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Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
The Premier League table has an eerily familiar look, doesn't it? In amongst the excitement of Liverpool's emphatic victory at Old Trafford and the discovery of stardust in the boots of Andrey Arshavin, this was the weekend when Aston Villa finally dipped out of the top four. There can't be many neutral observers who haven't warmed to the pace and determination of Martin O'Neill's exciting young side, which is why it's so sad to see that a significant section of their own fans have turned on them.

Boos rang out at Villa Park at the end of Sunday's defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, a thoroughly unfair response to an exhausted team hitting the wall in a campaign that began in July. Worse still was the ironic applause that greeted the withdrawal of Gabriel Agbonlahor. The youngster has dipped noticeably of late, with just one goal in his last 12 league games, but he's still one of the most exciting of the English prospects. Those supporters who leapt to their feet, gleefully celebrating his substitution should have a little think about how they'd react if he decided to leave in the summer. After this show of 'support', you could hardly blame him.

Villa haven't fallen away because of Agbonlahor, or any other player. They've been felled, as many expected, because of a lack of squad depth. Martin O'Neill has used just 24 players this season, the first in Premier League history to allow 18 man matchday squads. By contrast, Manchester United have named 33, Chelsea 32, Liverpool, who sagged noticeably as the fixtures came thick and fast through the winter, just 27 and Arsenal, 30. The back four that was breached twice by Spurs at the weekend consisted of a midfielder at right-back, a right back at left-back, another one at centre back and Zat Knight. No wonder Brad Friedel has lost his hair.

Villa fans, and it's not all of them, just a vocal section, have no right to react in this way. O'Neill inherited a squad who only narrowly avoided relegation in 2006. With the generous support of the dignified and discreet Randy Lerner, he has set down the foundations for the future of the club, finishing 11th in his first season, 6th in his second and now pushing all the way for the top four in only his third year. Another wave of young talent is waiting in the shadows, including the excellent Brad Guzan and the exciting Nathan Delfouneso. Middlesbrough, who appointed Gareth Southgate three years ago, would kill for this kind of progress, or indeed for any kind of progress.

Football fans have always been impatient for success, but there is a fine line between having high expectations and making self-destructive demands. There's nothing wrong with having a moan. The problem comes when the people concerned actually listen. Ask the Charlton fans who wanted Alan Curbishley to quit because he couldn't deliver European football. They'll be playing Southend in League One next year. The Newcastle fans who chanted 'Robson Out' at the board of directors after their UEFA Cup exit to Marseille. They ended up with Graeme Souness.

Those Aston Villa supporters who think that there is something unacceptable about a valiant attempt to reach the Champions League, or that the fading efforts of a tired youngster are worth jeering, need to reassess their own contribution to the cause. The Premier League has a nasty habit of dealing out reality checks to the ungrateful.
 

Rob Noxious

Retro Supremo⭐
Joined
Oct 23, 2008
Messages
7,379
Location
Penzance
I was at Villa yesterday and apart from rare glimpses of creativity from Ashley Young and a singular cross from James Milner, was hugely disappointed after the valiant fayre they provided earlier this season. Agbonlahor looks devoid of confidence and there was no indication of any leadership from Barry or any of the more experienced players, ie Petrov, Luke Young, Reo-Coker. I suspect their poor run coincides with the absence of Laursen but as a team, they lacked the spark and vitality which characterised their incisive, attacking play in the first four months of the season. Maybe they've lost their nerve or are just plain knackered, but whatever it is, the magic is no longer there and it seems that currently their best bet is to look for the head of John Carew, who the Holte End advised, "is bigger than me or you..."
 
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Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
I was at Villa yesterday and apart from rare glimpses of creativity from Ashley Young and a singular cross from James Milner, was hugely disappointed after the valiant fayre they provided earlier this season. Agbonlahor looks devoid of confidence and there was no indication of any leadership from Barry or any of the more experienced players, ie Petrov, Luke Young, Reo-Coker. I suspect their poor run coincides with the absence of Laursen but as a team, they lacked the spark and vitality which characterised their incisive, attacking play in the first four months of the season. Maybe they've lost their nerve or are just plain knackered, but whatever it is, the magic is no longer there and it seems that currently their best bet is to look for the head of John Carew, who the Holte End advised, "is bigger than me or you..."

That's a good point about Laursen, I wanted a whole paragraph on him but there wasn't room.

It's very sad, but the simple fact is that they're just completely ****ed, bless 'em. This happened to West Ham a few years ago when they had a run in the Inter-Twobob.
 

Not In Mohave Shrimper

formerly Drastic™
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
8,833
Location
SS1
Excellent article Slipper, but it doesn't suprise me, Villa fans are idiots - I shared a flat at Uni with two of them and they were more snide about SUFC than my Liverpool supporting flatmate.

Also if Villa fans don't want Agbonlahor can we have him on loan please?
 

Rob Noxious

Retro Supremo⭐
Joined
Oct 23, 2008
Messages
7,379
Location
Penzance
C'est Chico!

I was at Villa yesterday and apart from rare glimpses of creativity from Ashley Young and a singular cross from James Milner, was hugely disappointed after the valiant fayre they provided earlier this season. Agbonlahor looks devoid of confidence and there was no indication of any leadership from Barry or any of the more experienced players, ie Petrov, Luke Young, Reo-Coker. I suspect their poor run coincides with the absence of Laursen but as a team, they lacked the spark and vitality which characterised their incisive, attacking play in the first four months of the season. Maybe they've lost their nerve or are just plain knackered, but whatever it is, the magic is no longer there and it seems that currently their best bet is to look for the head of John Carew, who the Holte End advised, "is bigger than me or you..."

PS Blues footnote to my trip to Villa (was there due to family reasons, not ligging with the Prem...) was a reference to our very own Chico Hamilton, with photo of him doing some co-commentary for AVTV when one of their regular presenters "was unavailable for the home match against Chelsea," and mention of him being signed for them from us in 1969. Apparently, Chico "was very much a fans' favourite in claret and blue, making more than 250 appearances and scoring 48 goals, as well as helping Villa to two League Cup finals."
 
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