The Good, Bad and Ugly – Week 2
Lift back the velvet ropes and step into a brave new world. No, it’s not The Terrace View at Villa Park, it’s European Competition.
For the third consecutive season, Aston Villa’s season had to wait for the second game to kick-off properly. Everton, for the second year in a row, rolled over, allowing the Villans to wash away their opening game blues.
From the first whistle, you could tell that Villa wanted to erase the 5-1 reverse against Newcastle the week before and so it proved, as Lucas Digne amongst others found themselves with the freedom of Villa Park to play in.
Everton were a shadow of even the side that Villa beat with goals from Wesley and El Ghazi for their first Premier League win since relegation and could have scored at will in the first half.
The second half was even easier, with goals from Leon Bailey and a first for Jhon Duran ensuring Villa are now at goal difference par for the season.
If that was good, then Aston Villa fans got a reality check of how big an opportunity the Europa Conference League is when they travelled to Edinburgh for the first leg of the play-off against Hibernian.
Immediately after the rout at St James Park, worries began to manifest themselves about Hibs being a potential banana skin to reaching the group stage. Without the physical presence of Tyrone Mings, a tough aerial bombardment was expected.
Instead, there was an unannounced testimonial for John McGinn, that showed how big a gulf there is between seventh place in the Premier League and fifth place in the SPL.
Villa’s 5-0 demolition of Hibs all but guarantees their place in the group stages and the extra games that come with it. Aston Villa are one of the favourites for the Conference League and if every game is approached with the attitude of the first leg against Hibernian, Villa will be a force to the end.
Villan of The Week – Lucas Digne
Tarred with the moniker of being a Steven Gerrard signing, the alleged highest wage-earner, injury-prone, and not an upgrade on Matt Targett, life has been tricky enough for the full-back since his arrival from Everton.
I’ve personally felt that Digne has been unlucky, very rarely was a pass or clearance played to the Frenchman that he didn’t have to control with his throat or a wild stretch. Maybe the arrival of Pau Torres has helped here.
In the last two games, with acres of space and a team that knows he is going to be there, Villa fans have seen the best of Digne with pinpoint crosses causing havoc against Everton and Hibs.
Cynics will say it’s because he’s putting himself in the shop window. Personally, it seems more hassle than it is worth to replace a more than capable alternative option to Alex Moreno, because as divisive as he is, Digne still has enough quality to be part of the Villa side. With the additional European games, he’ll certainly see a lot of action, if he sticks around, which seems likely judging by Emery’s comments in his last press conference.
Depending on your outlook, it has been a bad week for Villa’s youth prospects and their hopes of playing first-team football.
If you are an accountant, you realise the value of selling Aaron Ramsey to Burnley, Cameron Archer to Sheffield United and Jayden Philogene Bidace to Hull. Added to the Grealish and Chukwumeka windfalls of the previous seasons, it gives Villa an FFP boost to allow them to buy now and pay later with their big signings.
In simple terms, the £14 Million for Aaron Ramsey is deposited in the here and now, whereas a purchase of a player for £14 Million can be amortised over the duration of their contract. So even signing a player at £14 million on a three-year deal only counts as a £4.67 Million Spend on your sheet, leaving £9.33 million of Ramsey money still to spend.
The bad thing about this is the hope that fades for young players, perhaps overhyped at the time, for whom it just doesn’t work out. In an ideal world, they’d go on to represent the First Team and you’d have a squad of homegrown players like Manchester United’s Class of 92.
The reality is, modern football is so ruthless, that you are extremely lucky to have a Grealish fulfil the dream of the fans.
For these young players to leave for the money being discussed is not a bad thing, they have made it as professional footballers. It’s just the next stage of their careers will be played away from Villa Park.
The Terrace View made its debut against Everton and to say there’s an ugly situation developing would be an understatement.
Hospitality in the Kop end of a football club has already proven to be a disaster for Manchester United and frowned upon by fanbases of other clubs.
For the record, paying for some better facilities, or an upgraded hospitality seat is nothing new, and for the most part is not a problem. People’s hard-earned money is theirs to spend as they see fit.
The ugly situation has arisen because of how it’s been handled by the club, spinning a GA+ offering as VIP hospitality with velvet ropes, lanyards and hostesses…not exactly fitting in with the Holte End vibe.
Then of course there’s the big issue of it not being an actual addition to the ground. It has directly removed space and facilities from fans who have already had to endure season-on-season ticket increases.
It’s removed the ability for a Claret Member to buy a seat in the Upper-Holte, which was the prime reason for having a membership.
Worse than that, it’s set fans against each other on social media and in person, due to the poor and underhand implementation of the scheme.
When the club directly removes facilities that were previously available, puts lipstick on the pig, and then sells them to another group of fans, it doesn’t take a degree in anthropology to work out that there’s going to be hostility.
It’s now on the Football Club to sort this ugly mess out, before it’s too late.
Follow Phil on Twitter here – @prsgame