Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Holiday Villa

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about adopting a Premiership club.

Any fears I had about causing grave offence to fellow Charlton fans, were dispelled by the eleven comments I received. Indeed I've always viewed double figures as the blogging equivalent of an Oscar.

I promised to go away and consider my choice between Everton and Aston Villa. In the meantime, I was even promised a free season ticket by a West Ham supporter who emailed me, and asked me to reconsider my final choices.

I was attracted to both clubs by their proud history, interesting stadia, outstanding British managers, and inoffensive financial backers. These can thus be taken as collectively given.

It is worth noting that both my potential adoptee clubs briefly dominated domestic English football, just as I was a highly impressionable youngster obsessed with football (as opposed to the mature adult I am today, currently writing a late-night blog about two clubs I don't support).

To begin the debate however, and returning to the theme of history, I wonder if Villa ever received the plaudits that their 1982 European Cup victory deserved. This is of course a prize which the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal are still to get their hands on.

Everton's hopes of replicating Villa's success in Europe however, were curtailed by the European ban put in place after Heysel in 1985. The First Division titles they won in 1985 and 1987 were not flukes; they were 13 and 9 points clear respectively.

Their failure to build on this mini-period of dominance can be put down in some substantial part to being shut out of European competition.

From a logistical standpoint meanwhile, Villa wins hands down. Everton is a further hundred miles up the M6, even if the new toll road allows one to avoid the joys of the Fort Dunlop building, usually viewed from bumper-to-bumper traffic. Indeed, I've never made it to Goodison Park.

Everton have until recently been better supported than Villa, both at home and on the road (a negative in my book given the importance of ticket availability).

However Villa have been energised by the O'Neill/Lerner effect, and their home crowds have exceeded Everton's in both of the past two seasons, despite finishing below the Toffeemen.

In terms of 'beer-drinking company at matches', I have a friend who supports Villa and lives in London (perhaps handy longer-term), whilst my sole Everton-supporting friend lives in New York (handy now).

My Villa friend has actively been cajoling me during recent weeks, giving me the hard sell.

The Everton friend meanwhile simply told me 'not to do it'. They are too similar to Charlton in their pomp apparently; average players greater than the sum of their parts, thanks to the prompting of their outstanding manager. And we all remember how that one ended.

In terms of famous fans, it's vital to know who one might be rubbing shoulders with at matches.

Villa seem to attract a combination of the establishment (Prince William, David Cameron, Mervyn King, Jacqui Smith), and eccentric nutters (Nigel Kennedy, Ozzy Osbourne). I'd like to think I lie somewhere between those two extremes.

I feel I have more in common with Everton's more earthy types, from Sir Paul McCartney to John Parrott, and from Dame Judy Dench to the late Leonard Rossiter. I'd quite happily accompany Amanda Holden to some games too.

As part of the deal I struck with the devil, I promised not to purchase any adopted club merchandise. However, I've always liked the claret and blue of Villa, colours shared of course with West Ham, Burnley and Scunthorpe. Blue on its own is a bit too Millwall or Gillingham for my liking.

Indeed, it poses an interesting question as to why those claret/blue colours (now represented by 15% of next season's Premiership) are so rarely seen outside of England?

From a Charlton connection perspective, one cannot escape the fact that Alan Curbishley played 36 times for the Villans. Conversely, I can't easily forgive the fact that Villa beat the Addicks 11-1 in 1959.

Their current squad meanwhile includes Luke Young, perhaps one of our most underrated players of recent times, albeit one who had to arrive in the Midlands via brief sojourn in Middlesbrough.

During the years I've been supporting the Addicks, notable players linked to both Charlton and Villa include Paul Mortimer (one of my all-time faves), Paul Elliott, and Carl Tiler (also an Evertonian incidentally).

Unfortunately Everton are £2.3million richer thanks to the money we paid for Marcus Bent, an absurd purchase which did Curbs no credit, and is a hard one to overlook.

We have fonder memories thankfully of Graham Stuart thankfully, although that former Everton FA Cup winner spent two years at Sheffield United, before making over 150 honest appearances for Charlton.

Moving on to more serious matters, Everton cannot easily escape the accusations of racism that have long hung over the club, rightly or otherwise. No smoke without fire and all that.

This contrasts neatly with the heartwarming story about Villa's players refusing to give a Nazi salute during a post-season tour of Germany in May 1938. Instead they stuck up two fingers, much to the fury of both the FA and unbelievably, the Foreign Office.

Indeed on the continued theme of standing out from the crowd, who cannot be touched by Villa's decision to shun a lucrative shirt deal, in favour of a charity?

And not just any old fashionable high-profile charity like Unicef (worthy as they are), but a local hospice (Acorns) - there's just absolutely no cynical angle you can find on that one.

Meanwhile, Everton is sponsored by a beer, one of the things in life I don't need to be advertised to about the joys of.

With the 'big four' seemingly shunning young English talent, it's been left notably to Villa, Everton and Spurs to provide a showcase for many of the country's international hopefuls. However Spurs are not on my shortlist for adoption (and never will be).

In Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor, the Villans have two of the most exciting English talents, meanwhile whilst no spring chicken, upfront is our favourite national battering ram (Emile Heskey).

Meanwhile young Agbonlahor is doing plenty of scoring off the pitch too, reportedly getting three different women pregnant at the same time. It was his good looks, intellect and sparkling personality apparently.

Elsewhere the likes of Milner, Davies and Shorey are knocking on Fabio Capello's door, if not exactly knocking it down. Indeed Villa have historically produced more England players than any other club.

Despite their greater recent success however, it seems Capello (like me perhaps) would prefer not to drive those extra hundred miles or so to Goodison Park.

Messrs Lescott, Jagielka, Neville and to a lesser extent Baines, have enjoyed some defensively-minded recognition, but it's not clear what more Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert have to do to win an England call-up. Clearly playing over 150 games for England's fifth best side is not enough it seems.

The heart-wrenching search for a Premiership club to adopt is thus over. It's a process I've taken seriously because the stakes are high.

I'm not embarking on a love affair, but a deep platonic friendship. On 18th August, when Charlton kick off at Leyton Orient, and my adopted club kick off just three miles down the road at Upton Park, my heart and body will only be at the former.

I'm hoping it's a fleeting friendship too, like that nice couple you meet on holiday that you promise you'll stay in touch with, as my true love Charlton rapidly finds a way back to the top flight.

I sense sadly that this may well not happen again in my lifetime. Until then, see you at Corley services.

NY Addick adopts: Aston Villa


At 6:13 PM, Blogger Leor said...

Go to bed, you clearly cannot make rational decisions at 2 in the morning.
Mind you I am proud of you being prepared to look after Amanda Holden but your football judgement continues to be impaired.

Howard Levene

At 12:28 AM, Anonymous vff said...

Good choice. Darren Bent is rumoured to be a target for Martin O'Neil.

Martin O'Neil a also a top man and manager.

At 2:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out of them two clubs there was only ever one choice.

At 2:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right colours, wrong team!!!!


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