In 1971 I endured a 15-hour trip to Gillingham on a Wednesday night to see Aston Villa play out a boring 0-0 draw in what was then called the third division. I went to every game at home, and all but two away from home that year, but Gillingham stands out, and not just because of the bloody tedious journey and match. Geoff Vowden made his debut for us that night, which made the whole frustrating experience worthwhile. It meant I had the opportunity to boo when his name was read out on the tannoy system before the match. Vowden, you see, was from the dark side. He was one of them.
I use this to illustrate how deep the attachment of your football club can be. Beyond your immediate family it can be the longest relationship many of us enjoy (or endure) in our entire lifespan. How strong the ties that bind and how much you can loath your rivals.
Well for me, I suspect today will be that day that those ties are forever loosened. Not discarded, I don’t think you ever really do that (although I was once told that a very dear mate and fellow Villan had the word ‘Spurs’ etched on his satchel at school, but he always denied it) but maybe a fracturing of the relationship that means it will never be the same.
Today is the day our Chairman decided to recruit a new manager whose previous job had been to manage over on the dark side. Not just manage, but to the delight of all of us at Villa Park, manage them so badly that he succeeded in fulfilling our dreams and getting them relegated… Twice!!! His other managerial achievements included leading Glasgow Rangers to a record ten games without a win and succeeding in getting Them to finish third in a two- horse race (not to mention a 5-1 humiliation at Villa Park – oh well, go on, mention it).
On the message boards they say, give him a chance. One muppet even comparing it with Cloughie moving from Derby to Forest (which, incidentally, he didn’t do). Oh yes, the Brian Clough that got Derby promoted, won the league and got to the semi-final of the European Cup. Excuse me if I fail to see the direct comparison.
No, for me the nearest equivalent is seeing David Cameron lose the next general election really badly, and the seeing the Labour Party decide to make him their next Leader. We haven’t always made The wisest choices in terms of leadership, but we could surely never be that downright stupid, or deliver our supporters such a kick in the teeth.
I should wish him luck, because he is so deeply disliked even by those prepared to grin and bear it, that he is going to need it. Signing a bunch of cheapskate no-hopers whilst selling our best players, and getting less than 4 points out of the first 3 games and you’ll see the knives out from all those who deep down know this was a ridiculous move by a Chairman and CEO who know little about football, and nothing at all about the culture and values of those of us who have it burned into our souls.