“Dave at work; he’s only seen 3 games in the last 12 years but now suddenly he’s the World’s biggest Villa fan and a close personal friend of Steve Bruce’s wife’s hair stylist”
When I was a kid growing up in Hall Green, there were 3 types of football fans. There were those with parents that understood the game, loved the game and had a firm sense of local identity; those kids were generally Blues fans. Then there were the kids whose parents had a passing interest in football. They often weren’t born in the city and their families tended to live in neighbouring towns like Lichfield and Rugeley. Those kids were generally Villa fans. Finally there were the kids whose parents had no interest in sport whatsoever. Those kids usually couldn’t handle banter well and needed a team that had enough press coverage to make following them easy and won enough games that they could just take the high ground in every argument. Those kids were generally Man United fans.
Football matches would break out at lunchtime and the Man U fans would team up with the Villans to take on the mighty Blues. We were often outnumbered, but we played our hearts out. Games were only 20 minutes long and usually ended in a brawl, but they meant everything to us. The Villa kids never really seemed to care about winning or losing, but to us, it would make or break our day. Whatever the result, we carried it with us until we got home and gave our dads the full match report. There was a passion in us young bluenoses that was passed down by our parents. It’s the same passion that we grew up with and took to St Andrews and the same passion we passed down to our own kids. The Villa fans wanted to win, sure, but they never wanted it the way we did, and they still don’t.
It’d be an understatement to say that Sunday didn’t quite go as planned. I know that like me, you are all carrying that defeat with you throughout the week. Whether it’s the weak attempt at Villa banter on social media, the laughable comparisons of Grealish to Aguero or just Dave at work giving it the big’un. He’s only seen 3 games in the last 12 years but now suddenly he’s the World’s biggest Villa fan and a close personal friend of Steve Bruce’s wife’s hair stylist. Wherever you work or however you spend your social time, I’m sure there’s been at least one reminder of the derby each day.
In the same way that Wolves’ fan base has doubled over the course of this season, Villa’s increased throughout the weekend. We lost, and it hurts. But at least we’re not them.
At least we’re proud to be Blue. At least our numbers don’t rise and fall with successes and defeats. At least we’re consistent in our passion and don’t resort to buying a rival team’s shirt just to spit on and subsequently force our fellow supporters to walk through.
The Villa are now making the preposterous claim that the city is theirs. They have to catch two buses and a train to get there, but it’s theirs. They make this claim whilst singing an Oasis classic written by die hard Man City fan; Noel Gallagher – which they’re also trying to pass off as ‘their song’. I think someone’s having an identity crisis…
Blues weren’t at the races on Sunday. We gave them way too much respect and gave Grealish way too much time and space. It was evident in the first 15 minutes that any tackles made on precious little Jack would cause him to roll around on the floor like a petulant child. We should have made better use of that fact and instructed someone to essentially play as his shadow. That someone, shouldn’t have been Cheikh N’Doye.
Though I appreciated the cheeky stomp on that arrogant little sod, N’Doye just wasn’t up to the task of keeping him quiet. I also particularly enjoyed his tussle with Terry. I enjoyed his red card and I’ll enjoy the fact that he’s now banned even more.
N’Doye can be alright on his day but it’s like watching a newborn puppy go through toilet training. He’s trying his best bless him, but he’s leaving a trail of p*** everywhere he goes! N’Doye puts the effort in and seems to have a genuine love for the club. I wish someone would calm him down a bit though and teach him to lift his head before picking a pass. He’s great in the air and wins almost every header, unfortunately that’s about all he wins these days.
It would have been great to see Gardner get the call up over N’Doye. He has significantly upped his game recently and was great against Huddersfield. Perhaps his experience and calm head could have turned the tide and mellowed things out in the middle of the park. At the very least, Craigy should have made an appearance early on in the second half.
I’m making an earnest effort not to dwell on the negatives so much these days, but Cotterill has got to start making substitutions earlier. My wife’s favourite saying at the moment is “We’re only a 60 minute team”. She’s becoming increasingly right and each time she says it, I become more convinced that she should be writing these things, not me! We are visibly lethargic around the hour mark and Steve needs to recognise that. All in all, it shows that the lads are putting the miles in and running themselves ragged, but we need to introduce fresh legs much sooner than the 80th minute.
It’s easy to get disheartened about losing to such a bitter rival. I myself, have gone down many Twitter rabbit holes, arguing over silly little things and biting to every wind up. But in reality, we are fighting relegation, they are second in the league. They’ve spent £100m, we’ve spent about £10m. We have bigger issues to focus on than beating them. I don’t think that loss is a sign of us slipping back down the table again like some have claimed, rather it’s a small blip in the big plan. I still believe in Stevie C and stand by the retraction in my last feature.
The only thing that should concern us now is beating Milwall and moving on from this. Our season is far from over and we WILL still be here next year, I have full faith in that. We just need to keep our heads high, keep our voices loud, keep showing the world why the city will always be Blue and most of all Keep Right On!
By Mark Watson