In this article, Villa die-hard David Plant shares his thoughts on the past season, and why he’s ready to do it all again for the boys in Claret and Blue.
Hit him up on Twitter, and enjoy his writing below!
7,287 miles is the exact distance required to transport me from my flat in Camden to New York and back. £3,660 would just about nab me a seat in First Class with enough left over for a glass of champagne to calm the pre-flight jitters.
However, regardless how fluffy the pillows or buxom/handsome the flight attendant (delete where applicable) such a trip cannot hold a candle to a 90th minute curler from Robert Snodgrass on a freezing cold Tuesday night in Sheffield. The complimentary peanuts would fail in their endeavour to match up to the roar of the Holte End as Birkir Bjarnason dances through a beleaguered dingle defence to place the result beyond all measure of doubt. Fully reclined seats whilst watching The Office on repeat cannot keep pace with the forward rush of the crowd as Super Jacky Grealish volleys in an absolute thunderbastard from 25 yards to keep the dying embers of an imploding season burning.
Following Aston Villa through season 2017/2018 has been an unmitigated pleasure. At times, more so for the adventures had off the pitch, the friendships made and bolstered, inexplicable amounts of northern beer drank, the ridiculousness of a rail replacement bus from Manchester to Bolton to watch your team lose 1-0 in what can only be described as an apocalyptic blizzard. The football has, at various moments, swerved from the sublime to that better watched whilst ‘doing the Poznań’. But through the tears, the bruises and the moments of brilliance (and the snow) my overriding emotion is one of pride. Aston Villa are back.
Not ‘back’ in the traditional sense of course. We were a sensational jinking run, followed by a little toe into the path of an onrushing keeper, and a defensive lapse away from the promised land (Sky Sports™). No, Aston Villa have returned to me in a spiritual sense. Bouncing up the Trinity Road towards the hallowed ground finally has meaning again, carried along by a purposeful stride, a sense that you know what, it might just be OK in the end.
As the dust settles on our agonising disappointment it soothes my aching limbs to look back on a captivating nine months, slightly misty eyed, pondering the what ifs and the dreams bought squarely to life. Recalling the time we ‘met’ George Sampson in a Hull Travelodge (never let Matt book the hotel) and reliving the moment a sensual Albert Adomah channelled his inner Jesus atop the Holte End hoardings. Watching Andre Green caress his first senior goal into the top corner on Hassan TV whilst on my way to a family luncheon. These are the days I live for, painting my soul like an old master might paint one of his French girls, with ethereal elegance. Well, that and going absolutely mental on a Bramall Lane terrace, collapsing on the youth in front of me, nearly sapping the life from the wee bugger. (Note to the Football League and other relevant parties – INTRODUCE SAFE STANDING YOU ABSOLUTE WOMBLES!)
So, where next for Aston Villa? The talk this summer will undoubtedly revolve around the apparent immovable object that is Financial Fair Play. Or as I prefer to refer to it – Football Fascists Pisswater. I mean sure, if you’re a Bolton fan scowling down the M6 towards B6 as you tuck into your butter pie (yes such a thing exists), you’re probably thinking “it serves you right!”. But that is scant consolation to those long suffering Villa fans who had finally stumbled across a group of players to be proud of again. No matter their relative cost.
I’m not going to lie, I think it’s rubbish the situation we find ourselves in. However if you were to ask me 12 months ago whether my heroes would ever again be Villans, I’d have felt more confident in Boris Johnson delivering a Moscow speech without making an ill-advised comment leading to the destruction of humanity as we know it. Hope springs eternal that the connection created between club and fans is not a mirage, that it will transcend this group of players and onto the next. It feels tactile, like the accidental clop I gave my sister round the ear ‘ole when a ball guided by The Force itself left Jedinak’s big bearded alpha male head and crept in off the bottom of the far post at the Riverside.
What next for Jack Grealish? The Solihull-born Socrates has evolved into a magnificent beast, with the ability to be the fulcrum for not only Aston Villa Football Club, but also for that of the country he (eventually) chose to represent. In order to complete his journey to stardom he needs only to keep his head up and his feet on the ground. Metaphorically and literally. In the meanwhile the vultures are circling, will the best barnet in the country be sporting the claret & blue next season? I don’t know. I hope so, I think so, but I don’t know.
From jacket potato to sweet potato and on to Wembley to be boiled and mashed, Steve Bruce has divided opinion. It’s fair to say his failures are of his own making, as is his success in bringing calm to the chaos. Will he get another crack of the whip? I don’t know. Probably, but I don’t know. This hinges solely on what direction the club wish to take and although I’ve grown accustomed to the wonky-nosed tactical luddite, he had one job. And he failed.
Above all this the main question on everyone’s lips should be - will Aston Villa in the coming 18/19 season be any good? What of the other remaining arbiters of our Saturday night slash Wednesday morning mood? The Scottish Cafu, The Welsh Baresi, The Egyptian Ghrayib? I don’t know. I mean I really don’t know.
Turns out I don’t actually know anything, so I’m not going to sit here and read you a fairy tale to send you off on a nine week hibernation. Lord knows I have tried it on myself, and much like my attempts to play guitar on stage with a Preston pub house band, there are certain moments in life where you can’t blag the audience. Thank McGrath for plastic cups.
What I can tell you for a fact is that I will be there. Probably still bald, I refused the opportunity to go Full-Rooney some time ago. Possibly bearded, we have a 58% win ratio when my facial hair extends beyond 3mm (this may or may not be writer’s embellishment), undoubtedly deafeningly loud and full of Autumn optimism. Regardless the size of the fascist pisswater gulp Aston Villa are about to take, on August the 4th, XI of OUR boys will be taking to the pitch once more, and when that whistle blows last season’s setback will be as distant a memory as my 18 year old self’s waistline - butter pies and northern beers are moreish. I hope you’ll be there too, roaring our lions through every kick, every tackle, sucking the ball into the net like a Henry vacuum switched to ‘obliterate’.
If season 17/18 has taught us one thing it’s that these lads need us. They crave our support as much as we crave the 90th minute limbs AOTS curler, the thunderbastard from the boot of the lad with the best barnet in the known universe, or our very own black Jesus atop an advertisement board for Lotus Health foods, surveying his flock…
Welcome back, Aston Villa Football Club. As daft as you are delightful, as infuriating as you are enriching. You are my therapy, the foundation upon which for some 248 days a year my every waking breath is taken and with a bit more luck and a sizeable chunk of testicular fortitude, the bells will ring loud and proud down Villa Park once again.
Up The Villa.