Come Monday 16th May 2016, Aston Villa may have finally rescinded its status as one of the only ever-presents in the illustrious Barclays Premier League. Hell, if the team can’t improve on its current standings this could be confirmed for us far earlier.
This isn’t a good thing. Getting relegated isn’t a fun experience. Gallows humour can only carry you so far before the bleakness of impending doom overpowers any desperate attempts to make light of the situation.
We’ve got 26 games left. We’ll probably win a few, simply by the laws of averages. Maybe, if we’re lucky, Rémi will be able to get the squad playing well at some point. Maybe he won’t.
From the remaining 26 games we will probably need 31 points to stay up, which is roughly 1.19 points per game. Over the last four years we haven’t managed over about 1 point per game. It’s not looking good.
The conclusion is unthinkable. Aston Villa, in the Championship? Our beautiful old ground, hosting the likes of MK Dons, Preston, Brentford and Rotherham? Sacrilege.
But that’s not to say a stint outside the top league would be the worst thing to ever happen to us.
It’s been tough these last few years and realistically, until Randy finds someone he’s willing to sell us to, it’s not going to change much. Another year of this dull, depressing life of being lower-table stragglers, desperately praying that there aren’t any upsets, supporting the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal to get a result against Bournemouth because fuck the romance of football we need points? That’s no life, that’s shit.
The Championship could be just the balm we need. Providing Garde shows he is actually a good manager, assuming he doesn’t jump ship, we might even win games. Our squad, for its flaws, is blessed with young players (who are meant to have plenty of potential, else we wouldn’t have bought them), and were we to go down these young stars would hardly be in the position to demand to move on. Who would want players who’d just had a season as abject as the one we’re suffering right now?
A year in the Championship could help change that. A year of team bonding, as this unit forges itself together, fostering a winning mentality once more. Look at how West Ham have done since dropping under the stewardship of Avram Grant back in 2010. After a good season and narrowly missing out on automatic promotion, they went up via the playoffs and have improved their squad every year since they’ve been back in the Premier League and with their new stadium opening next season look like they may well be on the cusp of being genuine European contenders.
Newcastle as well, who seemed revitalised after their relegation season, coming back up and finding themselves as high as 5th place two years later. Were it not for the mismanagement of Mike Ashley and Co. they could still be up there today.
For the supporters, too, the Championship would be a relief. Supporting Aston Villa of late has become a burden. It’s become painful. We don’t look forward to Saturdays anymore because the outcome is more or less already pretty certain. We’ll lose, everyone else will win, people will get nasty, there’ll be arguments, you’ll end up calling your mate a cunt and then you’ll wake up on Sunday and try and remember what you did after about 8pm.
Imagine a world where we didn’t need to worry where the next win was coming from. Imagine a world where we could arrive at Villa Park and expect to see us score! It’s all there, right beneath us, in the mystical world of the Championship.
For any supporter under the age of about 23, this would be a very real opportunity for them to actually see their beloved club win something. Older fans may rankle at the idea but plain mediocrity is certain if we remain in the Premier League.
Having said all that, there are definite downsides to relegation. Chief amongst those the fear that we would never rise again; not a phoenix from the ashes but more a dead duck.
Next season another new TV deal comes in for Premier League clubs, worth £5 billion. To miss out on a slice of that pie would be huge (although with the parachute payments associated with the most recent deal, and the fact that up until then we’d not missed a single Premier League TV deal would stand us in good stead)
Further, losing breeds losing. Another season of relentless crushing disappointment and then a relegation could see the mighty Villa "do a Leeds", and disappear without a trace. It’s a very real risk- look at Wolves, only recently dropped twice before they stabilised. More than competitive in the Championship now though, and Leeds were a special case. For all the mistakes he’s made and the abuse that Randy (rightfully) gets, he’s far from the incompetence shown by the owners of the likes of Leeds, Pompey and Blackburn.
As for being ever-presents in the Premier League, that’s not all that really. It’s only been around for 23 years, and despite Sky’s desperate attempts to pretend otherwise, football actually existed before it was founded! We’ve dropped as far as what is now League 1 before (admitted once, back in the 70s) as I’m sure you’ll be aware. We may not be the most familiar with the lower tiers but neither are we as much strangers to it as some make out. We have no god-given right to expect Premier League football, and there are many many teams who have never experienced the glitz and glamour and relentless defeats of life in the Premier League first hand.
That all said, none of us want to go through the pain of watching our battered old club suffer the ignominy of relegation, so if Rémi does fancy turning us around and saving our season, that would be just dandy, as farfetched as it sounds right now. Of course, a thumping win against Watford could change the entire mentality around the club so this writer will be spending his week praying to the gods of football for a minor miracle.