The Good, Bad and Ugly Season Preview
It’s been a long time since Aston Villa were even discussed in media preseason shows, but a look around the usual talking head pundits has many tipping Unai Emery’s team for relative success.
Is it all good? Of course not…
Aston Villa fans can genuinely approach this season without placing a ceiling on their expectations. Apart from the financially advantaged sovereign wealth teams, Villa can once again assess their peers and measure themselves against them.
The summer’s recruitment has brought in Pau Torres, Youri Tielemans, and Moussa Diaby.
Would you have been surprised to see these three players signing for any of the established ‘big six’? No, and this is indicative of where Aston Villa currently stands. They are not merely knocking at the door of the league’s top six positions; rather, they are inserting the key into the door.
With positive progress on the pitch, expectations rise exponentially. It’s important to remember that the first game of the season is as challenging as it gets, facing Newcastle PIF in an away tie.
A negative result shouldn’t derail the season as last campaign’s horror show against Bournemouth did. Instead, it should serve as a reminder that the season is a marathon, not a sprint.
While the news of Villa’s record signing, Emiliano Buendia, suffering a potentially season-ending injury in training this week echoes the Diego Carlos injury from last year, it’s important to note that despite being a cruel blow to an in-form key player and the squad as a whole, there are more options in the midfield than in other areas of the pitch.
For the first time in a while, the foundations for a successful Villa season are in place. Villa fans have every reason to be excited and hopeful for the team to deliver.
Villan of the Week – Philipe Coutinho
With two impressive cameos against Lazio and Valencia in a week, many who have written the mercurial Brazilian off, are looking at him as an option again, even more so with Buendia ruled out.
Coutinho offers Villa something that can’t be coached or taught, and that genius may yet prove vital this season.
There is a chance he may still leave before the end of the transfer window, but it would be a shame if Villa didn’t get one decent season of him contributing at his best while Buendia recovers from injury.
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The Bad and Ugly Off the Pitch
Aston Villa’s new premium offering ’The Terrace View’ has again been causing online dissent among fans and for good reason, as more information becomes available about it.
Only last week, this column wrote about the issues members have in buying tickets for the Upper Holte.
This week the stark reality of the project came to light when images of it under construction appeared at the back of the Lower Holte End. The ’T’ of ’The Holte End’ displayed in the coloured seating was ironically removed, so that a terrace railing and glass front could be installed.
The only thing missing is ex-Villa striker Dion Dublin turning up with a film crew to tell the viewers how much this conservatory has added to the property’s value despite being an eyesore.
The question that should be asked, that hasn’t been, is did anyone ask for this or want it, and is the return of investment worth it?
Judging by fan reaction, it should be named ‘The Alex McLeish Terrace View.’
Coincidentally, it was reported this week that Manchester United Boss Erik Ten Hag has had a hospitality area, that charged £550 per seat at Old Trafford, repurposed into a players’ lounge to help with pre-match preparations.
While Manchester United and their massive commercial income can absorb the loss, converting the hospitality space in Old Trafford’s South Stand will cost millions in lost revenue partially offset by not paying the Lowry Hotel as a pre-match base
The No 7 suite had occasionally been used for the pre-game meal, but because it is a hospitality area, it had to be cleared about 90 minutes before kick-off.
Aston Villa are heading in the other direction, fundamentally changing a focal point of the stadium to accommodate a paltry increase of revenue. It isn’t sold on a game-by-game basis yet…
Then there is another thing to consider. With all the negative reactions to The Terrace View, is anyone actually going to want to be associated with it?
At the moment, it is akin to a paid-for blue checkmark on Elon Musk’s X formally known as Twitter.
The point of hospitality is to have a treat, or to be lucky enough to afford a corporate box for the season because of your line of work, this is how it has been and will likely always be.
That is mostly done on a one-off basis, to offer a membership that allows perks on a season-long basis, is certainly a bold move.
The Terrace View is a different kind of upgrade that grates against normal fan culture by offering a ‘speedy boarding service’ that many have endured years of suffering to get. In fact, if you have lost your season ticket seat because of this, someone will have paid a premium to take it.
It’s a membership that isn’t a group many fans will want to be part of, especially as further information leaks in regard to a Terrace View members-only ballot for away tickets.
The away ticket scheme at Aston Villa has been referred to as a closed shop, yet many who go to away games have built their away criteria up over a number of seasons.
There is already a ballot for away tickets, yet Terrace View members are to get their own ballot, further reducing the number of available tickets.
While some will just say ’that’s life’ and people who can afford to will always skip queues and pay a bit extra for some perks, think of how you view that scenario in a context outside of football.
How about the American Celebrities that paid for their children to be accepted into schools regardless of results?
It may be that Aston Villa are ahead of a worrying commercial curve on this, but it is leaving a bad taste in what otherwise could be the most memorable season to be a Villa fan in decades.
Follow Phil on Twitter here – @prsgame