Last night, I made a conscious decision not to write about Aston Villa. With the knuckles bruised from my living room wall, the remote control smashed and a few more strands of grey hair on my 21 year old head, I thought it was best to avoid any further kneejerk reactions and have a go at some sleep.
This morning, my scars have certainly not healed. The bitter taste in my mouth is still consuming and the League Table positions are still static. However, as much time as I’ve had to reflect on another abysmal home result, I’ve had the same time to contemplate how far we’ve really come.
When the final whistle blew on Wednesday night, I was probably as vocal as anyone about my harsh feelings towards O’Neill’s men,
“Bottlers” … “Wasters” … “Lazy ****” … to name but a few of the reactive insults that were fired from my mouth as surely as my beeping phone was fired under the bed for the night. Even worse, the descended red mist turned my short term attentions to the ‘incompetency’ of my beloved Martin O’Neill. Of course, I had my usual rant at Heskey and Cuellar and even criticized the manager’s overall policies. I was enraged at his “pointless” summer buys – because we still continue to play the same team over and over, with no rest for the first XI. I fumed at his decision to play two big men up front and I was even questioning his ability to get the team firing at such crucial stages in the season. Fortunately though, this mindless ignorance was contained within the walls of my home and to the ears of my family (who knew rightly that this was nothing more than just another schoolboy hissy fit).
With the morning light, the irrational blinkers are removed and it’s always much easier to see the picture as a whole. As I awoke, I was feeling more disappointed than angry and it was at that moment I was almost sick remembering the jeers echoing around our ‘fortress’.
I thought of my own obscenities and shook my head as I recalled calling the most hardworking outfit “lazy”.
I questioned my questioning of the manager’s decision to play the two big lads up top together – would I have picked Delfouneso in that situation? Would I have played 4-5-1 at home to Wolves and Sunderland? No and No.
Why has O’Neill played the same players every week? But … has he? Although Villa have still the lowest tally, they have increased the number of players who have started to 20 this year – and has this paid dividends? Absolutely. Excuse MON if he thinks it’s important to find consistency in this crucial run in and stick with the same back 5 that has leaked the fewest league goals this year. Excuse him if he thinks the orchard of youth at Villa, in Delph, Albrighton and Delfouneso, is yet to bear fruit. And I think we’ll forgive our manager for the untimely injury of Gabriel Agbonlahor, our top scorer, our ‘out man’, and the only player of his kind in the squad. Finally, O’Neill should maybe be pardoned for his expert eye deciding that the rest of our squad players simply are not good enough – and more importantly, by not using these, we have embraced two extended cup runs and have gave ourselves a fighting chance at fourth.
Sometimes, I’m ashamed to call myself a Villa fan and associate with the likes of the fickle boos at Villa Park.
So I ask the question: Boo-boys, what do you want?
Yes, we’re expected to turn over the likes of Wolves and Sunderland at home; and yes, we’re expected to fight for 4th – but this expectation has derived purely through the achievements of Martin O’Neill. We’ve never expected like this before in the past, we’ve never hoped. We might have put up with O’Leary had he not let us succumb to 31 defeats in 2 seasons. We might not have expected anything of O’Neill had he carried on his predecessors’ form of 42 goals a season … 42 league points before he took over. In their final years, Taylor and O’Leary ensured we avoided relegation – keeping us afloat in 16th spot, didn’t our former managers make our club proud?
Conversely, O’Neill has served to immediately stamp out our heavy loss tallies – making us difficult to beat, losing 10 games each year (the same amount of defeats suffered by the Villa team of 1993 – who consequently finished league runners up). Moreover, in just his second season, MON’s side banged in an impressive 71 league goals – the highest ever scored by a Villa Premier League side. Indeed, the closest Aston Villa ‘goals for’ tally in the Premier League came in its first season (92/93) with the 2nd placed side, who managed only to notch up 57 goals. And lest we forget, Martin O’Neill’s signing Ashley Young is the only player to ever receive 3 player of the month awards in the one season (2008-09). And maybe we’ve turned a blind eye to his contribution to the careers of Young, Gabby, Gareth Barry, Curtis Davies and James Milner – all of whom have propelled to the international stage under the guidance of the Northern Ireland man. And rather than taking us backwards along the same route of every past Villa manager (premier league), we have developed into a stronger and stronger outfit each season. Racking up a higher points tally each year (62 last year – the last time Villa won 4th place, they got 63) in the face of the 21st century superpowers of the Premier League, O’Neill has ignored the chains of modern day football and continues to push his way to the peak of the league. And of course after spending less than all of his rivals, MON has still secured Villa’s rightful place in the top 7 of today’s league brackets – and what is more, has made them even more difficult to beat than previous years with only 5 losses recorded in this season’s league campaign. Such form would prove pivotal in cup runs (as proven this year), and such form is why Aston Villa’s 16 year wait for a trophy wont prolong much farther.
How dare anyone, therefore, mutter even a restless sigh at Villa Park. Yes, I’ve cried and complained within the confines of my bedroom – but I’d like to think if I was lucky enough this year to sit in the Holte End, I’d have the appreciative manners to understand just how far we’ve come under Martin O’Neill. I know I would support our tightly knit unit, playing for our cause, instead of making them anxious of coming home. And in any moment of frustration, I’m sure that I have enough common sense to realise the steps taken in the last 3 and a half years to restore pride in a once battered club. The fact that boos ring out at an opportunity wasted for 2 extra points is testament to the rejuvinated pride amongst our faithful – because we know we can do better; we finally believe we can do better. But let’s not forget where we came from. Let’s not allow unreasonable short term anger to have a lasting effect on our team. Let’s not throw our football knowledge, our self-respect and our club down the drain just because O’Neill has allowed us to expect again. Unless you actually think it’s time we brought back Graham Taylor or David O’Leary, place your trust in MON and his vision for the football dynasty he is creating. I hear Phil Brown and Tony Mowbray are available …
C’mon! Let’s wake up and praise the Lord that we have Martin O’Neill in our midst.