After a solid result against Norwich City in midweek, Aston Villa look increasingly on the up.
Villa blogger Matt Turvey looks at the reasons why fans can find reasons to be cheerful in the winter period.
For those fans fortunate enough to see the thrilling end to the 4-1 win against Paul Lambert’s former side Norwich City, there was much to be happy about, and a lot of it comes from the context of Aston Villa’s current predicament.
After several years of underachievement, expectations have dropped and many have dreaded games feeling that the chances to bring home the points have been reduced when compared with the high times under Martin O’Neill.
However, now that Lambert’s lions are starting to gel together, there is a particular form of excitement garnered from winning games that may have been seen as certain results only a few years ago.
With regard to the Norwich result, this was exactly the type of game I mean. Had we been playing a team of the level of Norwich under O’Neill, a win would have almost been expected due to the height of Villa’s expectations back then. Anything less would have meant problems.
This time round, Villa were being rated as 50/50 in terms of whether they could win the game and, as a result, getting the win feels altogether more sweet, more appreciated than it may have been only a short time ago.
Which is why I am always keen to stay on the side of pragmatism and sensibility when I engage in analysis of the games I watch. By realising where we are now, and accepting that as our current reality, there’s far more scope to be sensible with the predictions of what will or won’t happen.
Take last week for example. I mentioned in my column that I believed Villa would draw against Stoke City, something that was backed by past statistics with Villa only having two non-draw results against the Potters in the history of Premier League matches.
My perspective in predicting that result was based on understanding who Villa are now, and how they are or are not capable of dealing with the threats from a team we play. It isn’t based on an unrealistic view, either positive or negative, but of the mere facts of what have happened.
Now, of course, I could have got the result wrong, but the game turned out to be 0-0. What it illustrated in some of the feedback I received was the black-and-white views of two sections of fans, both of which seem uninterested in listening to reality.
I should explain. A lot of the so-called “negative” fans have gotten bad press over the past few seasons with media outlets reporting them to be ungrateful and deluded, suggesting that their ambitions were not consonant with that of the club’s ability to deliver them.
On the other side of the fence are the “positive” fans. The battle that goes on between the two parties on social media sites seems endless with insults exchanged at each other, both thinking the other are delusional.
The truth is that positive and negative are wholly subjective concepts which is why I put them in quotation marks when referring to certain groups of fans who are regularly identified. My prediction of 0-0 was seen by one reader as being wholly negative and uninspirational, as though I should have predicted a win and thus be done with it.
The reality is that 0-0 was what happened and was, as it happens, a fairly accurate view of the situation. Would I have gone out to play the game to draw 0-0? Of course not as I play every game to win, with the difference being that I know results don’t always bring three points.
If we take a step back though, are “positive” fans any less deluded than “negative” fans? Surely it is unrealistic to expect to win every game as much as it is to expect to lose every one. Neither are realistic ideas.
The issue here is expectation and the strange confrontation between “positive” and “negative” groups having to lambast the other for what they think, with the overarching irony of accusing each other of exactly the same traits that they themselves hold.
Supporting a club over the long term is challenging as we all know, and it can be a fantastic experience as much as it can be a very frustrating one. Villa supporters, perhaps more than any other group of fans, will know that things rarely go smoothly for the club, and that knowing where we are in realistic terms is key to ensuring we don’t disappear off into la-la land or oblivion either.
The bottom line is this - we are getting better. It is going to take time, for sure, but the trajectory is aimed in the right direction. So, for now, try to breathe deeply and think about your views before you go calling someone else a name simply because they think something differently to you.
The future is bright under Lambert, but we are only at the dawn of the new era and so patience, as challenging as it can be, is needed whilst we continue to plan our moves for the January window.
You can follow Matt Turvey’s regular opinions at his own site, Aston Villa Life at www.astonvillalife.com, via the site’s Twitter account @astonvillalife, or via his own Twitter account @MatthewSTurvey.