And so to Villa Park, where the Roberto Martinez adventure began, where he nearly ended up plying his trade this summer and where our bargain basket Messi now resides. It’s a fixture that has been notoriously kind to Latics, not least in that first game for Bobby when the sun shone and we all thought we were seeing the dawn of a brave new era. Two relegation battles later things aren’t quite so bright, but surely that just gives us more to talk about so here are the five topics that would be top of my list if there was a chance of me seeing daylight this weekend.
1) Being a Webmaster is Rubbish
Despite what regular visitors might think is evidence to the contrary, I’m not a geek. I don’t love all the techy work that goes on behind the scenes of the good ship TNS and I live in dread of something breaking. It’s even worse when the thing that breaks is something that isn’t obvious to the naked eye and so, whilst I’ve been pulling my hair out following an email from our web hosts, things have been sailing along fairly normally on the site.
All of which means I’ll get in the neck when I make some changes to the site, probably over the weekend. But never mind, eh? We might lose some bits of the site, temporarily, but at the same time we might gain some bits, especially for those of you who like to keep upto date on the move.
2) Culture Clash
Were Villa fans ever going to be happy with their new managerial appointment this summer? With the fresh smell of Gerard Houllier’s blood in the noses of the Holt End it would have been a steep curve for whoever took over. So their offer to our Bobby and his build from the bottom approach came as a bit of a surprise but no more than them subsequently giving the job to Alex McLeish, whose only apparent selling point to Villa fans was that he’d just taken Birmingham City into the Championship.
Big ‘eck isn’t quite the anti-Martinez, we’ll leave that title to someone like Allardyce, but he is far removed from the Spaniard in style, method and intent. If you were only allowed one word to describe the Scots’ approach at Birmingham then it would be a coin toss between dour and pragmatic. Rumblings from Villa are that that things haven’t changed that much and fans are getting frustrated at the lack of attacking verve from their current team.
There’s just as much frustration at our end as well, but as always it seems to be coming from those fans who insist that plan-B(obby) can’t work pointing out that it isn’t working at the moment. “At the moment” is my own addition there because, whilst the football hasn’t exactly been flowing so far this season there have usually been good reasons.
3) The First Day of the Rest of Our Season
There was a clear need to not make the same slip up that we did last season which saw us take a measured approach to the games against Norwich and Swansea. We played well against QPR and then it was the more difficult task of dealing with City, Everton and Spurs and the unsurprising end result of no points and a general feeling of being battered and bruised. There are those ready to write us off after that run of fixtures but if we’re honest getting past the billionaires, a team that we always struggle against and the team with arguably the best set of midfielders in the country was always a hiding to nothing.
October and November’s fixtures are more kind though and we’ve got a nice run of seven games up until the next month of death in December. I’m not going to set a target, but if Latics can rediscover some of the form that we showed at the end of last season then we’ll have a nice little base going into the second half of the season. Struggle and then it’ll make for an interesting January.
4) Away ground – no fans
Of course a key part of our form in the run in was how our fans got behind the team and helped them home. The reaction at Blackpool, both from the day tripper fans and the players post game showed just what was possible when we put our minds to things and have inspired us at TNS to start thinking about what can be done to recreate some of that, without waiting for a dire straits situation to land in our laps, so watch this space.
But that’s going to be too soon for this game and, to be honest, even the eternal optimists we’ve got on the admin team couldn’t think of a plan to get around tickets at £37 a pop, other than trying the home end where offers and cheap ticket are abounds.
You can’t blame Villa for wanting to do the best for their fans, but that doesn’t justify them overcharging away fans and as tickets will be going on for twice as much as we’ll be asking of any of their fans that make the trip up in February then surely that’s the case? Any way, the short and long of that is that Match of the Day are likely to have an excuse to conveniently ignore that barren patches that are slowly growing in pretty much every Premier League home end these days by pointing their cameras at a fairly empty away end.
5) A left Charlie
I’ve done well to get this far, but it was inevitable that Mr N’Zogbia was going to come into conversation at some point. I think as much as can be said has been said with regard his move but what’s happened since is another matter. It appears that Charlie hasn’t hit the ground running at Villa Park, It’s not hard to imagine that the reputedly moody Frenchman is taking his time to settle into a new environment and new position as a middle sized fish in a middle sized pond.
But it’s possible that the rusty start has deeper roots. Under Steve Bruce, N’ogbia looked a decent player but only hinted at what was to come. Under Bobby, Latics played to Charlie’s strengths and pandered to his desire to return to the number 10 position where he started off his football life. Our formation and style of play suited him and the manager’s approach to looking after and listening to his charges brought the best from him.
The point? Well, if McLeish is as rigid as I’ve suggested as above and as disciplinarian as you can imagine then him and Charlie may never actually make a good fit. There’s a history of players never living up to the potential they showed at Latics, N’Zogbia deserves more than to be next in that long line.
Until next time…
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