The start of the football season is approaching fast, as the English Football League kicks off this Friday, closely followed by Premier League football seven days later.
For Aston Villa fans there is undoubtedly an excitement level not seen for a number of years as our brand new youthful squad prepares to step onto the Premier League stage. This naturally leads to discussion about how the team will fare over the season and where they will ultimately finish in the league.
It is a fair question, however there is an interesting dichotomy at play here. As football fans we love the football season and the countdown to the weekend matches, along with the fallout and analysis afterwards. We all know how frustrating and sometimes empty the off season can feel, particularly at weekends, without being able to follow our beloved team’s fortunes. Yet even before the season starts we are focused on the final league table in May, when at which point, it will be all over for another three months.
Over the past three seasons in the Championship this has been understandable for Villa fans as there has been a definite target, of top 2 or failing that, top 6 in order to achieve promotion. This has also translated as a points total projection in order to occupy one of these league positions. Prior to that it was more about staying above 18th, to avoid the drop.
It is easy to fall into the mindset of wishing the season away in order to know what happens in the final totting up and how this will shape the following season, which we will then wish away again. But does this then detract from the enjoyment of why we all follow this sport, that being what actually happens on the grass, after all that is what we pay to see.
There is little doubt that the Villa faithful certainly enjoyed the ten game winning run last season. It was immense to witness. However, there were many comments and tweets during that period suggesting that such a run would be meaningless if promotion was not achieved at the end of the season. Whilst I can understand this viewpoint, it seems a shame that a football fan cannot enjoy their team winning ten games on the bounce, a club record, without that sort of caveat.
For the coming season, talk of a final league position seems largely irrelevant, so long as it is above the relegation zone, which is the first aim of seemingly most Premier League clubs these days! For Villa, the main targets are more to do with establishing and executing the style of play which the owners, CEO Christian Purslow, DoF Suso and Head Coach Dean Smith have been working towards and making sure we continue the incredible team spirit and togetherness, throughout the club no matter what.
For this season, the mindful approach to supporting Villa may be a luxury worth adopting. To go to games or watch on TV, from wherever we are in the world, to be able to take in the atmosphere and take account of how the team progresses (or not) each time, with no expectation of a final outcome or forward thinking. We have an opportunity to entirely immerse ourselves in the game we love and fully experience the sights, sounds and feelings involved, which are unique to football.
Of course in any sport there is a sense of chasing attainment, however at this point we have almost a blank canvas. This feels like a new Aston Villa, with a positive philosophy and approach and none of us really know how far the club can go. Indeed it is already at least one season ahead of schedule as a result of our end of season form so this season can feel more like a bonus to be excited by but not feared.
Dean Smith will have his squad fully prepared when we take the field at Tottenham on Saturday week, so all we as fans have to do it believe in the process and open up to the acceptance of what awaits, as and when it happens.