Then the madness will really start.
À la recherche du temps perdu!
As might be expected, you can take the Frog out of France but you can’t take France out of the Frog. So it has to follow that should the right occasion arise, your Froggy is going to revert to type and fulfil every cultural expectation in the book, by way of drifting into some melancholic Proustian reverie, when prompted. And, whether it is a Madeleine biscuit or a chorus from the kop, no Frog worth his brioche is going to forego his moment to indulge his wistful recollections of things past, no matter how many Beatles albums he’s got in his collection, or how much scouse he’s been unfortunate enough to eat.
So bearing in mind the fact that French literature has got some form in this area, with books like Alain-Fournier’s Lost Domain and the above mentioned Proust, Gerard was only doing what a Frenchy must do, when he so crassly trampled on the sensibilities of the travelling Villa fans on Monday night, when he forgot where his loyalties should lie.
Of course it might have been someperfidious ploy, to distract the fans from contemplating the horror of his team’s performance, which allowed an under-strength Liverpool side to sweep them away, seemingly without breaking sweat.
But I doubt it.
Even setting aside all prejudices about French temperament, Houllier’s faux pas should not be surprising, bearing in mind the fact that every article about the Villa manager in recent times, has been about Liverpool, where Villa appeared as a mere footnote. So much about Liverpool in fact, that I couldn’t bring myself to read them.
He has received a lot of praise but cynics can’t help pointing out that any manager who enjoyed the services of both Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, (both extraordinarily prolific strikers) might consider themselves very fortunate indeed, and that it should be no surprise if they win a trophy or three.
And, its during difficult times like these, that the cynic’s voice is heard and given credence.
This was a total PR disaster in a week when Villa spirits had taken such a battering, and the fact that the General thought it necessary to offer the barmy army a pep-talk, confirmed that the perception that things are going from bad to worse, is shared by those at the helm.
Reassurance does not change the facts of Villa’s predicament, however, and the doo-doo is thick and rising. Houllier’s platitudinous explanation that Villa need to be better in the final third, and they should make fewer schoolboy errors, was weak. No shit Sherlock!
He definitely needs to brush up on his excuses – he might need them.
Liverpool was probably not the ideal place to go, when on a mission to resurrect your pride, and it probably has to be accepted that the significant damage to Villa’s season was done elsewhere, against teams they might have been more reasonably expected to beat.
But there is no denying the pain, as the fans inevitably compared the performance with last season’s; a high which was taken as a longed-for sign of Villa’s emergence, as a Premiership force.
Normally, the naysayers have to wait quite a while before they are offered such a great galumphing gaffe, and combined with some very poor results, it provides the Houllier doubters with a toxic taunt of some virulence.
We know we are unhappy, but are we insane?
Looking north to what has happened at Newcastle this week, it seems clear that the Toon madness has returned, and with Chelsea transforming themselves from a team who looked like the Premiership was theirs to lose, into a team of mere mortals, it seems that even the tiniest amount of tinkering can distract players enough to ruin their form. Even Man City’s latest craze of signing talented but obvious nutters, seems to explain their under-achievement.
We only have to look across the city and remember how Blues precipitated their own relegation, after some substantial daftness, regarding the relationship between manager Steve Bruce and the board, to see the destructive and enervating power of a bout of self-inflicted madness.
While Man United and Barcelona seem to prove that picking a philosophy and sticking with it, is the most productive option.
Villa have no option but to stick with the programme.
Luckily for those who might not be happy with the position the club finds itself in but prefer a more rational analysis, there is one piece of compelling evidence which even your most determined Villa pied piper can’t ignore: the fact that the two clubs which sandwich Villa in the league table, are both managed by managers who many would have chosen to replace Martin O’Neill had they had the choosing.
It seems that even good managers have tough times and quite often.
Of course, with or without such evidence, it seems unlikely that the Villa fans will be open to appeals for rationality, should Villa lose against the Albion this Saturday. Anything other than three points and emotions are going to be running too high to be calmed by appeals for mature reflection.
If Villa lose on Saturday, the word ‘relegation’ will be on the lips of even the most sensible fans, and even the most optimistic and rational fan will not be able to avoid the conclusion that Villa are in some sort of crisis.
They too will be indulging their remembrance of things past, and no doubt recall how easily the worst can happen.
Then the madness will really start.
So, no pressure there then?
Keep the faith!