I know this is an opinion that will not be widely shared around these parts, but thank heavens for the Euro qualifying break. It was certainly tough to go without our Villa, but I think the break was perfect. If you'll be so kind as to follow me below deck, I'll happily explain.The main reason I have this unorthodox view is that the break could not have been timed better from a personal standpoint. I'm starting my third year of grad school (first in the PhD program), and the beginning of the semester is always rough. Just ask Kirsten. But even more so, it allowed me to get my bearings a little bit. You see, this whole starting to like soccer thing has been a bit of a whirlwind. Take the plunge in, get psyched for a new season, further pumped after a fantastic opener, dragged down after Newcastle and Rapid, and then a shot of adrenaline with the Everton game. Add onto that the managerial turmoil and the Milner saga, and I was lucky to be treading water.
So the break for the players was a welcome one for me as well. I was able to catch up on stuff I hadn't read yet. I got the chance to get my writing for this site a bit more in line. I had the ability to get to what was happening in the rest of the EPL. And I got to evaluate everything that had come before for Villa and my burgeoning fanhood. There's a definite danger, as a new fan, in taking too much in at once. It's like drinking. Most everyone will agree that drinking is fun, but everyone is a lightweight their first time.
This was my first time really getting into soccer. I was a lightweight, and I was approaching the blackout phase. The break served as my night of rest and let me get over the hangover of the first three weeks. Now I'm as primed as ever for Stoke today. But on the other hand, the realities of being a fan are setting in a bit. Like that same drinker, after your first time, you realize you have to pace yourself a bit, and you can't drink whenever you want. With school now in full swing, I won't be able to see every match. For instance, I've got class starting at the same time as the match today. Normally, I'd just have it on silently in the background, but in a class of seven people, it's too easy to get caught. And not being at a job where I have nothing to do will severely cut into my reading time. But, I remind myself, if Kirsten can do it on a 1L schedule, then any of us can do it. It'll take some adjusting to get things just right. I have to remember that I can't get blackout anymore, but at least I know how to get my buzz.
I am blatantly stealing a new idea for the Vernal Villan from Cottager's Confidential. Russ's column of ten things he thinks about Fulham is a fantastic way for me to get caught up a bit on that club, even if I don't fully read his blog every day (though I should. It's a good read). But I also like the concept, it allows for some quick thoughts that don't necessarily warrant a full post. So every week, I'm going to add my one thing I think about Villa.
One Thing I Think About Aston Villa: The Houllier signing is looking better and better, but he has to be able to bring a fresh approach. The more I read, the more I worry about his tactics and strategy at Liverpool, but also, the more I am convinced he can bring fun-to-watch and effective soccer to Villa Park. It hinges on utilizing the incredibly strong youth system we have in place, and the seeming team emphasis on speed. If we can become a blazingly fast team that puts a premium on wing play and has two great forwards (Gabby and Ash), I think we stand to pick up quite a few more points than people expect.