Brian Clough is someone I thought a lot about in the build up to Villa’s Sunday afternoon clash with Nottingham Forest.
Whilst certainly a common bloke, grounded in the reality of his north-east upbringing - Clough was unique in the most normal of ways. He managed to represent the everyday amongst the extraordinary feats he pulled off. In a way, he was a mirror of life - reflecting the world off-the-pitch with his wit and charisma.
There has been much criticism directed at Clough’s portrayal in ‘The Damned United’, in which we see a much-inflated portrayal of Brian Clough as well as events that are shuffled and manipulated in order to create a narrative that is closer to a good story, than the actual events of real life.
I’m talking about Clough, because I’ve been thinking about the word narrative a lot lately.
The story of Clough’s life was warped by the writer of ‘The Damned United’ in order to weave a narrative that would sell books. It was a mangled web of knowledge stretched between non-fiction and fiction. That’s not to say that the book isn’t good and the film isn’t fantastic, it just goes to show how far a handmade narrative can take you.
I feel narratives have a lot of sway within football fanbases.
For example, big blog A can say that player X is lazy based on the editor of big blog A’s personal feelings towards player X. Because the editor of big blog A holds a great deal of ‘cultural capital’ in the fanbase of the club he writes about, people respect and will enforce his opinion. Player X might be the most determined and energetic player on the pitch, but if he makes a mistake, he can expect the ‘lazy’ narrative to return. Suddenly, out of almost nowhere, we can attach labels to players that are simply undeserving of it.
Still, we all cheer together - as we did for a Rudy Gestede goal and a Ross McCormack strike. The result wasn’t too peachy, but football? It’s fun again.
Or at least was fun.
Wednesday night was a muggy, horrific affair.
Muggy weather is the worst - seriously. It seeps through you and feels like it’s living within your pores. I get why footballers have money chucked at them because I certainly wouldn’t be caught sprinting in that mess.
Mess. That word can mean a lot of things, but it can accurately describe Villa’s second-half capitulations and also the stagnating atmosphere at Villa Park. When it seems like people are having more fun tuning into our twitter feed than actually supporting a team down in B6 in person, then there’s an issue. A big one.
I don’t know what it was, but Villa’s crowd against Brentford was absolutely dire. On all accounts. Overly frustrated, overly moody and utterly unenthusiastic. Maybe it was because of the air hanging heavy in the sky, bringing in an unwelcome humidity to Aston. More than likely, it’s because of the narrative we’ve had chucked down our throats, the one that constantly tells us that Villa should ‘piss’ this league. Perhaps the most disappointing subject revolving around the 1-1 draw to Brentford was the fact that it’s confirming a lot of our beliefs that the summer helped to sweep under the carpet - the belief that Villa, quite frankly, aren’t good enough to get results.
Fans started to stream out in the 88th minute after Brentford’s goal and with the consideration that Villa weren’t actually losing, this is poor form. I get it, people walk - but Villa had a chance at winning a game, a slim one albeit. I’m not one to preach about the merits of being a saintly do-gooder fan, but you’ve got two choices here: support Aston Villa FC, or don’t turn up. If you’re walking out at 1-1, you’re confirming the narrative many supporters of ‘smaller’ clubs hold and that’s ‘that fans of big clubs don’t care’.
It’s September and I’m fucking sick of midweek games.