Two months into the 2017-18 Championship campaign, plenty of Villa fans are expressing their delight at a successful start to the season; sitting 7th in the league, four wins on the bounce, and with a strong looking squad to challenge for promotion into the top flight of English football.
However, just seven years ago, a similar number of Villa fans were filled with a very similar type of hope – hope that we could secure Champions League football as we travelled away to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. Of course, recent times will tell you that we were unsuccessful in that venture, but we still finished 6th in the Premier League and were widely tipped to make the top 4 in the following couple of campaigns.
Why, then, are we so happy to have plummeted down 21 positions, onto a level below the Footballing minnows of Bournemouth, Watford and Huddersfield, while our counterparts on that 2010 spring day – Manchester City – now vie for Premier League titles every season?
Everybody knows that fans rule football. A great deal of money comes from fans both turning up to games, and watching on TV which then leads to the huge TV deals, sponsorship deals and the ability for clubs to make a lot of cash. Therefore, it is very important for the owners of Football Clubs to to satisfy their fans – and this is exactly why the Villa fans did not shout out about Randy Lerner’s destructive ethos at Villa Park until it was too late.
After Lerner took over, we finished (chronologically) 6th, 6th, 9th, 16th, 15th, 15th, 17th and 20th. The sharpest drop, as you can see, was under the management of Alex McLeish, which we never managed to recover from. But the reason for our lack of revival was Lerner’s decision to sell/freeze out all of our top players – because they were on huge salaries – and bring in young, inexperienced players and aim simply for survival every season. The lack of ability and ambition throughout the club spread to the fans too, and as a result of this the Villa faithful were content just to see their side stay in England’s top division. This has resulted in, just 7 years after being one of the country’s biggest clubs, Villa fans seeing finishing in the Top 6 in the second tier as being a reasonable target for a club of our magnitude.
We are former European Cup champions; a 42,000 seater stadium, £100m spent in three transfer windows. Aiming for the playoff places amongst the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Fulham and Norwich City is simply not in the DNA of Aston Villa Football Club.
As we all know, the fans are the only people at football clubs who truly understand what the crest means – and this is why the Villa faithful have got to get this message across to the players, the management and the Board: THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. This doesn’t mean booing if the players lose, this means roaring like lions when they’re playing. Sing about them, not the likes of Withe and Petrov.
Losing 2-0 to Wolves – however good a team they are – is not good for Aston Villa. We should be progressing with every other team – not lagging behind. I’ll leave it to others to decide if the style of play that the manager is opting to use is part of the reason we are not pushing on, because that is not the point of this article… the point of this article is to show you all that victories over Barnsley, Burton, Nottingham Forest and Bolton Wanderers are not something to be cherished, but something to be expected.
The club is still very much in a hole, albeit not as deep as we were two years ago, and the fans cannot get excited over these small victories. If that happens, then what happens to the expectations? Exactly… they are lowered. We are on the road to recovery at the moment, with a top manager and a brilliant owner.
We just can not afford to make the mistake of getting ahead of ourselves again.