Dare We Dream?

11

A new era.

How many times have we heard that phrase over the last 10 years? David O’Leary and his new era. Martin O’Neill and his new era. Gerard Houllier and his new era. Alex McLeish and his . . . . time at the club. We Villa fans have become accustomed to false hope many times throughout our beloved club’s history. Painfully, sometimes dangerously, we stick by our team as inevitable disappointment hits.

We’ve been close to glory. We’ve been close to having truly great teams. We’ve been close to living a long forgotten dream, whether that dream be domestic silverware or competing in the higher echelons of the Premier League and Europe’s most prestigious competition, the Champions League.

Over the last ten years though, in my opinion, there’s always been one thing that has, over everything else, kept us from finally taking that step to greatness: our managers – notably Martin O’Neill. He got us the closest to the glory, on the cusp of Champions League qualification on several occasions, to an FA Cup semi-final appearance and a League Cup final.

His decision making, tactics, transfer policies and inability to create a squad that was fit enough to last 90 minutes after March cost us dearly. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. It’s fair to say for the majority of his tenure Martin O’Neill was loved by the Villa faithful, myself included. However, despite all our success on the pitch there was always that nagging little feeling that it wasn’t going to last, that we weren’t being built for the future. That nagging feeling began for me in the summer following MON’s first season when he purchased the likes of Marlon Harewood and Zat Knight for substantial amounts of money. It grew louder as each season passed; towards the end of his final season the writing wasn’t so much on the wall as on MON’s forehead.

The point I’m attempting to make, perhaps poorly, is that it never seemed like we ever looked further than the next season. There was a certain inevitability about our failures at the final hurdle each season. It was disappointing but never massively surprising.

What’s different now? Well, lots. Firstly, Paul Lambert is now the man in charge. The faith I have in this guy is unshakable. The Premier League is a different beast to what it was 5 years ago: it’s tougher, less kind. Every team around us is improving, which is shown by how far backwards we have fallen in the last 3 seasons. Not only has our deterioration been drastic, the improvement of the teams around us going in the other direction has been rapid.

Believe it or not, that should give you hope and it should strengthen your faith in Lambert like it has mine. Last season was awful, dreadful and downright embarrassing at times. Our young team was battered, destroyed, out fought and out thought on many occasions. I can’t count the number of times that this tough league we’re in pushed us down to the ground, kicked us then spat on us as it walked away. Lesser managers would have seen their team fall away and die without a fight. Lambert never lost faith though: “We’ll be fine” was the mantra he repeated after every soul-destroying last minute defeat.

Then it happened: our young, inexperienced team found themselves. In this Premier League which had tried with all its might to crush us, as we were ridiculed and written off, the lads and the manager learned, developed, each defeat made them stronger and slowly the tide turned.

One thing I noticed about last season was, despite the obvious relief at our improved form from early March onward, it wasn’t a surprise. We all, or certainly myself and a lot of Villa fans I discussed this with, knew, or at least firmly believed, that this team led by Lambert would come good eventually. Sure, in the aftermath of defeats in January and February we may have briefly thought differently. That’s football and we’re allowed to be fickle for 5 minutes after an 8-0 defeat.

Now we have the future. Is it a future to look forward to? You know what, I’ll let you make up your own mind on that. I’m nice like that.  Let’s just look at, and think about, a few things. We have a young and motivated manager. Sure, he makes mistakes, it’s easy to forget that last season was only his second top flight season in management. We have a young squad who appear (for the most part) to have joined Aston Villa to be part of Lambert’s project and to take the club forward. Most importantly, as a club we seem to have a plan with a definite and sustainable direction for the future.

Paul Lambert won’t be at Aston Villa forever. We may have to accept that at some point bigger, brighter lights may call him. One thing I truly believe is that Lambert will leave this club in a far better state than when he joined, not only on the pitch but off it. It won’t take us 3 years, 3 different managers and several large steps backwards to get going forwards again.

Hopefully that is some way off yet. For now, let’s just enjoy the ride. There will no doubt be more bad days to come – that’s the nature of what Lambert is doing. Those days will become fewer and fewer though, I believe. This team is growing, getting better and although I don’t have massive expectations for next season or the following season, brighter days are coming. That’s my belief anyway.

I think the phrase ‘new era’ is finally applicable to Aston Villa Football Club.

Thanks for reading. Up The Villa!

11 COMMENTS

  1. Absolutely quality read mate, one of the best on the Villa in a good while actually sir!

    Says everything i’ve been feeling or trying to sum up for a while. Take a bow son 🙂

  2. I agree with what has been written but I am feeling more positive. I have followed Aston Villa since the Danny Blanchflower days and a long time ago! I have seen all the ups and downs! Whilst I would happily settle for finishing next season that would be not fair on Lambert who is a top class manager and is building for the future and it starts next season. I firmly believe we will be top 8 and if Benteke has a say in it will be top 6 and certainly above Spurs who I am getting fed up of hearing about! Who do they think they are! Well I will tell you they weren’t even in nappies when Villa founded the Football League! Friends we now have Christian Benteke who is awesome and will get better! 25 goals and maybe 30 next season and if he does do that then we will be top 6 without a shadow of a doubt! All we need is our players to stay fit and not to keep going down with all these injuries!
    2013-14 will be the Year Villa proved they really are on the Up!

  3. Echoing Wookie great read the best on any a Villa site for a good long while, Aston Villa Life eat your heart out.

  4. Great read, sums up a lot of villans feelings. One word of caution though. The way the fixtures have come out, we should get off to a slow start and building momentum will be tough again. We shouldn’t expect the new lads to rip it up from day one either. Will the villa faithful keep the faith?

  5. Very good read about the Villa. As a Villa fan going on 25 years, I have seen the ups and downs and I feel a huge up coming. I feel with the team that we have, we will be hurting the big teams as they will still think we will roll over when they come calling. Looking forward to this season and the seasons to come with Lambert in charge.

  6. Early last season when we were getting beat by all the big strong sides I was getting really angry at RL for what appeared to be a cost cutting exercise bringing in a rookie prem manager an a bunch of kids I’d never heard of. Then slowly but surely you could see things coming together. Now I have totally bought into the whole idea of what the club is trying to do. We can definitely say this IS a new era for the club we all love. Bring it on!!

  7. I agree with all you have said but rather than concentrate on CB who we know can score, we really have to be concerned that if the defence does not get sorted we will struggle again. The pre season games are hardly encouraging with the same silly mistakes costing us. I have to say though that if we can get it sorted I am quietly optimistic of a very good season ahead.

  8. Great article. I think the comment about the defence tightening up is very relevant though. However I think if the midfield perform tighter and work well together that will take some of the pressure off the defence and you will see an improvement. There are plenty of goals in this team so top eight is certainly a strong possibility, and I say that after watching the Villa for fifty years. UTV

  9. I am definitely in the optimistic camp.

    A core of young players with a good season together that was starting to tack at the back end of last season and getting some results. At last we have some depth as well – if two/three of the new signings can turn out to be of Lowton/Westwood/Benteke quality, we should be very strong next year.

    This depth also gives us the chance to get the youngsters – Grealish, Johnson, Burke, Drennan, Siegrist – out on loan and getting some real valuable experience rather than sticking around as precautionary back up and only playing in the reserves.

    I really hope we can get rid of those that Lambert doesn’t want – the 35+ numbers in the squad. I am also hopeful that we can bring in one more player – a creative CM’er that can play in front of a two fromWesty, Delph, Sylla, Gardner or KEA and feed Tekkers etc. whilst also teaching Carruthers. I think PL is chasing this type of player or he wouldn’t have enquired about Kiyotake.

    Looking forward to next season and returning to the top half. UTV.

  10. Thank you for your kind comments. Lets hope the momentum we built from March onwards keeps building over the summer! Top ten would be absolutely fantastic and it’s not impossible by any stretch of the imagination. Patience and faith can take you a long way sometimes.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here