How long does it take to kill the passions of a football fan? Matt Turvey asks if financial restrictions are turning Aston Villa into the footballing equivalent of beige.
As I started getting ready to go to the Arsenal game on Monday night, I felt something I hadn't felt until then - apathy.
Don't get me wrong, I love Aston Villa completely - I've supported them all my life, run a website dedicated to the club and the fans, and write about us for various outlets - but I'm feeling more than a little jaded.
Some might say that such a feeling is far from surprising. After all, Villa have won just twice at home this season, and have managed to take just eight points at Villa Park this season.
Now whilst it would be easy to say that a club like Villa deserve so much more, such analysis seems trite. We've heard, over and over, from media outlets and pundits discussing how a club with a proud history like ours should be doing so much better.
In my eyes, history counts for nothing. That isn't to say we shouldn't be proud of what we have achieved in the past - of course we should - or that we should ignore our former players, rather that Villa are a club suffering almost silently in the present.
After all, a casual look at the Premier League table would suggest that Villa are a team who are safe in mid-table, almost vindicating the strategy enacted by the board following the exit of Martin O'Neill. In their eyes, everything has been great, targets have been achieved, and people should be proud.
But they would be wrong.
It doesn't take much digging on social media channels to realise that many Villans feel exactly the same as me. For some, their displeasure is shown via anger with statements castigating the board, CEO, manager and players for the situation.
For others, things are a little more reasoned with suggestions of what should be done to change the landscape at the club but, and this is key, little does appear to be happening.
Just this week, the club announced the loan signing of Grant Holt from Wigan Athletic. I'm not going to get on the ever-increasing bandwagon and criticise the signing - it makes perfect sense given Libor Kozak has found himself out for the rest of the season - but it is far from exciting.
Which, if we are honest, is why many are feeling hugely apathetic. Under Alex McLeish, a man reviled by many claret and blue fans, Villa still managed to sign Charles N'Zogbia. Yes, it could be argued that that particular move hasn't worked out, but it was something to get excited about with a huge majority of the shirts bought after his signing bearing his name.
Nowadays, even when Villa sign players who turn out to be good, that lack of excitement is evident. The chairman, for financial reasons, has curbed spending to balance the books, something that could be strongly argued is a positive for the club, had it not been for the fact that the same board level structure authorised the reason Villa were in a financial mess.
Some still point the finger at Martin O'Neill, but the truth is that that O'Neill is just one of a series of scapegoats that supporters have seen thrown under the bus, with the reality that the board are happy to sacrifice anyone who disagrees with their financially focused methods.
Instead, fans are left desperate and distracted by the occasional glimmer of hope. This window it is Steven Defour, before it was Hiroshi Kiyotake - for me, such stories are little more than a smokescreen keeping the fans from turning on the real problem. Who? The board.
Few can disagree that money plays a part in the game, but when you're so focused on penny pinching that you start to see crowds dwindle and fans start to walk away, the old saying "speculate to accumulate" pops strongly into mind - you have to give the fans something to get excited about. If you don't, Villa become little more than a series of Excel spreadsheets - boring and of no interest to anyone but an accountant.
Such managerial methods, whilst effective in pure finance terms, are a key part of what is sucking the enjoyment out of watching Villa for many - I don't think for one second I'm the only one feeling uneasy about travelling to Villa Park to see a woefully underfunded squad play football. With recent quotes from the manager talking about the value of a number 10, perhaps it isn't just the fans feeling frustrated by the board.
Getting back to football, however, without the needed experience and quality, circumstances will eventually kill the club - attendances may well be acceptable at present, but I can't see it being anything other than a matter of time until even the most hardcore of fans stop being taken for mugs. In short, if the chairman wants to pay little to help the club, why should you or me continue to pay nearly £600 a year to turn up? We're being taken for fools.
Yes, I love the club, and I also understand and support the team, but I'm increasingly frustrated by a chairman who, after several years of spending, appears to be no more further forward than "Deadly" Doug Ellis before him. Many thought Randy would be a breath of (expensive) fresh air, but the truth is that it is just the "same old, same old" - maybe the grass isn't always greener.
However, it is getting to be so bad in terms of financial strangulation, Villa might well be better off decked out in magnolia rather than claret and blue given they are the footballing equivalent of magnolia - boring, dull and lacking any visual interest. I'm also fully aware that we should be careful of what we wish for - there are many worse owners than Randy Lerner, but I'd struggle to think of a less interesting one.
So, as Villa face a game at the weekend, the mid-January blues have taken over - will we see anything over the remaining days to prove that Villa are capable of bringing excitement back to the fans? I have to admit that I'm not entirely convinced.
You can follow Matt Turvey's regular opinions at his own site, Aston Villa Life at http://www.astonvillalife.com, via the site's Twitter account @astonvillalife, or via his own Twitter account @mturvey_star.