Date: 19th November 2005 at 12:06pm
Written by:

There was definitely a hint of polar bear in the air this week as the Arctic wind blew south to tighten scrotums and freeze nipples to painful rivets, up and down the Sceptred Isle. It is just the sort of weather that is needed to test the mettle of the travelling Villa faithful as they contemplate an afternoon watching their stuttering team, as their family assets are deep-frozen in a gentle north-easterly, on the withering banks of the Wear.

But even if the idea of watching O’Leary’s duffers, while enjoying the twin
pleasures of a Bovril-burnt tongue and frozen peas for bollocks, doesn’t appeal to me, I am sure there will be more than a few with faith enough to relish the hope that Villa might turn their season round by beating the
worst team in the Premiership.

I am sure that should Villa win and so prove that there is a level, even
they, are unwilling to fall below, then the volunteers, who will pay substantially for the privilege, will see it as reward enough for their expense and trouble, even if they have to wait until Tuesday for their gonads to thaw-out significantly.

Such is faith, such is loyalty, such is masochism.

But win, lose or draw – although, perhaps not if they are particularly
rank – the players will end the game with their usual perfunctory and probably enforced skyward applauding of the fans but will forget about them the moment they leave the pitch. And then, for the benefit of the enquiring media, O’Leary will start with his piffle, which has always been about him – salving his feelings, protecting his ego – and should things go badly he’ll
not think for a second that he and his failures, have yet again left the few who believe in his team (why else travel?) doubly frozen and totally miserable on their long journey home.

When things are going badly, it is always the manager’s piffle which gets the collective goat and it is his piffle which becomes the basis for personal dislike. It is piffle which the fans ultimately use as an excuse to convene the lynch party. The art of piffle is the art of the impossible, as
piffle designed to protect players and demonstrate defiance and solidarity, is not likely to salve the feelings or thaw the genitalia of the fans, who have borne witness to the particular footballing fiasco. So I say, if a manager is going to do piffle, it better be good piffle, or he might as well not bother at all.

And, for a million or two a year and a free track-suit, I think the fans deserve a higher standard of piffle than they are getting at the moment.

As for the players, I wouldn’t go as far as to say your average footballer is as guilty as Winston Bogarte, the Chelsea defender, who has banked over £8m for four first-team appearances over four years, but as far as I am
concerned, not many players can escape being tarred with the same brush. When things are going badly, a manager quickly finds out who it is who lacks character in his squad. He’ll see them hanging around the treatment room and he’ll read what they think in the papers. When it comes to loyalty I’d pick a travelling away fan every time.

What with the wrong results, the wrong sort of piffle and a lack of loyalty from his players, David O’Leary looks a bit vulnerable right now.

Certainly, now that Doug Ellis has earned himself some respite from the flak by suggesting he might sell, and has donned his ermine robes, mounted the
throne and now sits imperiously beyond reproach, the attention has shifted to David O’Leary and the quality of ‘his’ players. Sadly it does not make happy viewing. The squad seems to consist of the innocent, the deluded and the has-beens of yesteryear but since the departure of Solano there is one ingredient missing – a spark of magic.

Whether it was Angel’s goals in D’OL’s first season, or Solano’s early contribution, Villa’s continued presence in the top-flight has been
sustained by a single purveyor of magic in the team these recent seasons, which now seems glaringly absent. David’s dreary squad now seems entirely dependent on the hunger of a few kids, the worn-out legs of some formerly
quality players, and the over-inflated egos of players who will never escape the ranks of the ordinary. Oh yes, and Baros.

I have lost count of the number of times Villa have hung all their hopes on a single star player and it seems that it is Baros this time round. Whether he has the personality remains to be seen but in the meantime the self-deluded are happily rocking the boat.

When the likes of Hendrie are all too ready to flounce because they think they are too good to be omitted and the likes of Djemba-Djemba, who even Ferguson could not light a fire under, start publicly denouncing the manager, then something is not right; and it all stinks strongly of one thing – a bunch of selfish under-performing, cowardly, overpaid players have got wind that, no matter how little effort they put in and how much contempt they show the fans – the manager will take the blame.

Extracting a bit of magic from this lot, will require a miracle.

Who is the better man, I ask? A highly paid player who has let himself and the club down too many times to count and who now sees the manager’s weakened position as an opportunity; or, the fan willing to spend over a day’s pay to travel hundreds of miles, to cheer him on, in the freezing cold?

Heroes and Villans?

I think it is reasonable to assume that there are a lot of minds being distracted by the prospect of the promise of a takeover but whatever the speculations, pipe-dreams and fantasies of the fans or the players and whatever the actual outcome, come bleak frosty days, of however little
promise, there’s a certain breed of Villa fan who will always be there.

You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

By Steve Wade