Yesterday was my own personal tipping point. It was the first time this season that I've gone beyond being disappointed in Aston Villa for yet another failing of a match and entered into the angry territory. From my comfortable spot on a couch a few thousand kilometers away I watched as goal after goal after goal poured into the net. Liverpool weren't great, as Elis has already said, it was just that Villa were atrocious.
And it didn't take long for my anger to begin. The first goal alone was enough to show me what we were in store for on Sunday. As the ball floated above the head of Joleon Lescott, he stood and stared. When it met the head of Daniel Sturridge, Lescott raised his arms in anger. "Who was marking him?" he seems to have been asking. "No one" was the answer, though it actually probably should have been Lescott himself. That impulse, to direct rage elsewhere in order to deflect it from yourself, was the first time I really saw a player on this club this season abdicate responsibility. And it pissed me off.
From there, it became readily apparent that no effort was going to be given on the pitch. Gabby Agbonlahor seemed alone in his willingness to work his rear end off, but he was left by himself so much that it hardly mattered. Leandro Bacuna wasted (literally) countless opportunities. Micah Richards worked as hard as he could to get himself into position to be a striker and then, seemingly tired from all of that work, sauntered back to his place in the back line.
I hate criticizing effort. I hate claiming that players are not giving it their all. These men are professionals who take their jobs very seriously and the idea that they might perform at significantly less than 100% seems crazy to me. But watching from home I found it hard to believe that they were actually giving it their all. How else to explain a pretty mediocre Liverpool side giving Aston Villa their worst home defeat since October 1983?
But alright, fine. It was a bad match. One that probably sank the season, but in reality the season was already done. I'd get over it eventually and move on. Except Villa wouldn't let me move on. First there was this tweet from Joleon Lescott, barely an hour after the final whistle.
It came after widely circulated tweets that had Lescott saying, in essence, "Screw you all, I'm going home to my model wife and my fancy car." Those were likely fake, but this car, still up on his feed, sends basically the same message. Or, maybe, he was just being a human, putting the loss behind him and saying "look at this cool car." Fair. I mean, perhaps not ideal but I can't be the person who defends players' rights to post whatever they want and be human and condemn Lescott for this, right?
But it wasn't that. It wasn't a matter of being normal. It was, it seems, a pointed tweet followed by the most absolutely bullshit excuse I've ever seen:
"The tweet sent out from my account involving a picture of a car was totally accidental it happened whilst driving and my phone was in my pocket." Uh-huh. Sure. So if we are to believe you, Joleon, your phone, while in your pocket, did the following
- Unlocked itself
- Opened Twitter
- Selected the "compose tweet" button
- Clicked on the "insert a photo" button
- Chose this particular photo
- Accepted it
- Sent the tweet
Seems totally reasonable, right? Wait, no. It doesn't. Not even a little bit. Why add that paragraph in? That paragraph that is so obviously a lie? Why not just leave it at the first paragraph and, perhaps, delete the picture of the car?
And about that first paragraph. "Liverpool are and were better than us today but that doesn't excuse mine and the teams [sic] lack of commitment for the 90 minutes." I hate criticizing effort, but this tweet confirms that we were all right to do so on Sunday. It says "Hey, we went out there and half-assed it. Sorry about that! Our bad!"
Now we've gone above and beyond a human being posting whatever they like to someone actively poking an angry hornet's nest with a stick. Of course he has every right to post this and whatever, but at some point it goes from bad to just unmitigated stupid. When you are on the verge of the worst season in club history, you should not seek to alienate your fans.
And that includes the fans who criticize you. There are reports circulating of a woman and her 80-year-old father being removed from the grounds and being stripped of their season tickets yesterday. If the reports are to be believed, their offense was shouting "Football is nothing without the fans." I told our writers to avoid this story yesterday because it struck me as one that had missing context. But it hasn't gone away, and it hasn't been explained away by the club yet. In the worst case scenario, the report is true as listed. That would be absolutely sickening. Someone paying the wages of the board and the club gets the boot for expressing mild anger.
But even in the best case scenario (which for the club involves some mitigating circumstance that led to ejection) we've had this story for more than 24 hours and we're all at least believing it a little because, hell, it might be true. What depths has this club, this board, this owner, and this organization sunk to that we, the diehard fans who would support it until our last dying breath find ourselves saying "Well yeah, maybe they did kick someone out for voicing an opinion"?
This season is hopeless. If there were any left, goals by Sturridge, Milner, Can, Origi, Clyne, and Touré put an end to it. And yet, in the face of hopelessness, at a time when they need fans and supporters more than ever, this club has the continuing audacity to spit in our faces with half-hearted performances, brazen lies, and suspicious measures aimed at fans.
And the worst part is that I, like you, am Villa 'til I die. I'm not going anywhere, and the club know they can get away with behavior like this. But I've finally had it. Disappointment isn't my state any more. It's become active anger. I can no longer even begin to trust that this board knows what it is doing with our beloved club, and I can no longer see myself giving the players or the front office staff the benefit of the doubt. Aston Villa have turned me into a skeptic, and the sooner that can change, the better.
How to change things? The obvious answer is new ownership, but I assume that there hasn't been a good enough offer yet. Randy Lerner wants out and he wants to sell, so the fact that he hasn't should tell us a lot. Barring the change in ownership, about the best we can hope for is a change in attitude. More transparency. More communication. More, and better, understanding of why we're all so damn angry right now.
That shouldn't be too hard. Reach out. To us. To MOMS. To HITC. To the AVST. To Aston Villa Review. Make people available to talk, and make it clear that you want to make things better. We always are and always have been open to a dialogue with the club. Speaking on behalf of 7500, I can say that I have pursued it several times. I've been given off the record information and I've been tipped to a few things that the club wants me to get to before the mainstream media can savage a player.
What I have never once been given is an on-the-record conversation about what this club wants to do about its current problems. What it will do to appease the rightfully angry fans. I will be fair, honest, and open in any dialogue. If you want to tell me that I've got it all wrong, Aston Villa, tell me. I will print it. You know my email, but just in case you've lost it, I can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to me. Talk to us. Talk to the fans. Make us think you actually give a damn.