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Author Topic: School's out for February  (Read 2099 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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School's out for February
« on: February 03, 2021, 02:11:06 AM »
Nineteen games gone and we're starting to play the ones we’ve got in hand so the table is looking a bit more realistic. It's time for one of those half-term reports that us fanzine types used to use to waste a couple of pages, but there won't be any of that marks out of ten or grading nonsense here.

So far there's not all that much gone wrong. In terms of pleasantly surprising, this has been one of the best seasons we've had for a long, long time. We're not only winning games but at times we're smashing teams with the swagger that comes from knowing how good you are - and again, that's something we've not seen for many years. Many's the time that I've said our biggest problem is that we never seem to act like we belong on the big stage, and us supporters always seem to be waiting for things to go wrong. That's not the case now and there's a supreme confidence that everyone knows what they're doing and are going to get better at it.

We haven't got a bucket-sitting, riddle-talking manager or a small army of ex-players working in the media so what we're doing is largely going unnoticed and long may that continue. Those games in hand have helped as well, because we’ve spent most of the season so far in mid-table, out of sight and certainly out of mind as far as the spotlight is concerned. What we have got is the most exciting team in the country, and if you think that’s an exaggeration, how many games have we played that haven’t been worth watching? In fact, we’ve played every top team so far and there’s only Manchester City I wouldn’t fancy us getting a result against in the return regardless of how they performed. With a bit more experience and a bit more luck the results could have even better.

And of course it’s all coming on the back of some exceptional performances. The summer’s signings were inspired – Emiliano Martinez is already drawing comparisons with the best keepers any of us have ever seen, Matty Cash is proving anyone who doubted his signing wrong, Ollie Watkins is as good as expected and Bertrand Traore is gloriously maverick in his football. Well done to Johan Lange, and we should also re-assess that Pitarch bloke, because many of the signings he brought in have improved immeasurably. Matt Targett, Ezri Konsa, Douglas Luiz, Ahmed el Ghazi, Marvelous Nakamba when he’s had an opportunity, have all proved their worth. Stick the Villa defence into the England team and it would be improved.   

Then there’s Jack Grealish. It’s hard to assess him properly because what would have pundits raving if anyone else was doing it is just Jack doing what he always does. He deserves a much bigger stage than we can provide for him this season, although that can be rectified soon enough. Having Jack here will make the job of attracting better plyers so much easier in the summer and in the meantime, if the Premier League is as good as it’s claimed then there’s a strong argument for saying that at the moment the best midfielder in the world plays for Aston Villa. 

And in charge, Dean Smith, who couldn’t have really complained if he’d been sacked last season but who has never deviated from his vision and his belief in how the game should be played. His approach might cost us the odd point and he might have you pulling your hair out when you’re screaming for a sub to come on, but so far he’s been right more often than he’s been wrong and nobody is saying that he’s out of his depth now. Well done to him, and to the board for showing faith.

So far so good and what of the future? It was a bit disappointing that we didn’t sign a striker and maybe a central defender in January, but perhaps Deano is going for the Ron Saunders approach of moving players into the gaps available; his quote about never seeing a player carried off with exhaustion could certainly have been made with a Scouse accent and a steely glare. It might have been different had results been better in January, and Villa were stronger contenders for a top four finish, but perhaps now the management team are holding fire for a big splash in the summer and aren’t too fussed about short-term gain. It could be that they regard Europa League qualification as more trouble than it’s worth.

Whatever the reason for their decision, however the rest of the season goes, we can’t have too many complaints. The cavalier style of the team has already drawn comparisons with 1976-77, and in some ways they’re also like what happened in the three years after that, as well as BFR’s 1991-92 and the first season of Martin O’Neill. All were works in progress, all of them had times when they looked poor and they all came good in the end. There were differing reasons why the success they had wasn’t built on and proved to be fleeting, but there’s a different feel now. Everyone’s working in harmony, there are no clashes of personality, splits in the club or egos. We’ve even got better billionaire owners than the last billionaire.

For the rest of this season I expect some great performances, some frustrating ones and we’re overdue one or two when we look awful. But, and this is the main thing, I’m confident that we will always look like we’re going forward. In terms of performance, potential and sheer nobody knows what the next ninety minutes will bring, I wouldn’t swap this halfway point of the season for any other from the past twenty years.     

« Last Edit: February 03, 2021, 03:08:02 PM by dave.woodhall »

Offline ChicagoLion

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2021, 04:09:04 AM »

Offline Villan For Life

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2021, 06:25:42 AM »
A great read.

Offline TopDeck113

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2021, 06:48:30 AM »
A very good summary. 

And the last sentence is bang on. There is a feel of a team who want to just go out and play, and a whole club on the rise.  There is also a sense that perhaps this time, not only is the best still to come, but that this time it will be sustained.

Villa: the Team of the Twenties.

Online Ian.

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2021, 07:28:58 AM »
Enjoyed that Dave

Online Stu82

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2021, 07:54:16 AM »
Great article, and fingers crossed for a return of crowds to Villa Park soon, to enjoy their team.

Offline Exeter 77

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2021, 09:22:37 AM »
Great summary. I like the comparison to the three seasons  of 'works in progress'. Unfortunately it was really only the 1976/77 side evolved into a real force and even then it was hampered by chronic injuries during the seasons before the summer of 1980. That said it allowed the younger players a chance - if Alex Cropley and Brian Little been fit would we have seen Sid Cowans and Gary Shaw quite as early? For BFR's team possibly the opposite was true and the older players he recruited blocked the path of the youngsters. Of course there was also the Doug effect in play then when we trying to move to the next level. The team of 2007 became just that: a team not a squad as Martin O'Neill's wannabe maverick ego spent the chairman's money but didn't actually use it in practical terms (Habib Beye, Curtis Davies, Nicky Shorey etc. were at times not even on the bench). This in turn could be viewed as a reason Randy Lerner closed his wallet leading to O'Neill's tantrum exit and the promise of the mid-late 2000s became the disastrous decline of the 2010s.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2021, 10:00:05 AM by Exeter 77 »

Offline Scratchins

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2021, 09:40:28 AM »
Excellent article Dave. Whilst I am desperate to get back to VP and frustrated at being reduced to screaming at the TV, the Villa has given us a reason to look forward in these dark days. 

Offline Abbeyfealeavfc

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2021, 10:36:49 AM »
Sums up the 1st half of this season well.
The players, whilst having the talent to showcase their skills all seem to be happy in their work and genuinely thrilled to be pulling on the Villa shirt. The fans whilst not being allowed entry to VP are in the main fully behind what's happening. There are good times ahead for Aston Villa (a club that is now being properly run from top to bottom). UTV!

Offline frank

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2021, 11:43:54 AM »
Exciting days, excellently summed up. Thanks for this, Dave.

Offline Baldy

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2021, 12:16:09 PM »
Really enjoyable read Dave and a great reflection of where we currently are.

I would only disagree with the section referring to no ex-army of players in the media. We have plenty. Lee Hendrie, Andy Townsend, Dion Dublin, Micah Richards, Martin Keown, Gabby, Paul Merson, Jermaine Jenas and probably others.

We are not flying under the radar. Our improvement is not going unnoticed and the media in general have been blowing our trumpet. Before a match, I often read the opposition message boards and am amazed at the amount of positive reviews we are getting nationwide.

The good news, we are rising to the expectation and have not succumbed to the added pressure. I hope the same applies when stadiums are full again.

But for now, onwards and upwards.  :)

Offline Hookeysmith

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2021, 02:19:00 PM »
we’ve played every team so far

Being pedantic - we have played after tonight Soton , West Hamm and Burnley twice

We have yet to play Everton or Spurs

Offline andrew08

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2021, 03:02:20 PM »
As fun as it’s been, I still won’t really enjoy it until we have 40 points.

Offline West Derby Villan

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2021, 06:13:56 PM »
Spot on Dave, exciting times, just a shame we can’t be there to witness it

Offline darren woolley

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Re: School's out for February
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2021, 07:55:04 PM »
Brilliant read Dave.


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