Back in those dark by-gone days before Kinsey blew the scam wide open, when the world of Pleasantville was said to actually exist, and during those years when the Victorian female was subjected to a sort of psychological infibulation. It is said, even if rather apocryphally, that a mother’s advice to her daughter on her wedding-night was to, ‘Lie there and think of England’. As unlikely as this might be, it is certainly something the Villa fans have had to learn to do in recent years, as they have learned to subdue their own objections in the name of duty, as they faced up to the prospect of yet another rather painful rogering, from a man who had suggested rather more pleasurable intimacies were on offer, during the courtship. But it is one thing to lie there and take it but it does help, if there actually is something edifying rather than enervating to think about, to take the mind off the pain and the indignity.
Villa have been a bit short on sources of positive distraction in recent seasons, as Doug’s glittering eternity-ring turned out to be, at best, good quality paste. So it was rather pleasant for them this week, to at least have something to think about and distract them at last, as numerous players arrived – some of them actually costing money – providing a surfeit of grist for the fans’ twirling mill of endless combination and configuration. Hopefully, the fans will still be aware that they are being shafted but perhaps won’t feel it quite so necessary to feign an headache, next time there is a home fixture.
And there’s the rub. Parades and protests may annoy or even prick an old man’s vanity but an empty ground and a subsequent loss of income, is the only vote Doug Ellis is ever really likely to take notice of. And certainly, when the ground seems empty, two home games into the new season, on the day you unveil your new striker; when the sun is shining and hope should be at its zenith, then there’s a lot of people saying, ‘Not tonight Jose’.
Speaking to some fans after last week’s game, they definitely seemed like they had come from a place of entertainment, rather than giving the impression of having just found a dental appointment not quite as bad as they had dreaded. In fact, all were very pleased with Baros and all described him as a good player. Of course there was a few qualifying negatives about things petering out in the second-half but its Villans we are talking about, not the planet’s cock-eyed optimists. Anyway, whatever they actually said, there was definitely a look of satisfaction, when they said it.
I’ll tell you one thing though, and that is, that Doug might think he’s the cleverest bastard on the planet, and sometimes even I think that he actually might be, but the Villa fans are not quite as gullible as is generally thought and even if there are many who just can’t bring themselves to criticize the bloke publicly and hate to hear others do so; there are signs that many fans are in the process of disengaging, in one way or another, from the club. For instance, I could not help but notice how few fans have actually bought the new shirts and that although you’ll see plenty of Villa shirts on the streets and even at the match, it seems a lot of them are not exactly new. Every colour and style is in evidence but there actually seems very few, with the ‘COWS’ sponsors badge on the chest. The logic seems to be, that if the club is going to be run on the cheap, then they will follow suit. To be honest, I find the idea of a subtle protest based on retro-shirts, to be very appealing indeed.
But the most persistent questions which arises from this weeks comings and goings, are: Why leave it all so late? Do they mean to say that Bakke wasn’t available until a few hours before the deadline? Why wait until three games into the new season? Surely these things should be timed for the maximum stimulation of season-ticket sales – it just seems like the usual bad Villa PR. What can only be guessed at, is how much the enthusiasm of the fans is subject to inertia. This might mean that feelings of disillusionment could be as slow to recover from, as they were to appear and that a quick splurge in the transfer market, might not turn the tide as quickly as they have become cynically reliant upon.
But of course I reveal myself as a mere punter because I assume they care.
I was sorry to see Solano depart, as he was one of the few really classy players on the Villa books but if he was determined to go, then who can stop him. He did a fantastic job for the club and went a long way to ensuring Villa’s survival, when he arrived at the latter part of a very dodgy season – he not only played superbly himself, he lifted the whole team. It seems obvious that there are many factors which made his mind up but I was never sure he was really up for the responsibility of being Villa’s star player and so its – ‘Thank you very much and goodbye!’.
I suspect that Souness’s motives for taking Nobby back, have a little bit to do with desperation, and I would not be surprised if he is not due to find out, that the reasons he never played him before, still exist. But whether it is signing Nobby, Michael Owen or whomever he spent the rest of his 50m on, Souness seems to have bought himself a bit of time. Newcastle seem as difficult a club to run with money as Villa are without.
But I bet they sell more replica shirts.
By Steve Wade