My day started off with an article from the consistently excellent Daniel Storey. In his writing entitled ‘The 2018/19 Premier League title race: Expose the ‘fraud’ Storey examines the state of the Premier League title race by looking into the public comments of the fans of each of the 3 or so clubs currently competing for the Premier League title. What he found was unbridled rage. Each of the 3 clubs - Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City - have been heavily criticised by factions within their own fanbase, despite leading the pack with each club performing fairly well.
You can only finish where you can finish - and the vast majority, if not all, of the top six teams in the Premier League are going to be judged as having under-performed. This is true of the Championship and it is true of Aston Villa.
As Storey mentioned, every club lurches from delirium to the void - within the space of a week. More and more I am seeing this within the AVFC fanbase. We are all guilty of this, and it’s odd. One day we are fine - and doing well, and after a 3-0 loss to Wigan we are at panic stations and ready to condemn players. In the referenced article above (the entire article is worth reading), Storey comes out with a great segment that I’ll share below:
“Things happen in football matches. Teams drop points. Football players are people and by definition are therefore unreliable. We have not yet created a club filled with footballing automata. We liberally bestow greatness and ignominy, and very few merit either description. What’s worse, we redistribute those terms more often than the wind changes.” - ‘The 2018/19 Premier League title race: Expose the ‘fraud’
Surely the right thing to do would be to take a step back and asses the bigger picture? Liverpool - this past fortnight - have been crowned as champions and then de-throned with the title of bottlers (when in actual fact they are neck and neck with their rivals and hold a game in hand). The same goes for Manchester City - who people seemingly gave up on and who are now equally placed with Liverpool. The same, yet again, goes for Aston Villa - who are four points away from a play-off spot with 16 (SIXTEEN) games left to play. We have already made our judgements in our depressive state, and will no doubt reverse these amongst ecstatic highs. It’d be better for us all to be a wee bit more rational about this.
But why be right about things when you can just be wrong? When evidence exists to contradict or batter every single point that you can make, it’s easier to just double down and entrench on the original viewpoint, no matter what it is. Studies have shown that in reality, we don’t want to be right. No matter what, there are some red lines that you won’t cross. In some instances, this is making us awful - and in unity, making us an awful fanbase.
For instance, it’s absolutely true that some people were against Steve Bruce from the start, more power to them. The trouble is that he’s gone now and people still can’t stop themselves from being awful about him. Under-performance in football does not mean we should be vile and cruel in our comments. And he’s one that has left, what about the players Villa have now? Players that have largely done nothing wrong - whom we expect to be one of the footballing automata that Storey defined. People and players that we will not allow to be unreliable. People like Neil Taylor.
Hypothetically, if you think that Neil Taylor cannot serve Villa as a player, then simply put, you’re going to fall into bias. You’re going to hammer him with everything you’ve got, because that’s going to dig you deeper and deeper into your comfortable space. It’s much easier to do this than admit you’ve made a mistake. And hell, we’ve got an issue when you can’t confine those opinions to a footballing Saturday.
It goes without saying that we should be free to criticise players on their performance - but all and any negativity should stop, and be left on the pitch? Surely? Surely we cannot feel that Neil Taylor must live with our negativity? That we must reply to a post from the Villa club account wishing him a Happy Birthday with ‘delete this’ and ‘f*ck off’ and ‘he’s not fit to wear the shirt’. It’s all well and good saying that people at the stadium don’t say this stuff, but it has to follow that some of the people being awful on social media are contributing to abuse at stadiums, surely? What do we want from this?
Neil Taylor probably hasn’t been at his best this season - but to say he’s not deserving of a birthday or happiness, or that this abuse is in anyway warranted and that he should put up with it is a ridiculously toxic standpoint to hold. He seems a nice enough person by all accounts - and this goes for a fair portion of Villa’s players who have come under personal attacks this season.
We are not alone in this. We are just like the examples Storey provided. We have to be so much better than this, and if we can’t be, how can we expect Villa to have the space to breathe, improve and grow? How can we form a more positive and passionate fanbase? Can we not shut our mouths if we have nothing nice to say?
This is all getting very tiring. We are unwilling to accept the opinions of others, and we are unwilling to dig ourselves out of toxic entrenchments. We need to start speaking up and calling out some of this awful behaviour, because we and the club deserve so, so much better than this. It’s getting harder and harder to cover this football club.