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Author Topic: What a season!  (Read 1031 times)

Offline dave.woodhall

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What a season!
« on: January 18, 2021, 09:08:53 PM »
The Villa have been playing catch-up right from day one when our season opener at Manchester City was postponed. We are now three or four games behind most of the other clubs, thanks mainly to the virus. The season started over a month later than usual, on September 12th, and the scheduled end date of May 23rd is only a couple of weeks later than normal.  Euro 2021 is due to start on June 11th, leaving no scope for slippage. As a result, starting from January 20th at the Etihad, we have 23 league games to play in slightly over 17 weeks, with an international break in the mix.

I wouldn’t normally say thank goodness we aren’t in the cups but our early exit from both the domestic competitions seems like a blessing in this strangest of years. As it is, we have four matches to play in eleven days during January, five in February, three in March (plus two international matches for some of the squad), four in April and five up to the 23rd of May. Let’s hope the players will return refreshed after a fortnight away from football, even if some of them have been ill for part of the time. That schedule for the rest of the season should be just about doable provided there isn’t too much more disruption, but the virus isn’t going away for a while yet, so fingers crossed.

Whether top flight football should be taking place at all in the middle of a pandemic is debatable, though I must say I am glad to have some matches to watch at a time when almost everything else has shut down and we are supposed to be staying at home all the time. I fear for some of the older non-playing staff though. Every time I see Roy Hodgson, who is 73, on TV I think he should be at home like most other people of his age. Sam Allardyce and Marcelo Bielsa are both in their sixties and are also at risk of serious illness from the virus if they contract it. As for all the hugging and lack of social distancing on the pitch, all you can say is that, while it may be the natural thing to do, it isn’t setting much of an example.

When you have been supporting Villa for a while you don’t take anything for granted and our immediate priority has to be to get to forty points.  If we can maintain the form we showed up to the New Year, we will achieve that target comfortably and a top half finish is definitely on the cards. With the matches coming thick and fast though, you never quite know what the effect of the inevitable injuries and suspensions will be, though there were encouraging signs before Christmas of improved resilience within the squad when we had to cope without some of the regular starters.

While I am relieved we haven’t got a cup run to worry about in addition to the glut of league games, I am glad the cup competitions took place this year. There must have been a good case for suspending them for a year in view of the very late start to the season and resulting fixture congestion, but I have a nasty feeling that once they stop it might be difficult to get them back, at least with top flight clubs competing. Ever since the money men took over nearly thirty years ago, the domestic cup competitions have become the poor relations, with the big clubs and some of the less big ones often fielding seriously weakened teams.

I was interested, then, to read Wolves manager Nuno’s observation recently about what will happen if the Premier League season is unable to carry on. A number of games were hastily rescheduled as a result of virus cases at Villa and elsewhere and he said: "If we stop everything will change. A new football will come, probably with a Super League, probably with other competitions. It'll be a matter of which clubs will survive. It's a tough decision to make.” He seems to think that the lid is only just being kept on a revolution in football. You then have to wonder how long it will be before the pressure builds up and blows the lid off. There has been talk in the recent past of change, with ‘Project Big Picture’ being aired and shot down as recently as October last year. I bet there is plenty of plotting still going on behind the scenes though.

David Bernstein (remember him? – a Villa director, along with Mervyn King, for a short time just before we were relegated in 2016) said recently that he believes the governance of football is a shambles and has written to the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden about it. Bernstein and a number of other people want a new regulatory body to oversee football. He said: ’"There is no overall leadership and therefore vested interests continue to prevail. The financial disparity between rich and poor has frankly become obscene. The game is devoid of agreed priorities." I bet the owners of the big clubs want vested interests to continue to prevail and want nothing to do with any regulatory body. Now what was Nuno saying about a super league?

This season may be a very strange one, which the younger generation will bore their grandchildren about in years to come, but I have a feeling that we will soon be seeing more big changes in football which will make the pandemic seem relatively small beer.  We just need the Villa to keep going from strength to strength so that the club will be well placed to weather the next big storm.  The remainder of this weird season will be a challenge with matches coming thick and fast after the enforced break, but the signs are looking good.

Richard Keeling

Offline ChicagoLion

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Re: What a season!
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2021, 09:47:59 PM »
Agree that a major change is just around the corner. It’s a matter of when not if.
Well written piece. Cheers Richard

Offline DYWTBAU?

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Re: What a season!
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2021, 10:36:00 PM »
Good article Richard, touching on most if not all of the issues currently challenging the game. Scheduling is becoming a massive issue now, brought about because none of the various authorities or governing bodies wants to cancel their own competitions. I'm a fan of the domestic cups too but look how they've changed - they were changing anyways, no replays, etc but this past year has just accelerated that process - we'd have missed out on that great Leicester City semi-final night last January under this season's single leg semi-final rules. If we're questioning whether domestic football should be being played then international competition (or friendlies for that matter) makes no sense at this time. Trying to play the Euros this year will just create further problems next season, for which as you say, we just have to hope the Villa have continued to push on. The signs are good..

Online JD

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Re: What a season!
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2021, 05:59:55 AM »
Excellent article Richard. It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next 2-5 years, agree that a big change may be on the horizon.

Offline adrenachrome

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Re: What a season!
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2021, 06:28:29 AM »
David Bernstein is right:
 ’"There is no overall leadership and therefore vested interests continue to prevail. The financial disparity between rich and poor has frankly become obscene. The game is devoid of agreed priorities."
We are now definitively in the rich category and well equipped to weather the storm, but if the top echelon of football clubs continue to embrace short term financial interests the sport will be irreparably damaged.   

Offline West Derby Villan

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Re: What a season!
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2021, 12:43:45 PM »
Great article and guess times they are a changing. Agree with your comment about continuing to improve and stay within distance of the leading pack, I think it is imperative now.

 


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