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Dave’s Villa Blog

GRUMPY OLD FAN

16-10-2009

The Premier League resumes after the international break, and Dave Woodhall is looking forward to Villa's big showdown against the Russian billionaire's glamour boys from Chelsea. Well, sort of...

Three months into the football season and it’s time to have a look at what’s been going on.

Villa are seventh in the league after a mixture of good, bad and average performances. That’s probably about where we’ll finish as well. In fact, looking at the table there don’t seem many clubs who’ll move many positions by the end – which with less than a quarter of the season gone isn’t a good thing.

The Premier League is far too predictable, but that’s no great revelation.

We lost at home to Wigan then beat Liverpool at Anfield. We got knocked out of Europe without much trouble. We’ve seen the return of Gareth Barry, who performed poorly in a big game. We beat the Blues without having to try too hard. Again, all very predictable.

And Curtis Davies, presumably via his agent, has complained that injuries have limited his first-team appearances and therefore he hasn’t got the pat rise he was entitled to by now. So he’s having to struggle by on a mere £25,000 a week. Maybe we can organise a benefit Stirrer Aid event for him.

I know the story might have been embellished a bit, but the fact that nobody bats an eyelid at such supposed greed from a Premier League player, nor at him earning so much while not exactly being a big star, shows how detached football has become from its support.

Naturally enough I know a lot of football supporters, and it’s noticeable that the more long-standing ones are those who on the whole care the least about the game, particularly those who watch Premier League clubs. We tend to go to the match because we always have, and if questioned closely will admit that we don’t enjoy it as much as we used to. The game’s changed and us miserable sods don’t like change. As in life, so in football.

But putting away the Grumpy Old Man persona for a moment, there does seem to be a split amongst football supporters. On the one hand there’s the new breed who’ve bought into the hype. They love the big names, the forced atmosphere, being able to watch matches live on TV 24 hours a day and twice at weekends. They buy the replica shirt, the DVDs, the Sky subscriptions.

Then there’s the rest of us, who endured the game in the bad old days of violence, poor facilities and police harassment. It’s ironic that we put up with such dangerous and unpleasant conditions for so long and we’re now turning our backs on the game as it gets ever more consumer-friendly.

Doubly so that many of us who followed football back then fought to save the game when no-one, politicians advertisers or media, wanted anything to do with it. Influenced by pioneers such as Adrian Goldberg (as in Whatever Happened To?) we published fanzines and organised campaigns.

Our success is often overlooked - were it not for the actions of ordinary supporters the area’s football scene would look much different. Wolves might have gone out of business, Blues and Walsall merged and on a national scale identity cards compulsory for spectators.

When we’d done our bit and football became acceptable in polite circles it was taken from us then sold to the highest bidder. And much as we can complain that ‘our’ game has been destroyed, it isn’t ours anymore. So many new consumers have become football fans that us old stagers are now in the minority. Football at its highest levels is a TV-driven leisure industry and if you don’t like it there’s not a lot you can do except stay away.

Villa are at home to Chelsea on Saturday. I think it’ll be a draw.

 
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