A familiar problem is growing at Villa Park: the place has no fire about it – in many ways. It is an issue that needs to be addressed by the now ‘enthused’ Randy Lerner and Tom Fox, Villa’s new wings.
Attendance and Atmosphere
The past few seasons have seen a rapid decrease in attendances. Whether that is down to poor performances, the eye-popping prices or both, the atmosphere and attendance are not the same. Brigada is trying to solve one of these issues but this group’s goals cannot be achieved without club and supporter co-operation, which is not happening. The ticket prices are at a eye-watering high. The attendances are at a real low. Only around 33,000 fans attended the game against Manchester City at the weekend. That is not on. No team should have to play in front of 33,000 when there is room for an extra 9,000 supporters.
The club is still in a transitional phase. Villa is not a ‘Sky four’ team and therefore cannot afford to miss out on vital gate receipts. If the Villans were in the top four, a fan would expect to have to pay £45 a ticket but why should these prices stand when the ground has empty seats galore? The atmosphere has lost its sting. Teams feared Villa Park but now it has turned into a circus tent. Supporters visiting Villa Park can sing about an empty stadium. It is an embarrassment to the Premier League let alone Villa not to fill the stadium in the second city in England. Nobody expects Lerner to cut the season ticket costs by too much but match day tickets are too pricey for a fan who cannot get to every game or who is visiting Birmingham.
‘Oh, Christian Benteke, Oh, Christian Benteke’ rang around the stadium in the sixty-second minute against Manchester City as a man who has been sorely missed, a man with a big future – and build – returned to action. Agbonlahor has offered no fire and neither has Weimann. Robinson is on loan and the Villans cannot rely on the rest of the side to score. Benteke can offer a lot. He can create and score. Benteke is the man to fire Tom Fox’s dream of Europa League football this season.
With Kozak out until January, the big Belgian can stamp his authority on the central role. Kozak did not deserve such bad luck. He has been forgotten this summer, as the questions were all about Benteke, not Kozak. The Czech has an instinctive touch. He has had no time to really bond with Benteke. If they could hit it off, Villa Park could see more goals this season than in any of the past four.
The fire needed up front is currently nowhere to be seen. After sixty-two minutes on Saturday night, Villa fans witnessed the flame-thrower that is Benteke entering the fray – and they responded accordingly. Fans can look forward to Benteke causing mayhem again after the international break. Lambert can kick-start his season in October, with some big teams out of the way. The fire in the front line should be reignited soon, in perfect time for a tough winter ahead. With time, Lambert’s Lions can roar again. The season is definitely going to be a slow burner and there will be no smoke without fire with Roy Keane around.