Tuesday, August 10, 2010
MON the Villa
Martin O'Neill defined my general outlook as a Villa supporter. Following the club under David O'Leary was a trial, and no fun except for the rare flukey win. Still, they were my club and they provided few surprises and even fewer expectations. And they had as much hold on the popular footballing imagination as Bolton.
Then O'Neill came along as part of the Randy Lerner package, and we know how it all happened after that. That same season, which saw Villa finish eleventh on a respectable 50 points, jumping five spaces in the process, I saw my first live Villa game at Charlton. They lost 2-1 after conceding a winner late in the second half, and after the game I remember O'Neill walking over to us with a sort of shocked embarrassment on his face as the entire away stand sang his name in appreciation.
The next summer, O'Neill took Villa to Toronto FC, a friendly about which I still haven't quite gathered up all the symbolic threads. He did his little walk and wave to the pocket of Villa supporters jammed up back on the second tier, and he looked the real deal to me. After that momentous year in my footballing life, Villa teetered on the edge of expectation. They had these flashy youngsters, Young and Agbonlahor, and one of the best central defenders I've ever witnessed, Martin Laursen. They skimmed the edge of the Champions League, and at the end of one December at least, the title itself. O'Neill was at first tied to England, then with this and that club during pretty much his entire tenure. And it seemed his relationship, for a long time at least, with Randy Lerner was nothing but sunshine and cookies.
His span with AVFC neatly matched my patience for Scudamore's Libertarian experiment, and while I will always be Villa, I won't necessarily always be Premier League. I'm not ashamed to say I will miss him, and am grateful for what he managed to do at the club.
Posted by Richard Whittall at 7:35 AM