For anyone that missed it, this is worth a read:
It is The Guardian’s preview of Aston Villa’s forth-coming Premier League season.
At this point, a swift underline. The point is nothing to do with the manager.
It could be anyone.
The point is rather what have Villa fans got to look forward to this season? About as much as the fans of Southampton, one suspects. Saints look on the verge of imploding as all and sundry head for the exit door this summer.
Bar – as ever – the long-suffering supporters who are there for a lifetime. A concept that is increasingly alien to a whole generation of professional footballers, managers and agents who long ago sold their souls to the highest bidder.
Whored themselves out, for want of a better phrase.
Because as the Canaries ready themselves for a season back in the familiar realm of the Championship, it is probably a question worth asking – what is anyone, supporter-wise, likely to miss from being in the top flight of English football?
Say City had stayed up. Would they be any more likely this summer to rock the foundations of an Etihad, or an Anfield, an Emirates or an Old Trafford?
They would – in every likelihood – be looking to dig out a point at the KC Stadium to take them to, say, seven points clear of the drop zone with two games remaining. That – for a whole clutch of clubs – is about as good as it is going to get whilst the finances of English football remain so dysfunctional.
And whilst the likes of a Delia Smith remains as owner. As opposed to a US sports billionaire in the mould of, er, a Randy Lerner…
Instead, City fans can take to the road this season with the rare hope of winning a game or two away from their Norfolk fastness.
They can sleep easy knowing that no-one individual is going to single-handedly rip them apart with football off a different planet – making the ‘investment’ of say £100 in a day trip to Anfield worthless in the space of ten, first-half minutes.
There will be an even playing field around every corner; one upon which such simple virtues as graft and endeavour, as tactical nous and general decency can get you back to the mad-house of the Premier League. When the problems will merely start all over again…
For unless N Adams has had a complete character by-pass since he wrote his weekly column for the Evening News and I, that’s what City can fall back on.
A decent lad with a sharp footballing brain; one for whom common sense and basic pragmatism will reign – and in the likes of a Russell Martin he has the perfect ambassador and representative on the pitch. You build around such a character.
Just as the aforementioned Paul Lambert did around Grant Holt.
He has two new strike signings in the building that are ‘his’. I would still be of a mind to dig everyone else out in that department, bar the kids.
I’m not remotely convinced that RvW would have had the heart for a Tuesday night away trip come February. And Mr Hooper didn’t figure large in those final games – which, for me, was telling.
If Wesley is feeling loved and wanted – and centre stage diamond-wise – he can still turn enough tricks in this division to keep Norwich in the upper half of the table through the autumn.
If I was Wes, I might be thinking I had a lucky escape Villa Park-wise; even if my agent and his bank balance might beg to differ.
So, all in all, it could be a breath of fresh air again – provided that Adams and Co don’t get off to too slow a start. That’s when the poison will re-surface. Old sores will be re-opened – only fuelled by the campaign some drove to oust the increasingly helpless Hughton out of his job.
People sense that it can be done again; that they now have the ‘tools’ for the job in the shape of a hash-tag and a mobile phone.
But I hope it doesn’t come to that. Decent people laid low is never nice to witness.
My only doubt would be the management by ‘football committee’ approach that appears to have been installed.
If memory serves, Norwich had a managerial selection committee that involved every man and his dog – and delivered Peter Grant. The compromise candidate.
Let the manager manage. And if he is half decent – as a fella, more than anything – the boys will respond and deliver.
Outside the madhouse of the Premier League, football can still be a simple game.