Back to the future and the recent past…
Back to the future and the recent past..
England’s two victories made for a stress-free break from Villa’s many woes and the England boys making it a perfect ten wins in ten certainly brought a rosy patriotic glow to my cheeks, even if it means nothing in terms of actually winning the tournament itself. It was just a reminder of how even when the golden generation were seen as potential world-beaters, they were still not beyond cocking up some very straight-forward qualifiers against the so-called weaker nations. Without getting too carried away, I thought England’s youngsters did themselves proud.
While the pundits were telling us how boring it all was, I was just happy to see Ross Barkley et al keep the ball and generally pass it in a very un-England-like manner, that is, to feet. England probably lacked the guile of the very best international teams but apart from a few wasteful attempts to gain personal glory, their discipline was remarkable. And it has to be said that Rooney’s absence seemed more like a blessing than a loss.
I certainly didn’t think the fact that England’s group was not the toughest detracted from Hodgson’s achievement and I was just reminded of his days at Fulham when he took an ordinary-looking bunch of players to the final of the Europa League back in 2010, where they narrowly lost to two Forlan goals. Fulham’s glaring lack of quality and ability to beat teams with more, made for a very romantic football adventure. This led Hodgson to Liverpool where his talents for organisation and disciplined play were mostly wasted and definitely unappreciated but his failure to please never reduced my admiration for the guy.
These days I just love Hodgson’s grumpiness and his absolute refusal to look anything other than annoyed when the pundits ask their stupid questions. Football fans demand mystique and BS from their managers and whether it is the FA or owners of football clubs, they all usually seek to provide it. Worse still is that too many managers think it is an important part of their jobs too, and they all too often attempt to offer up the histrionics of disappointment or confidence, which are never quite convincing. If a manager’s persona is transparently false, I think that not only can the fans see through it but the players can too. References to themselves in the third-person should definitely be avoided at all costs, or they risk coming across as a phony. As Trevor Francis found out, wearing Franz Beckenbauer’s coat does not make you Franz Beckenbauer. You get the impression that Hodgson is just too old to care much about what other people think.
Young managers could learn from that.
Whether Villa’s young manager will be given time enough to learn to be himself remains to be seen but the newspapers have been picking up on the fans’ anxieties and spinning rumours and ‘facts’ accordingly. If Aston Villa is one thing these days, it is secretive. The arrangements concerning Villa’s transfer policy, which were revealed this week, was news to just about everyone. Presumably it was Sherwood’s determination to explain that it was not entirely his fault that he has so many young players in his squad, which led him to enlighten us. And as it is a tradition that football managers are expected to lie to the fans to protect the owner, his revelations possibly didn’t do him any favours with Don Lerneone.
The ‘two games to save his job’ narrative is probably true in the figurative sense, in that if they get absolutely nothing from Chelsea and Swansea it would look like Sherwood has definitely lost his paddle, and that it was perhaps time to hand over the controls to Ray Wilkins as interim manager. Such hasty action would be seem premature with so many league points still to be had but if the alarm bells are ringing now, two more losses would make them deafening and the clamour for a new incumbent would be hard to resist.
But, as ever, in these situations, once the failings of the manager have been pointed out, the players have to take responsibility too, and it has to be said that although there has been much talk about the young players it can hardly be denied that some senior members of the squad have not uprooted any trees either, and their failings and glaring errors haven’t been few.
So it is off to Chelsea Villa must go and hope that Chelsea’s dysfunction continues and their own shows signs of ending. Mourinho has just made a fifty-grand donation to the FA’s coffers, in an effort to create a siege mentality at Stamford Bridge, and to hopefully persuade the players that their enemies are without rather than within the club. But whatever malady grips Chelsea these days it seems unlikely that it will be cured so simply and so quickly. Whether the international break can cure Villa’s own malaise, we are about to find out, but if the players want to keep their manager then they definitely need to give him a performance.
If they do, they might just get themselves a draw. A win would seem like a miracle and feeling so good on a Saturday night would be a real treat for everyone. I can just about remember what it feels like.
Keep the faith!