As Ryan O’Neal lamented at the end of the film Love Story: what can you say? What can you say about a club like Aston Villa…
Trading in dreams for pragmatism…
As Ryan O’Neal lamented at the end of the film Love Story: what can you say? What can you say about a club like Aston Villa when they sack yet another manager only months after they hired him, and who pulled the bacon out of the fire by not only keeping the club in the Premier League but getting them to the Cup Final? What can you say about a manager who loses his four best players, who get replaced with youngsters with no experience of the Premier League, recruited for their sell-on potential?
The only thing you can say to the suits, is that it is no way to run a football club, and to the now ex-manager, enjoy your pay-off and better luck elsewhere.
Even if the failures can be identified and the blame laid at the appropriate doors, the overwhelming feeling is sadness. It really looked like things could start heading in the right direction back in April when Sherwood’s chirpy chappy persona brought back the smiles to Villa, after Lambert’s uptight dour struggle came to a depressing end. The players looked enlivened, the confidence returned, and the performances through April and the first half of May were convincing, with their remarkable semi-final win over Liverpool, plus surprising wins over Spurs and Everton, and a narrow loss against champions-elect Man City. It seemed like a miracle and looking back, it still does.
It wasn’t until the 16th of May when the alarm bells began to ring, that, with the Cup Final to look forward to, Villa failed to turn up at Southampton and were taken apart in a 6-1 mauling. Hull lost at Spurs, ensuring Villa were safe but that rout and their abject surrender at Wembley more than demonstrated that whatever spirit which had driven them on in April had vanished completely by the end of the season. It seems likely that with Villa’s key players already thinking about their summer moves, everyone got distracted and the positive vibe evaporated, pipes were lit and slippers were donned.
With Benteke and Delph off to greener pastures, Cleverley choosing Everton over Villa, and Vlaar shown the door, Villa looked threadbare by the time Villa started to spend the monies they had just received in transfer fees. The players coming in looked good on paper but were rather too many to be integrated quickly into the team, according to football management orthodoxy. I was happy enough with Villa’s opening-day win at Bournemouth but they looked less than convincing and like every other fan, I just hoped that they would improve. Subsequent losses to ordinary teams Villa might reasonably be expected to at least get something from, proved otherwise.
Last Saturday’s loss to Swansea followed the all too familiar pattern and the same outcome, with glaring errors which even amateurs like myself didn’t need pointing out. Sadly, there was no reasonable alternative, Tim Sherwood had to go, in the hope that Villa can find someone who can have something like the effect Tim had when he first arrived, but it does not look promising.
The saddest part is that the fans’ dream that Villa could start playing attacking football, rather than the pragmatic defensive style of previous incumbents, has come to an end. Villa’s predicament looks desperate at the moment but I certainly don’t think it is beyond remedy. There just seems to be too many clubs with problems of their own and too many teams short on resources to right off Villa just yet, but no one needs telling that things definitely have to improve.
White Hart Lane doesn’t look like the best place for Villa to start turning things around but Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Southampton looked like a slight improvement and even if they relied on a last-minute penalty to make the score respectable, they at least had more shots on goal and more shots on target than the Saints. So lets just hope K-Mac is free enough from the internal politics of the club about who bought who and who is good enough, and Villa can turn over a new leaf and surprise us all like they did last season.
So as we await another chapter to open in Villa’s history, the fans will just do what they’ve had to do for too long; grit their teeth and hope for the best, in the knowledge that when the good times do arrive, they will be all the sweeter, for all the suffering we’ve had to endure.
Pity Randy Lerner had to go and promise us a rose garden, sadly it has been more thorns than flowers, so far. But it really wouldn’t be Villa if it was any different, would it?
Keep the faith!