It’s 3pm on a Saturday and that means football. This whole experience is wrapped up in feelings that are probably best displayed in a Hard-Fi or Courteeners video. It’s pints being sunk down necks, pies and chips, car travel, scarves and all sorts of things. The smells, sights, and sounds of a football game are usually the same, but the arena - or the stage is where we separate our experiences and tie our flag to specific colours.
My stage, and your stage, for example - is the majestic Villa Park. Everything about the place screams majesty. The brickwork, the gates, the mosaic, the steps. It’s grandeur - and because there are so many cookie-cutter stadiums in the UK, it’s great to have this place as yours, because it’s unique. The North Stand is the big let down, and not because of the support - just because it is plain ugly. It’s weird, because I sit in the upper-side of the Holte End, which is majestic in it’s own right, but you don’t get to see or feel the Holte End when you are in it. It’s when you’re not there that you truly see and feel the spectacle of the Holte’s roar. When I had the pleasure, privilege and luxury to sit in the Directors Box alongside Wyness and co. (thanks Howard!), I missed standing and screaming in the Holte, but from a seat on the side in the Trinity stand, you can take in all the glory of the Holte End and behold why it is such a fearsome hill of support, joy, fire and fury. It booms and you can feel the soundwaves pass through you. That’s one thing that’s lost when you’re in the Holte - as you’re the band on stage, not the audience watching on and very much like the flags of Project B6 and the trenchwar in the Lower North, you’re a big part of the action - and not just a spectator.
What are your expectations as a Villa fan? Do you expect to sit down and enjoy your game on AVTV or SKY and just hope Villa play good? What about if you are a season ticket holder? Do you expect your financial layout to be matched by goals and glory?
Sticking to expectations in football is a fool’s errand and to put it simply, it wouldn’t be worth watching football if everything turned out in the manner that fits our expectations, would it? We want to be surprised. In real world terms, things happen that we can’t expect. Like people stanning for the Nazi’s again. We can’t expect that things will turn out in the manner that we like, expect or can even predict. Ideally, we want good surprises, nice surprises, surprises that keep us alive - or happy - and at Villa Park yesterday, we got a nice little package delivered to us, that was some kind of a surprise.
For instance, did you expect a Steve Bruce side to play good football for over seventy minutes? Did you expect Keinan Davis to ball out in his first full game for the club? Did you expect a Conor Hourihane hattrick? None of us could have really seen all of that 4-2 win coming. In fact, word on the street seemed to be heavily against Bruce - and now it seems like the tide has turned.
I was thinking a lot about relationships today - and how you should probably cut cords when things aren’t going right, because although trying is a really good thing, trying needs to be rewarded with some form of happiness. Steve Bruce’s Villa haven’t been giving many people a lot of happiness over the past week or so, but things might just be turning around. However, the same mistakes are there to be made - and it will just be the Villa who are left disappointed, and they will be the same people trudging to Villa Park come rain or shine no matter who is in charge. Bruce’s cord at Villa could have been cut, but it isn’t and here we are, backing the team until the end. When things are negative, you can either do one of two things. Firstly, you can change the situation you are in, or secondly, you can learn to cope with the situation. Do you think we’ll ditch our tickets, our TV passes or our streams? Fat chance. That’s why we gripe, moan, complain, protest, argue, debate and disagree - simply because we want the situation to get so much better at Villa; for everyone. So yeah, we cope - but it’s not a happy type of coping where you’re always looking on the bright side. It’s the type of coping where we will be critical.
That leads us onto something else. The fact that on social media, it seems like Steve Bruce has a cult-like following. ‘Where’s the BRUCEOUT crowd right now?’ someone might say - but hang on a minute, as much as I enjoyed a good ninety minutes of football, I’ll wait for a few more before I change my mind. History so far is not in favour of Steve, but hey - there’s a first time for everything in life.
A first time for Andre Green to grab a goal, a first for a Hourihane hat-trick, a first win of the season for Villa and a first 4 goal game for eons. It’s these first times that trick us and create expectations and while the 4-2 against Norwich City was the most enjoyable game for me in recent memory, I hope the weight of our lofty expectations isn’t what sinks us. Bottle this feeling, Villa fans, because we can’t expect them to come around too often - and hey, if they do, that’s reason enough to celebrate and signs that the situation might be changing. However, our expectations are amongst our cruelest of gifts.