For those of us in the United States, we're enjoying a 4-day weekend for Thanksgiving. It's really the best weekend ever. Eat tons of food? Check. Spend time with people you enjoy? Check. Watch a load of sports, guilt-free? Check. It's superb, and anyone who tells you otherwise is crazy. Even if your family gave you hell, you still got loads of food.
I spent my first Thanksgiving without any family members this year. It was just my girlfriend and I at home for the day. I fancy myself to be a pretty good chef (I worked in my dad's bakery - and later restaurant - from the age of 12... I had to learn how to cook at some point), so we had a feast fit for an army. For we two. It was glorious. Crab salad, Cornish game hens, mashed potatoes, andouille corn bread stuffing, pumpkin pie. Was it perfect? Certainly not. But it was tasty.
But Thanksgiving isn't just about food and football (whatever form you prefer). It's about actually doing what the name of the holiday says: giving thanks. So this Friday, the weekly Feedback column will be just that.
This week's question: What are you thankful for, Villa-wise, right now?
Aaron: I'm thankful for a lot where Villa is concerned, despite a less than thrilling record and what looks to be a mid-table (at best) finish on the horizon. The development system has long been one of the best in England and the results are becoming evident this year. I like Gerard Houllier a lot and I think he's a good man to have in charge of the club at this moment in its history. Randy Lerner is willing to invest in the club but unwilling to put it into a dangerous financial position. I'm glad that Martin O'Neill is gone, which is not something I expected to be saying at this point in the year. More than anything,I am thankful that of all the teams I follow that have gone through a rebuilding process, Villa seem to actually be going about things in a way that will produce positive results in both the near and long term. It's really nice to be able to watch a team lose or give away points and still have a positive feeling afterward.
Gareth: Well, considering that Canadian thanksgiving (also known as "real thanksgiving" was last month, I can't really include the youth movement, which has really come on over the last few weeks. So I'll go for Gerard Houllier. Really.
I know he isn't without his faults, but I think the man has a really impressive track record. He helped develop France's World Cup winners in 1998, so much so that he received his own winners' medal. He also built the Liverpool side that won the Champions League under Rafael Benitez, and many people have said that Steven Gerrard wouldn't be the player he is today without Houllier's influence in Gerrard's first years with Liverpool. The most important reason that I'm thankful for Houllier is because his hiring was a clear signal from the club of their intentions over the next few years. We could have hired someone with little or no top-flight experience to oversee a rebuilding project. With Kevin MacDonald, we very nearly did. But Houllier's hiring was a clear sign that this is a club that wants to compete, and I'm thankful for that.
Kirsten: At the risk of sounding possibly cheesier than I've ever sounded in my life, I'm thankful I don't have to go through this season alone. It's nice to have others to commiserate with--it gives me much less chance of becoming certifiably insane.
Oh, and for Barry Bannan, of course.
Robert: to the bullet points!
- Stewart Downing - I chose him as my favorite early on, despite people telling me to stay away. I'm glad I did. Watching him play is a joy.
- Marc, Barry, Ashley, Eric, Jonathan, and the rest of the kids - In a season that's been absurdly up and down, the kids have been far more fun than they have been heartbreak.
- The new Gaffer - He's a delight to see in pictures, he doesn't pull punches, and he's willing to play kids. None of us were sure what to think of him at first, but after a few months, there's no one I'd rather have at the helm right now. If we're going to do this whole youth-movement thing, we might as well have someone that knows how to get the best from the kids.
- The Manchester United Game - that was the best soccer game I've ever watched, just from a fan's perspective. Plus, it gave us The Goal.
- 7500 to Holte - I'm incredibly thankful to be a part of this community. I love writing with three of the best soccer writers I regularly read, and I love hearing from a fantastic group of commenters. It has been one of the best sports experiences of my life getting to know this team, and it would have never happened without this site. So thanks to Kirsten, Aaron, Gareth, and all of you!
Well, there is our stuff. Add yours down below! We're eager to see what good you're drawing out of a wild season.