Two instances which illustrate that, win or lose, honour or disgrace; it doesn’t seem to matter for a true fan
Veni, Vidi, Villa!
Which, if my memory serves me well, is Latin for: we came, we saw and we drew. But what a draw it was. No one could have expected Villa to get anything from the Spurs game but the gods smiled on McLeish’s boys, and what with a deflection off Gallas, which gave the feebly follicalled Friedel no chance, and Hutton being on the end of some GBH, instead of him dishing it out, Spurs’ multi-talented, £170m team, had to settle for a point.
And after some substantial help from the Baggies, Villa were declared safe.
This came as some relief. There are just too many unhappy associations for Villa, when it comes to Carrow Road and the thought of Villa’s travelling supporters having to make that dismal and disconsolate trek homeward, after a relegating defeat, was just too miserable to contemplate.
Even the most stout-hearted Villans have been broken by that endless journey home, across the featureless flat landscape of East Anglia. Even now I can remember the haunted look and the thousand-yard stare, which was etched on the faces of the gutted Villa fans, who returned from that match in late March 1993, when a one-nil defeat by Norwich more or less ended Villa’s Premiership-winning dreams.
I can still remember the words of a famous Villa centurion, known as Gregorus Giganticus, who had led many a cohort of Villans into the hostile territories of the northern barbarians. He described his trip back from Norwich as the ‘longest and most miserable journey’ of his life, after he finally staggered back, like some battered straggler from Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. I am not sure he ever got over it.
Yes, hell and no heaven, on the A47.
And speaking of Moscow. If Villa felt it appropriate to mollify the travelling fans who went to Moscow a few seasons ago, with an apology and a Happy Meal voucher, what sort of compensation are the fans due, after such a terrible season as this one?
Obviously, a lot of fans seem to think it is all McLeish’s fault but ultimately the responsibility for this utterly disgraceful season must rest with the suits whose plans brought it about.
Personally, the sense of relief which was so palpable, on the realisation that Villa had retained their Premiership status, was quickly followed by a sense of hopelessness and then spitting anger, at all this crap which has been dumped on everyone who cares about Villa. I really can’t see, on what basis anyone would gamble their hard-earned on a season-ticket. The trust has gone and the sort of players Villa are linked with these days, are just not the sort of players likely to inspire much hope in the bosom of even the most sanguine of supporters.
Paying good money to be made miserable, does seem like an act of complete folly, if not actual idiocy.
Not even Birmingham’s failure to win promotion through the play-offs, can offer any consolation. They at least enjoyed an honourable season battling against the odds in the Europa League, and then making a late challenge for promotion with a meagre squad, before losing by the narrowest of margins. What is Villa’s claim to honour exactly? What precisely was Barry Bannan taunting the Bluenoses about? Escaping a custodial sentence?
It is not even certain that Birmingham’s absence from the Premiership is actually good for Villa. If, as they keep telling us, that competition is what improves outcomes for customers, then logically the loss of Villa’s nearest competitive Premiership brand, cannot be good for the club.
But no one can deny that had Blues been in the Premiership this season, the misery would have been even worse, if that is actually conceivable.
Alas, despite the misery which has been gratuitously and unapologetically inflicted on Villa fans this season, and it does feel like we are under a frog’s arse, down a coalmine, it will not make any difference to proper Villa fans, because for the true fan, supporting the club is not about love, its about habit. And, unless, they suddenly find the will to go cold turkey, they will be shelling out for their season-ticket, whether they like it or not.
Its almost certain, that the angriest fans right now, are the ones who are the most addicted, and it is knowing that they have no choice but to feed their habit, which enrages them. Others, will take the opportunity the present miserable situation provides, to jump ship, while they have the chance.
I’ve lost count of the number of fans I have known who do a few years as a proper fan, and then pack it in, when the opportunity arrives to move on to something else. Just like their former fanatical following of Duran Duran, or what have you, they consign it to their past and do something else. They’ll still be seen wearing their Villa slippers out of sentiment but they will cease to be proper fans in all but name.
But obviously, these ex-fans will always be grateful to the likes of Ellis and now Lerner, for giving them the perfect excuse to save their money and do something else.
Of course, for true Villa nutters, who represent the elite amongst fans, nothing makes any difference. Success, or failure. Stingy owner or generous. Dream manager or nightmare. None of this makes any difference at all. Your true Villa nutters are kind of admirable and just a bit sad too but they are the very embodiment of the spirit of the club.
I was watching the Europa League final in the week, as Atlético took on Athletic for Europe’s consolation prize. Two clubs desperate for some mark of success, which a cup would bring. Two clubs handicapped in their own way. Atlético by having to live in the shadow of the world’s richest football club. Athletic, handicapped by their choice to restrict the players eligible to play for the club to those with a Basque connection.
As we know, the trophy was won by Atlético who are an ordinary team who happen to have a £35m striker, who they do not actually own but who won the game for them. So at the end of the game, when the Bilbao players and fans shed tears at their loss, I concluded that the result would make no difference at all. I just wanted to ask them whether there would be more honour in them scrapping their selection policy and hiring a Columbian mercenary to win them a trophy, or less? And, I think I know the answer.
The consolation cup was Atlético’s but surely the honour was all Athletic’s because they are a rare example of a club which is willing to put a principle (not necessarily approved of by all) before winning. I find it impossible to imagine an Athletic supporter throwing the towel in because their team failed to win a trophy, due to the fact that their club valued its principles more than winning.
Win or lose, it makes no difference.
At the other end of the spectrum, Juventus won the scudetto, but not just happy with completing the recovery from their dishonour, disgrace and the consequences of the Calciopoli scandal, they insisted that the two scudetti which were taken from them because they were bribing referees, were still in fact theirs.
Two instances which illustrate that, win or lose, honour or disgrace; it doesn’t seem to matter for a true fan.
Even after a particularly miserable season, which has managed to burn out so many fans, there are still supporters who, despite the levee coming so close to breaking, are already planning to follow Villa on their American tour and will be going to Chicago.
Keep the faith!