The Upside of Downside: Finding the Silver Lining In a Relegation Battle

More of this handsome young man. You're welcome Aaron.

Here at 7500 to Holte, I feel like I sort of hold the position of team optimist. With very few exceptions, I tend to be a "glass is not only half full, but the other half has some premium air in it" sort of guy. Once in a while this team will get the worst of me and I'll be down for a while, but it rarely lasts long. I feel like I can see the bright side in most everything. Is your cat on fire? Hey, that'll save on the heating bill! Stub your toe? At least it confirms that all of the nerves are working in your lower extremities!

So it is with that spirit in mind that I present this article. I'm not willing to concede that Villa are in the thick of a relegation battle yet. They're perilously close though, and a few results in the next week or two could put them in dangerous waters. That, to put it mildly, is disheartening. But thinking about the possibility of relegation terror has brought to light the realization that there are a few possible upsides to being in the thick of the battle to stay in 17th or higher.

  • Suddenly, the matches mean something. Granted, for those of us more attuned to the financial realities of football, every match means something. There is a significant monetary difference between finishing 16th and finishing in 10th, but for most of us that means nothing. No, if Villa had six more points right now, they'd be well short of a European spot, and safely above relegation. The matches would be essentially meaningless. We'd all tune in, but it would be for boring football without any real end goal. Yuck. If we're battling for safety, though, each match is huge. Every goal feels like another step closer to freedom, and score watching other matches becomes important. Suddenly football becomes compelling drama again. And really, just being entertained is all we can ask for. It's like a push for the playoffs in that the rewards for finishing one spot higher than those last three are huge.
  • We're going to get to see the kids. Villa are not a phenomenal team as they are currently constructed and managed. That said, if they had not sustained the bevy of injuries to key first-team players, I have no doubt that they would be safe and well outside of the relegation discussion. So yes, losing those players stinks. But it does open the doors for some of Villa's most exciting youth players. If Darren Bent is healthy, do you really think we'd be seeing as much Gary Gardner or Andreas Weimann as we have? Does Eric Lichaj score last weekend if Alan Hutton is around? The injuries have put us in a bad spot, but they've also opened the door to significantly more fun football. At least it's football that gives more hope.
  • Villa get some media attention. Yes, it won't be great, but they will be written about. And if they are written about, it raises awareness of the club. Bas Dost claimed that he didn't know much about Villa. He'd have a better chance of knowing something if they were in the press all the time. And surely, most stories will mention the fact that it is odd to see Villa in a relegation battle. As someone who doesn't know much, I might think "Hey, I could take a formerly great club back to glory!" This is, of course, pure speculation. But it makes some sense, no?
  • Worst case scenario: Villa probably don't have to implode even if they go down. One of the biggest problems that Birmingham City faced in the transition to this season was the need to pare their wage bill significantly to deal with the less opulent financial climate of the Championship. Villa would likely have to do the same, including sending some players on fire sale, but it wouldn't be too bad to unload some of the over-large contracts would it? Sure, we'd take a hit on Darren Bent, but there's free money when the club would inevitably come up. Villa have the benefit of an owner who is willing to pump some money in the club, and they wouldn't face the dire straits the scum did last summer.

    Additionally, even if the team had to work on a shoestring budget based on youth... they've got the youth for that. Villa have an academy that is one of the very best in England, if not all of Europe. They could feasibly field a nearly all-academy team that could compete well in the Championship. Gardner, Weimann, Stevens, Carruthers, Bannan, Albrighton, Herd, and Lichaj (I am sure I'm forgetting a few such as Grealish) are all ready to start or nearly ready to start on an EPL side. They would do well in the Championship. Better yet, they'd get a year of relatively low-pressure experience to come together as a team. If the Villa did drop--and I sure as hell hope they don't--I can see them being down for only a year and then being a "surprise" top 10 team in the EPL the next year thanks to the chemistry built amongst the players.

So yeah, a relegation battle will stink. I hope it doesn't come to that. A win against Liverpool this weekend would likely seal safety. But if things do get dicey, there are some things to look forward to. It's not ideal, but it's far from the end of the world.

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