.

Rather neatly, the Queen Mary, was what they called a ‘Lion class’ battlecruiser – come on you lions.

I could see it clearly, I had been stacking hope, blind-faith and expectations, around my guns, to facilitate my Villa broadsides, against my enemy, the churls and doubters and found myself blown to bits. The change of Villa regime, was exactly like the Royal Navy’s transition from gunpowder to cordite. In the old days, those gunpowder days, I never took anything for granted, I always knew that, no matter how good it looked, it could always blow up in my face; so I was very careful, not to get carried away. Then arrived, Martin ‘cordite’ O’Neill and I threw my caution to the wind.

Optimism is a form of denial and denial always ends up biting you in the arse – BOOM!

The real lesson from this bit of history, is that the result of the losses at Jutland, was that they built HMS Hood, but it was a rush job and was inherently flawed. And as you remember, that was sunk by the Bismarck because lessons were not learned and quick solutions were sought. And, what was the real reason the Queen May went down (the naughty girl)? It was because Beattie engaged the enemy before Admiral Jellicoe arrived with the Grand Fleet.

All the evidence suggests, Villa are not ready to engage the enemy just yet, and we await Admiral Lerner to remedy that and make sure Villa are not so out-gunned, next time round.

In the meantime, I must relearn the lessons of old and reacquaint myself with reality. And, more importantly, remember the values that really matter, both in sport and life.

Here’s lesson number 1.

A brilliant talk from John Wooden, one of the greatest basketball coaches in American history, and even at 91, his age at the time, (he’s still going at 98) he has a charismatic message about the real meaning of life, competition and sport. I found it fantastically inspiring and a much needed reminder, of what supporting Villa is really all about.

Its quite long but it demonstrates some real wisdom and insight – just what I needed.

And the thing to remember about the battle of Jutland, is that despite the losses, the British considered it a strategic victory, in the long term.

A loss has more to teach us than a win, even if its only patience.


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