A new season is upon us. Once again, it’s time to board the Aston Villa roller-coaster. Over the last few seasons the roller coaster has been more like a slide; will this season follow suit?
My first article of last season was mainly positive: I was looking forward to the season with a real sense of optimism, I had really bought in to the ‘young and hungry’ policy and, after a strong end to the 2012-2013 campaign, I was buoyant.
We made an unbelievable start, getting a 3-1 win at Arsenal. My optimism seemed justified. Hell, I even thought Luna was the new Jordi Alba! If only I had known what was going to unfold in the coming months…
I don’t think I was alone in my optimism. Benteke and a then coveted Andi Weimann had signed new contracts. With Gabby firing, we had an attack to be feared. I felt we had one of the best goalkeepers in the League and that the rest of the players would be a lot stronger for their baptism of fire in 2012-2013. Annoyingly, we ended up facing much of the same uninspiring football as we had endured for the previous three seasons and Villa Park was yet again a very unhappy place – unless of course you were an away fan.
Fast forward a year and it is fair to say that expectations are generally very low. We have an owner who wants out but who doesn’t seem to be able to sell, a manager most fans don’t want, our CEO has scarpered and season ticket sales are apparently well below the numbers of previous years. I’m really cheering everybody up here, aren’t I?
What do I think now? Looking back, I was wide of the mark with my thoughts last summer. Although I don’t feel dreadfully down about Aston Villa, I don’t really have any expectations this time round. I am at least looking forward to the new season because, for some crazy reason, I miss going to Villa Park and I also just love football!
Senderos, Richardson, Cissokho and Cole have arrived. All boast experience and Villa fans’ expectations of them vary.
Lambert et al don’t appear to be finished with transfers and I would expect a couple more to come in and for a few squad players to move on. The links with Sanchez are very pleasing as he seems to be exactly what we need – a strong central midfield player.
We also have the ‘bomb squad’ with the first team again. Hutton, N’Zogbia and Bent have all played big parts in pre-season and they have all impressed. N’Zogbia in particular offers something different and something that we didn’t have last season. Bent should prove a goal threat while Benteke recovers.
Getting Benetke fit is important but he should not be rushed back into action. Last season, we saw what can happen when he is rushed back. The big Belgian is Villa’s one player who scares opposition fans and if he fires we should be fine this time round.
If we can keep Ron Vlaar then he should be on the crest of a wave after the World Cup he had and, with Delph poised to take his game up yet another level, I believe we have enough to keep our heads above water before an eventual takeover.
Young Jack Grealish appears to be someone worth keeping an eye on as well.
For most of last season I was a firm backer of Paul Lambert. I felt his hands have generally been tied and that he deserved a bit more time. I must admit that I did start to get frustrated with him as the season progressed. Some of the football was downright rotten but I am willing to give him another chance. I only hope other fans give him a chance from day one this season as it appears he is going to be here for the foreseeable future and I don’t think the negative vibe do anyone any good. Obviously, if results and performances go the wrong way then I understand people turning.
I’m yet to mention Roy Keane. It seemed odd that, after an alleged bullying culture under our former first team coaches, we should employ ‘Keano’ but all the feedback about him seem positive. I welcome him purely on the basis that he might inject a bit of nastiness into some of our players as for too long we have been ‘good old Aston Villa’ – pushovers at Villa Park and a team that seemed to enjoy gifting the opposition soft goals. Keane’s input should lead to less of this.
I don’t care who owns us, manages us or plays for us. I just want Aston Villa Football Club – and its supporters – to enjoy some glory.
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” – Alexander Pope.
Whatever your expectations are, I hope you have an enjoyable ride on the aforementioned Aston Villa roller-coaster.