A clean sheet. An away point. A new season begins. So why the continuing unrest from some quarters of the Villa faithful? Because, what has really changed?
This article has been mulled for a few days. The game on Saturday posed as many questions as it did answers, but that has been the nature of supporting Aston Villa in recent seasons. Alex McLeish’s opening point for the club has been debated to death and even dismissed by many, which they’re entitled to do, but it should not be forgotten that this is a fine result.
It’s fine because; it’s easy to say “it was only Fulham”, we are very much a team in transition, we do have a manager whom a number of vocal supporters seem intent on willing to fail and a point away from home in the Premier League of English football is superb.
Yes there are shortcomings – our shape was at times questionable and where in prior seasons we enjoyed a pure youthful exuberance and flair, we must now look to blend rookies in the form of Albrighton and co with established senior players; your Petrov’s, Dunne’s and Heskey’s. It wasn’t always pretty, but it should not be forgotten that more exciting, more daring Aston Villa sides have departed Craven Cottage with much less.
And getting Fulham out of the way will no doubt be a sigh of relief to McLeish. A tricky opening day away tie against mid-table lurkers is less than desirable, but then what would we rather? A trip to Eastlands or Old Trafford? A defeat would have allowed keyboard warriors from Aston to Witton to shout from the rooftops and would have sent many a veteran supporter for the tin hats ahead of Blackburn this weekend.
A draw, we should take quite happily.
Whilst Given has received deserved praise for his shot-stopping – both routine and world class in its fashion – McLeish should also take a great deal of credit. Early in his tenure he had to deal with the departure of Freidel and he has seemingly managed to replace him with the next quality available keeper. Indeed, it is early days but it remains astonishing that Villa went unchallenged in securing Given’s proven services. Perhaps even Sir Alex might be regretting an expensive continental purchase on reflection?
The season is extremely young and with a shaky Blackburn side, notoriously poor on their travels to Villa Park due in town, Saturday should be viewed with some positivity – alas – optimism? The abject musings of the ever depressive Villa supporters who somehow manage to get press (normally their own) must be overlooked. Their outright negativity risks damaging our club even more than it has done so through its own recent naivity, flawed ambitions and wastefulness. And whilst the latter can be overcome and even put down to experience – ill feeling cannot be easily repaired.
Because we’re on a revised path. We need not like it as fans, but the days of spending ludicrous money for average players is over. Although the hole those players have left in the Villa coffers should remain a notable cause for concern. This does not mean our season should be muted, dull or dire – but it might mean we do things quite differently to how we might have wanted.
And who’s to say it might not work? We’ve tried everything else after all.