From the ridiculed to the sublime and all that jazz!
From the ridiculed to the sublime and all that jazz!
It has been a particularly pleasing week for football, even if Villa’s contribution to it was rather meagre. Their less than impressive draw at Blackburn was another big disappointment. Once again they flattered to deceive against a team the fans assumed were not in Villa’s class. Such results, and there have been far too many, offer unwelcome reminders of the extent of Villa’s recent decline.
It still looks like there are too many Villa players being paid club-busting wages, for mediocre performances. If the fans were aware of just how much some of the under-performers are on, they might focus their frustration elsewhere, rather than on the manager.
Which seemed to be what Gabby was suggesting this week.
Happily, Villa’s money-for-old-rope merchants did enough to maintain the gap between themselves and those doing the hokey cokey on the Premiership trapdoor, and Wolves offered a sharp reminder of the perils of giving in to knee-jerk demands to sack the manager, by losing five-nil at Fulham.
Last week, the usual suspects were telling us that Wolves’ comeback at Newcastle, showed the benefits of sacking McCarthy, this week they were strangely silent.
I am not exactly big Eck’s greatest fan but one thing is clear, as shown by last week’s financial figures, Villa can’t afford to get rid of him, let alone replace him.
Amazingly, the fans’ state of denial when it comes to the financial reality, which Villa must operate under, is pretty well immovable, and judging by their willingness to believe that losses are not actually losses, it would be easier to win an argument with your friendly local Jehovah’s Witnesses, than trying to convince some Villa fans otherwise.
Things will get better though, as the sale of Stewart Downing and Ashley Young, will improve the club’s next accounts by something like £30m, after Downing’s amortisation is taken into account, which should help reduce losses to a more reasonable figure by this time next year, but we are still talking tens of millions in the red.
Once a few more of the players who have been bleeding Villa white, this past few years, have gone, then things look to improve substantially. But in the meantime, when McLeish talks about picking up Bosmans and loanees, he means exactly that.
There is no amortisation if Villa don’t pay a fee.
Bosman has a lot to answer for because the fact that the star-striker you paid fifty-million for last year, will be worth nothing at the end of his contract, represents a massively expensive loss to a club. Just as the word mortgage derives from the Latin for death, so does amortisation – its death to clubs.
The £119m spent by Randy Lerner on players in the O’Neill era, was destined to trickle away to be worth nothing as the players ran down their contracts. Selling Villa’s top players recouped £35m but that still means a loss of £84m. This is a real loss and those players who are free to move on at the end of their contracts, will have to be replaced from the 9% of income left over after wages have been paid.
I defy anyone to explain how that is sustainable.
We can only pray that the recent graduates of Villa’s academy are as good as we hope they are, and that they don’t turn out like previous generations, who were supposed to save Villa millions, but who ultimately proved to be not quite good enough.
Villa have cost Randy Lerner £240m to date. This just cannot continue and there are no better candidates for managing the club through our reality check than Alex McLeish.
Even though I acknowledge this, I do wish he could extract a little bit more from Villa’s highly-rewarded best eleven, than he has thus far achieved. But even if he does, Villa do seem destined to spend their near future dealing with problems associated with the bottom half of the table, including relegation anxieties, rather than trying to qualify for Europe.
So bearing this in mind, I naturally felt compelled to tune in and see Villa’s future, as Birmingham City took on Chelsea in the FA cup. The realities of Championship football as played by Blues, are not very appealing, and they certainly made Villa look slick and dynamic by comparison. But despite the obvious gulf in class, between themselves and Chelsea, they stayed in the game rather longer than anyone expected.
It took until the sixtieth minute, when Meireles lashed a rocket of a shot into the roof of the Birmingham net, before this Villa fan could take comfort in Birmingham’s embarrassing cup run coming to an end.
But my schadenfreude was certainly not the highlight of my football week, it was far more joyful than that.
On Wednesday ITV spent their advertisers’ money on bringing Barcelona to our terrestrial screens, in their home tie in the Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen. It turned out to be a rare and special treat, which had me spellbound with delight at the sheer brilliance of Barcelona’s passing and Lionel Messi’s finishing.
Leverkusen are the second best team in Germany right now and beat Bayern Munich two-nil last weekend. They were big and athletic, they looked skilful enough but they just couldn’t get near to Barça. They set up their two banks of five to defend but every time they showed any ambition to attack, Barça scored.
The Barcelona team were better than superb; and the ball very rarely seemed to go where you expected it to go. Most ordinary football teams are like pop music – predictable – but the best teams are more like jazz and you are never sure which way they are going to go. You see the overlapping full-back, you wait for the pass but the guy in possession turns the other way, and shifts the whole play to a different pressure point, leaving the defence clambering for position.
But ultimately it was the touch and finishing of Messi which made me feel blessed to be witnessing such a player. His ability to completely remove the goalkeeper from the equation, either when he had a one-on-one, or when he produced a snap-shot, reduced me to a misty-eyed kid who still believes in football magic.
I am not sure how it left the Germans feeling after their 7-1 rout, but it left me with a happy glow, which sustained me through the week.
No young fan Villa would be easily persuaded that Villa thrashed Barcelona (3-1) in the 1982 European Super Cup. Even I have my doubts these days, and yet I was there, that January night in 1983. Barcelona certainly weren’t very pretty in those days and were possibly the dirtiest side most Villa fans had ever seen.
The question remains, as to how Villa can build themselves up, to such a level where they can at least enjoy the privilege of playing them again.
Sadly, in today’s plutocratic world of football, the likes of Barcelona can afford to lose more, in a single year, on a player like Zlatan Ibrahimović (130 ), than Villa’s entire income (107m).
Keep the faith!