Date: 3rd December 2005 at 11:46am
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For a while at least, it seemed that the logic of sacking the manager, a few weeks before a possible big-bucks takeover, bypassed the faithful completely….

By Steve Wade

I watched with interest, Jonathan Miller’s series of programmes on atheism a few weeks back, in which he and a number of other similarly clever chaps related the basis for their own disbelief along with the history of the subject. I am sure that if you looked up ‘polymath’ or ‘intellectual’ in a dictionary, Dr Miller might be listed as an example of either but I still find it hard to believe that anyone other than such a thoroughgoing
brainiac, is capable of operating, enough of the time, in that intellectual mode of thinking, to disprove, that at least some of the time, they actually behave like they believe there is something out there.

You know the sort of thing: that little tightening of the jaw or flash of anger, when inanimate objects don’t co-operate with our needs, which momentarily reveals the repressed belief that things have minds of their own and indeed, whatever will they have, works counter to our own. I think the term for such a belief system is called animism and although in those moments when we parade our fragile intellectual dignity, we might deny its reality, when the toast falls butter-side down on the kitchen carpet, we indeed act like it is a fact.

Shouting abuse at the toast tends to give the game away, and it seems that, we may say we believe in one thing but act like we believe something else entirely.

The same seems to be true of the Villa fans this week, as, after a totally pathetic exit from the Carling Cup at the hands of Doncaster of League Two, they demanded the head of the manager, who was definitely culpable, if not actually on the pitch. For a while at least, it seemed that the logic of sacking the manager, a few weeks before a possible big-bucks takeover, bypassed the faithful completely, during the after-shock of what was seen by most as a footballing humiliation. The fans might spend their days and nights dreaming of a spend-thrift revolution in 2006, as the impetus of new owners and an injection of cash make ambition a reality but they actually reacted like it is not going to happen.

I have to admit that after a news story a few weeks ago, said categorically that the deal had collapsed, I had kind of given up on it but then further quotes since, from both Ellis and the Comer Group, seemed to suggest it was very much, still a reality. Under these circumstances it is impossible to know what to think, or, what to legitimately hope for. But I’ll tell you
something, judging by the players’ p**s-poor form this week and O’Leary’s inability to threaten, or cajole them into action; it seems that at least they believe it.

Anyone who has suffered a redundancy situation at their work-place, will know how morale plummets, as the certainties of the selection policy dawns on the workforce. Why a squad of players should be any different I am not sure and it seems the likes of Hendrie are looking round for another job already and the rest of the squad certainly acted like the Carling Cup final, was an event likely to occur beyond their present employment prospects, so why bother. With this a reality, then the manager’s threats and cajolery suddenly become meaningless and the reins go slack.

As most fans don’t need telling, all talk of professional pride is just so much hooey: given any excuse not to play and most players will grab it with
both hands. Just like any other workplace, there is always an anti-work culture which the manager spends his time trying to counter. In football parlance, any player who does more than the minimum, is labelled as ‘busy’and generally dissed. Take away the authority of the manager by the prospect of him losing his job, as new ownership so often presages, and the slack-arse culture asserts itself completely and even a couple of new
recruits to the slackers club, will ruin a team of any quality.

Donny must have been totally inspired after just one look at Villa.

Human nature is such, that it is a very rare event indeed, to hear anyone admit that perhaps they are generously paid for what they do and in many cases, it is often the case, that some completely useless employee can be overheard, declaring a belief that they actually deserve more, even amongst the lavishly overpaid. Its a culture thing and those immersed in a high-pay culture will quickly take on the belief that whatever they earn they naturally deserve; and if this is true of people screwing their employer for forty grand a year, then it has to be true of footballers getting that much a week. They will, of course, cry crocodile-tears when sympathising with the hard-pressed fans but will say something different to their agents.

Presumably, the Porsche mechanic will earn slightly more than the guy working from a shed in a back-street but will perhaps, take a level of care commensurate with his status and pay. I suggest that perhaps it might be educational, after Villa’s disgraceful midweek performance, that next time the players have their cars serviced, the mechanic might smear the seats with grease, spill a drop of brake-fluid on the paintwork, leave an oily rag in the glovebox and take a s**t in the boot. This might remind them what it feels like when other trades, allow their professional standards to drop, to an unacceptable level.

In the meantime, Villa’s ‘heroes’ have to take the long journey to Newcastle to take on another bunch of over-paid sulkers, who equally have a problem with their manager, while having their goal-scoring saviour out injured. If Villa’s players have any pride and even the scantest of intelligence, they will realise that, losing badly in the cup is one thing but belonging to a team in the bottom three, actually throws into doubt, whether they have the qualities to play in the Premiership, or NOT. As the team seemed to prove against Charlton, if they’re disciplined enough to keep their shape, then even if they are not playing well, they will get something from the game if they put the graft in and eventually the quality will emerge, as it did last week with that one moment of brilliance from the guy O’Leary had the good sense to send on holiday. (Hey Dave, you got something right!)

A point would be nice but anything more or less, will have me shouting Victor Meldrew fashion – I don’t believe it!