clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Villa's win over Palace was the quiet heartbeat of a not-quite-dead club

This is ground control to Major Garde, you've really made the grade.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The stars, of course, will look very different to everyone associated with Aston Villa Football Club today. After staring into the blackness of space, our eyes may have become attuned to that same depressing sense of emptiness. Aston Villa have been alone in their failure for a long time now - long enough that fans of the club may expect the worst from each and every fixture.

I certainly was.

Before the match, I turned to my father, knees shaking to the beat of the cold and declared that 'today's the day we see seven goals get put past our keeper'. To my delight and to the ecstatic roar of the twenty-odd thousand people who had turned up on that most stereotypical of rainy Tuesday nights to witness Aston Villa's second victory of this terrible season as well as Villa's first home success since 2015, Villa did not fulfil my dark prediction.


A photo posted by James Rushton (@jamorushton) on

A fair few of you may have witnessed the -21c temperatures in Minnesota during the Minnesota Vikings' catastrophic NFC playoff against the Seattle Seahawks and marvelled at the sheer resilience of those who braved below zero chills. Villa Park's temperature compared to that, was at a lofty 3c - but you could have fooled me. I think the fans who made their way to Minnesota for that eventually heartbreaking game should be applauded, I'd certainly have endured second thoughts about it.

Rise to the Holte

A photo posted by James Rushton (@jamorushton) on

Many events of late have turned my head to ponder the question of death. The passing of my Aunt Maggie on Christmas Day, to the deaths of both Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie. Is there something- anything, after death? Is there a level of consciousness? An eternal state of dream or an everlong slumber? Do we pass as Christians believe, to the heavenly paradise or do we accept rebirth, as is the way of the Buddhist?

I've heard the declaration on multiple occasions that 'Aston Villa are dead/dying' in the past few months, but have you seen the death certificate? Is it not signed in the blood of an orphan by that dastardly Tom Fox? You could easily be fooled into believing so and whilst the role that Mr Fox serves isn't exactly clear, what is transparent is that Aston Villa are still alive.

What exactly does death mean for a football club though? Should they be treated as companies and mocked as though they were Enron or Woolworths? Does their idea live on? Do people simply talk about them in the past tense, rather than the language of the present? It's hard to say - only a few clubs have truly died - The Corinthian Amateurs and the Wanderers graced the early years of the FA Cup, but are nothing compared to Blackburn, Preston and of course, Aston Villa. Death used in the way that many Villa fans have wielded the word, like a child swinging a claymore, is more of a exaggeration.

A photo posted by James Rushton (@jamorushton) on

Death for a football club is purely material. Dying football clubs can easily be spotted on Companies House as those in Administration or financial turmoil, not yet dead, but in danger of passing during the night. Bolton Wanderers are in such trouble right now and the sorry state of affairs in Lancashire can't be compared to the worries of Aston Villa at all. Villa's problem isn't money - it's playing a damn game of football for 90 minutes. There are actually dying football clubs within the Football League and Villa fans should pay attention to the plight of Blackpool and Portsmouth if they wish to continue with that argument.

No, Aston Villa FC were never truly in danger of dying, but much like Major Tom of 'Space Oddity', they risked hurtling into the brink of obscurity. There is a wilderness outside the Premier League that stretches far and wide across England and much like the void that surrounds Earth, it might be easy for Villa to get lost in the vastness of the Football League. Each time I listen to that song, I hope for Major Tom to respond when ground control call his name multiple times, as a listener, I don't think any of us hoped or wanted him to be lost and in a way, Aston Villa answered when you would never have expected them to. Aston Villa won when we wouldn't have expected them to. As the signal died out, its soaring frequencies becoming weaker, a small beacon blipped back - nothing major or substantial, just enough to remind you that something still existed. That a being was still out there.

Hi ho, Aston Villa, #AVFC

A video posted by James Rushton (@jamorushton) on

Perhaps more relevant would be the use of 'Heroes'. The ecstasy provided by our single win outside of the opening day of this Premier League campaign proved that Aston Villa can be heroes, even if as Bowie sings, just for a single day. I need not pay a mention to the current issues surrounding the playing staff of Aston Villa FC, but there are certainly 'villains' as well as the heroes of Tuesday night's win. It really is amazing how the music of one human being can be afforded so much relevance, in a way - they songs are a flexible peg that can fit into as many gaps as we offer up. In a sense, people like Bowie and Lemmy never die because they were so much more than then person they were. They were Spotify playlists, broken mixtapes, scratched CD's and leather patches. They were exaggerated stories, cocktails, face paint, ripped denim. Those two, like so many others transcended the very idea of what could be achieved and like the paintings of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, will be mentioned until the Human Race departs. Aston Villa won't die in the same sense as other football clubs and I can offer no-other reason than this: because they are Aston Villa.

It still hasn't really settled into my skull yet. After just over five months of attending games, Aston Villa have finally won at home. I witnessed it and it was glorious and I will certainly be reliving the events of Tuesday until, well, at least Saturday when we host Leicester City. Because despite the warnings, the cold, the moaning and death itself - witnessing victory manifest itself at Villa Park once again was euphoric and still remains the glorious prize to be claimed after ninety minutes of a football match. It remains to be seen if Aston Villa will return to their slumber and perhaps no victory will feel as sweet as this most recent one, but there's not much on this mortal plane that can remove me from my glee. We were heroes, just for a day.

Amazing scenes #avfc

A video posted by James Rushton (@jamorushton) on