I've had this post in my head for a few days now. As I sit here on my sofa, having just arrived home from watching Villa's League Cup exit to Bradford City, I thought what better time to post it? I'm not going to talk about Bradford. What's done is done. This is concerning the other pesky monkey that plagues the thoughts of Villa fans in recent times: Relegation.
First of all it seems sensible to look at exactly what is going wrong with the team, and personally I can see three very obviously glaring areas for development:
- Aston Villa cannot defend corners. Or free kicks. I don't know why, we just can't. It's been a problem for three years now.
- We don't use the wings enough. When we do, most of the time the ball is run into a corner and the hapless player on the ball has nobody backing him up. The team doesn't support each other.
- If Barry Bannan is our best corner-kick taker then I'm Zsa Zsa Gabor.
What to do about all of this I don't know, that's a discussion for another time. Now, I don't WANT to see Villa relegated and I never will, but I've found myself asking why Villa fans are so afraid of it. Is it because we've never experienced it before? I have a friend who is a Blackburn Rovers fan and my father is a life-long Norwich City fan and they both say the same about relegation: "It's not the end of the world".
Villa fans don't want to be relegated. We are a Premier League ever present. We are one of the most successful trophy winning clubs in English football history. Playing outside the top tier to most fans is both embarrassing and unthinkable. But I am a fan too, recently I have become quite disillusioned with football and I think I finally know why. The Premier League bores me.
TV will tell us it's the best league in the world, but we all KNOW what to expect from a Premier League season. We all KNOW that Team Manchester will finish in the top two slots. We all KNOW that the remaining Champions League places will go to two of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. We all KNOW that Wigan Athletic will flirt with relegation before pulling it round after February. We all KNOW that Villa will go 2-0 up against Manchester United and eventually lose. We all KNOW that Martin O'Neill and Harry Redknapp will be completely impervious to media criticism no matter how bad Sunderland and QPR get. We know which clubs will finish around mid-table, and which will struggle. There really aren't any talking points anymore. The Premier League, for whatever reason, has become predictable and dull.
Compare this with the Championship; If, as looks likely, Cardiff City finally manage promotion this year, the league's only certainty is gone. Once you're in it, the Championship is a fiendishly difficult division to get out of. Some teams manage it, some go the other way. So what would Championship Aston Villa be like? Would we compete at the top? Would we be playoff contenders? Would we have to settle for mid-table obscurity, or would we struggle yet again?
Which players would leave? Which players would stay? Which players would we bring in? It is inevitable that relegation would result in the losses of Darren Bent, Charles N'Zogbia and Christian Benteke, but can we say that about anybody else?
What would the crowds at Villa Park be like? If we do well, would attendances rise? Would Randy reduce ticket prices? Would the moaning clique finally give up altogether and stay at home every other week? Would this lead to a more positive home crowd more willing to give their support for the team?
So many questions, none of which I feel I can answer. What I can say Villa fans would experience in the Championship is a whole new plethora of away days. On a personal level this would mean trips to Huddersfield Town, where I went to university, and (provided they do not also suffer relegation) Bristol City, one of my favourite cities. There are more clubs from the Midlands in the Championship. We can enjoy trips to Wolves, Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest, Leicester City and Derby County. Premier League away days are fun, but I've done them, and I can't deny that a change would appeal to me.
So why are we so afraid of relegation? I can honestly think that it is only the embarrassment of being outside the top flight, but that would pass. There would be new challenges, different teams to face. It's taken me a long time to come to this realisation but I can't deny it any longer: I don't want to see Villa get relegated, but on the whole, I would enjoy watching the Championship more.