I remember being very young and hearing this phrase. I remember thinking, “That’s a really silly thing to say. Who needs reminding of that?”
Things happen when you start to mature, and little phrases and lessons like that seem to make a lot more sense. Generally, you see these phrases and anecdotes placed over a sepia-laden background as a meme on Facebook or Instagram. But if you really think about what makes a team tick, the idea of working together and caring about each other, it all starts to make sense.
After the entertaining 3-1 victory over Barnsley, I took a deep breath.
No, I never felt the game was in jeopardy or turning against Villa. Scott Hogan netted two goals in 90 seconds early in the contest. Even after the Barnsley goal went in from a corner, I didn’t feel the game was slipping away from Villa after a quick-fire start. Jack Grealish dealt a perfect pass to Conor Hourihane for the third Villa goal of the day. The second half didn’t see any goals, but something jumped off of the screen and into my heart while watching the entirety of the match:
These players care about each other.
Genuinely, whole heartedly care about each other.
You can see and feel it. Like a crashing wave on a shore, through the ebbs and flows of the game, Aston Villa just may be on to something with the current assembled squad. While Villa are still in striking distance of a promotion push, the real story of the day should be the camaraderie and togetherness that is oozing out of the players right now. No matter what team you belong to in whatever fashion, when you’ve got “it” you know without even saying it.
Case in point: Birkir Bjarnason is dealt a pretty questionable foul by towering Barnsley striker Kieffer Moore. Robert Snodgrass starts briskly walking about 15 yeards to give Moore a shove.
First of all, Kieffer Moore is 6 feet, 5 inches tall. Robert Snodgrass is 5 feet, 11 inches tall.
With Birkir on the deck, players from both teams surrounding him on the ground and the referee within eye shot, Snodgrass decided to stand up for his teammate. This may seem like something that is supposed to happen with regularity. But, it hasn’t always been the case at Villa. It was a real moment of solidarity in my eyes to see such a seasoned professional like Snodgrass put himself out there and stand up for a player who was starting just his third game all season and recently finding his best form. Snodgrass gained a lot of respect from me after this action, and I honestly did not think he could be held any higher in my graces.
As the game concluded and the players slowly started to meet at the kickoff spot in pure exhaustion, there were a few more instances that made me feel that something special is materializing. Scott Hogan started to walk to the spot with his coat on. The ovation he received making way for Keinan Davis late in the game was definitely noticeable, even when watching from a television. As Hogan makes his way to the spot, clapping up the supporters and shaking hands with Barnsley players, he was intercepted by an Aston Villa player.
He wears the number 26. His name is John Terry.
John Terry sought out Scott Hogan mere minutes after the full-time whistle to give him a hug and a few words. The smile on Hogans’ face while in the clutches of Terry was one that you don’t see very often in the arena of sport. Whatever Terry said to him turned Hogan into a little lad again. It was joy to witness it. This is the kind of unity that Aston Villa has been missing for so, so long. These players care about each other. It cannot be said enough when it can be seen at often intervals, at least from where I am sitting.
Even after Jack Grealish places a decisive pass to Conor Hourihane for a goal, Hourihane wheels away backwards and points directly at Jack. It seemed to me that Conor was just as happy at the service from Jack as he was scoring the goal. That does not happen at every club, I can assure you. It is not only something to be proud over, but it is also a very positive sight as Villa continue their march for an automatic promotion spot.