Supporting Aston Villa over the last 10 years has been like being in an on and off relationship with someone you know isn’t good for you and constantly makes the same mistakes. Yet, every single time you think they’ve ‘changed’ and you always go running back to them saying to yourself “It’s different this time”.
Five days before the 2010/11 Season, James Milner had recently left and Martin O’Neill had decided to leave Aston Villa out of nowhere. At the time it may have seemed like a minor blip but in reality, it was the beginning of a steady downward trajectory for us resulting in our eventual relegation in 2016 and what we all thought was rock bottom… until it became apparent Dr Tony and Keith Wyness had actually run our club into near administration days after an abysmal performance in the playoff final against Fulham.
Anyway, they say everything happens for a reason and in our case, it couldn’t be more true. NSWE came in, they brought in Christian Purslow and then came a game against Preston which now seems like one of the defining moment in our recent history. We were rewarded a last-minute penalty to win the game. a small dose of joy and optimism was injected into Villa Park followed by a communal exasperated groan of “WHELAN?!” as our boy Glenn stepped up to take the penalty. He missed, cabbagegate ensued, Bruce was fired, Dean Smith, Richard O’Kelly, John Terry and Suso were hired and the rest is history. We were hanging off the edge of the abyss that we had been falling further and further into since O’Neil left. Whelan’s miss and a flying cabbage meant that instead of falling yet further, we began to climb… and climb we have!
When you think about it, If Glenn Whelan hadn’t missed that penalty we’d probably have had Bruce as manager for a bit longer and would subsequently still be in the Championship now.
We then went on a record-breaking run, won the playoff final and finally achieved promoted back to the premier league; that downward trajectory has finally halted. We have the 3rd Richest owners in the Premier League, massive infrastructure, an incredible fanbase and finally, a forward-thinking manager with a plethora of talent at his disposal.
We have a long season ahead, so here are three things that I think we Villa fans need to bear in mind for the upcoming campaign:
1. Enjoy this summer, we probably won’t have another one like this for a long time
This summer there have been many cries of Villa ‘doing a Fulham’ but fans and people who actually follow the club know that’s not the case. We have lost 10+ players and so far as of writing this article Villa have had 9 players join the club (including Guilbert) and including the imminent £15 Million signing of Brazillian Midfielder Douglas Luiz we will have spent over £100 million this summer and according to a recent report from Gregg Evans we still want three or four more signings in the door.
Assuming that did not include Engels and Luiz, this could potentially see our spending rise close to the £150 Million mark. Considering what Smith said in his recent interview with AVTV mentioning he wants players challenging in all the positions you would assume he is still looking for a Goalkeeper; we have been linked heavily with Heaton and Butland. Another position we are being constantly linked with is defensive midfield and we have been strongly linked with Club Brugge midfielder Marvelous Nakamba. Another Winger that we have been most recently been linked with Egyptian International Trezeguet (reports now indicate that we have in fact signed the Egyptian for a fee just under £10 million), and another striker where the main links have only really been to Maupay which could be a case of lazy journalism.
It has very much been like a summer where you get promoted to the Premier League from the Championship on Football Manager and you get a takeover so you transform the whole squad. As exciting as this all is we probably won’t have a transfer outlay this large with this many ins and outs for a long time. We are going into next season and we will have a solid core of players who can play for us for a very long time and fit into the club ethos and Dean Smith’s philosophy. The main thing for the club going forward is becoming sustainable so although the spending was high this summer the club is ultimately looking to make a profit off all of these players if they are to leave the club in future. Dean Smith has a system in which players look better and thrive under his leadership just look at Whelan, Taylor and Elmo for the second half of last season. With all that in mind, I think the next few transfer windows if we don’t have any first-team players leaving we won’t see our spending exceed these numbers for a very long time we have a solid core and players who will be able to step up whenever necessary.
2. Aston Villa are here to compete but there will be a lot of ups and downs
Our squad is a real Dean Smith Squad, young, hungry and all with great technical ability. Although pundits and people from the outside looking in will think we’re in a relegation battle from the jump. The players and staff will most definitely go into every match thinking they can win it and I believe we will shock quite a few teams and a midtable or above finish isn’t out of the question.
However, Smith will stick to his attacking football and keeping the ball be it Burnley or Liverpool and with all that in mind we may also find ourselves on the back of some real beatings and they may even come against teams we aren’t expecting it against. This season is going to be a learning experience for a lot of the players and even the coaching team however it will only make us stronger as a team which leads me to my 3rd and final point.
3. We as a fan base need to change and fix our mindset
As a fanbase we Villa fans go from ‘Best Fans in the land’ to toxic in the time it takes anyone with ‘journalist’ in their Twitter bio to click send on a tweet. This way of thinking and vilifying players based off vague reports matched with guesswork isn’t a good look to prospective players or players currently at the club.
In this age of social media, you’ve got to assume that players see everything about them online. An example is when a journalist from the sun dropped the news about wolves making an £18 Million bid for Tammy Abraham, bearing in mind teams are allowed to make bids for players it doesn’t mean the player wants to leave. However Villa twitter went straight into meltdown tweeting Tammy himself saying things like “you’re no bigger than the club” “You aren’t good enough we can get a better striker” as if he manufactured Wolves’ bid himself, we know in the end Tammy ended up staying however if he did leave would you blame him. The fanbase that had his back suddenly turned on him would you want to stay at a club being subject to so much abuse for something you haven’t done yet?
As it was January if there was a player we wanted to sign and they’ve seen us behave like that they probably won’t want to join us. I am not saying players join the club based purely off the fan support but the fans make up the foundations of the club and we always say we’re the 12th man if that’s true we have to be the 12th man when the boys are on and off the pitch.
If results and performances don’t go our way we can’t immediately jump to pointing the fingers at players and the manager, negativity breeds more negativity. The season just gone we had a very rough patch and we jumped on the backs of the manager and the players and admittedly the performances weren’t good enough but constant booing and calling for someone’s head doesn’t improve the club or results whatsoever. We’re called supporters for a reason, to support through thick and thin.
We will have a run this season where results won’t go our way and we need to cheer on our boys through this time. In the 10 game win streak, the constant positive support and energy from the fans kept the boys going and motivated and it followed us into the playoffs despite the draw at Leeds and loss to Norwich fan support got us through the difficult semi-final leg vs West Brom.
Negativity won’t help us thrive as a team and only gives the players more obstacles to beat when trying to get over the hump. We can be very fickle and it’s very toxic for the club on many levels, Pulis whilst at Stoke previously said that he knows when playing at Villa Park if you get the home fans riled up and frustrated it feels like less of an away match for them. I’d say that was still true last season, let’s not help the away team, let’s help our own team.
We’re back to where we deserve to be with a Villa manager, a Villa captain, Owners who are serious about making the club a force again and great players who will only get better. There hasn’t been this much optimism going into the season for Villa fans in nearly 10 years so let’s stick with our boys through thick and thin and most importantly, lets enjoy ourselves make the most of this season.
By Nathan Queeley-Dennis