It was decided at some point last year, by somebody, somewhere, that something would happen to Aston Villa’s famous training complex, Bodymoor Heath. In the present-day, machines are tearing at the grass that used to form part of their training camp just outside of Birmingham to form the basis of a high-speed railway line that will bring people through the countryside, into London, quicker than ever before. This project is called High Speed 2 - or HS2, and it will tear through other things and other places before it is done.
In of itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has big meaning and is dripping with metaphor. To get to the chase - London always gets its way. In the end and usually, no matter the cost.
Well. Not today at least. It has been revealed and is slowly coming to pass that unless Tottenham Hotspur make an incredible offer for Jack Grealish, then Jack Grealish isn’t heading to the capital to link up with Spurs. No matter if he’s unhappy, no matter if Tottenham raise their price. Villa won’t budge unless an obscene offer is entertained. Grealish, to his credit, seems resigned to staying at Villa and despite that, won’t kick up a fuss. All-in-all, he’s a ‘victim’ of Villa finally standing their ground. A position that they should have found a long time ago and not just because it raises the prices and values of their assets, but because it injects deeper meaning into a club, and a wider area, that have taken a kicking over the past decade.
Villa aren’t just saying no to Tottenham. They are saying no to the lure, and the ever-sucking pull of England’s capital city.
I’ve laid clear my thoughts on London. It’s a beautiful place, almost packed to the brim with amazing people and culture. It’s huge, full of history and there lie stories on every corner. I love spending time there, mostly. However, to visit London. To hear about day-to-day life in a modern-metropolis. It’s painful, to be honest. A city, that caters to everyone; except those building it.
To get to the wider point, we’ll just need to look at the actions of the London press in regards to the transfer of Jack Grealish. It very much seemed, from my biased perspective, that most papers - The London Evening Standard, and journalists based in the big city, where relishing the ‘definite’ signing of Jack Grealish at first. Then came the criticisms - Grealish was over-priced, according to the mainstream writers. He was overvalued, and Villa should step down and ‘be fair’. The lowly Aston Villa were pricing Tottenham out of a move.
It’s entirely disparate, but it’s smacking of the highest-quality strands of irony. In London, most people are priced out of living. The city, like others, can exist despite the fact that the general economic situation of the city is a life-ruiner. Big homes stand empty while people sleep on the streets. The press in London shouldn’t dare mention a word of worth. The place pulls and drags in the best talent in the country, offering wages completely imbalanced with the cost of living - all for the ‘opportunity’.
Here’s the thing. Jack Grealish isn’t worth £30,000,000 to anyone with sense. Football, however, is without sense. It’s a game brimming, and proud of it’s emotive qualities. Why aren’t Villa budging down from their lofty price? It’s simple. It’s because Jack Grealish means something to Aston Villa and the fans of Aston Villa. We are all part of Jack Grealish. To Villa fans, Grealish is a walking constellation. Borne of the stars and our piece of the ethereal. A natural-wonder made up of himself, the club and the surrounding area. He’s something of a higher nature - but he’s ours. Our slice of heaven in footballing form. You cannot buy that. If, and probably when, Spurs pay a heady sum for Grealish, they’ll get the player, but they won’t get that. They won’t look upon his gliding runs with the same eyes, they won’t see his scowl as we do. They might with time, but the money doesn’t tear that away from us to ship to them.
There are plenty of political occasions where London is left with a bloody nose - partly because of the self-sacrificial spite of those who are hurting because of decisions made in London. It is very easy to look upon the city as a villain, which is perhaps wrong. This isn’t about Grealish, or Aston Villa. It’s about something deeper. I feel like my football club have represented me, and my feelings - even if it’s just for a day. For personal reasons, I’d longed to pull the rug from under London. Villa, for a brief moment, have done that for me. They’ll get what they want, from me - from Grealish, from you and from Villa in the end - they always do.
But it’ll cost them.