It was at the 70-minute mark of the FA Cup final that I felt the insult to supporters had gone on enough and I headed towards the Wembley exit. There’s been many a poor performance from this Villa team this season, but this one topped them all.
It was even worse than Villa’s display in the 2000 FA Cup final against Chelsea.
Not one shot registered on target. Not even one corner won. It was one of the biggest FA Cup final for god’s sake, but the Villa players contributed very little to the occasion, as Arsenal didn’t need to break out of second gear to comfortably retain the trophy.
Randy Lerner in attendance finally got to see in the flesh what his ownership had done to the club. Only this Villa team could offer so little at Wembley. A Villa team that had finished for the third time in four seasons on 38 points. It’s a sorry, sorry state of affairs, one that was meant to be rectified last summer, with a new owner. Villa fans will hope that this summer bares new ownership fruits for drastic change is needed fast.
Until the summer comings and goings begin in earnest, here’s five reasons to be kind of Cheerful as Aston Villa fans…
1. Wembley Day Out
I just hope it doesn’t take another 15-years to revisit Wembley for another FA Cup final. These are the days that Villa fans should have the chance to enjoy – win or lose – more frequently. So we have to be thankful for our two trips to Wembley in the past month, they certainly lifted a lot of gloom for supporters.
It’s important that fans maintain a level of ambition and thirst for such occasions. Recently, a lot of fans’ outlook’s have got too negative, as if they should apologise for being in a cup final. The constant question posed of choosing between winning the cup and survival, was undoubtedly the most tedious thing I heard over the past couple of months.
‘Survival’ is nothing for an Villa fan to aspire to. The problem is now unless the ownership limbo is resolved quickly, with Cleverley looking Everton-bound and Benteke looking for a ticket out of Villa Park, the club will once again be flirting with the Championship again next season.
2. Clear Cut Managerial Decisions
While Tim Sherwood must take a lot of blame for being easily out thought by his opposite number at Wembley, at least he knows the task ahead is pretty clear cut. He’s going to have to rebuild this team pretty much from scratch. Delph, Grealish, Clark, Okore, Sinclair will be in his plans already (it’s going to be a struggle to keep Benteke), but nobody else is safe and rightly so.
3. Release the Funds
Even if the Lerner reign continues, surely he and Tom Fox must now know that the B6 austerity cannot continue in the vein it has in recent years. If Benteke leaves then the main reason the club has beaten the drop in recent seasons will be gone.
The fact that Sherwood has never bought a player as a manager does understandably cast a cloud of doubt over his capabilities in the transfer market, but he is the man the Villa board entrusted to be manager, so he must be given a proper chance at rebuilding. Now is not the time for any more caution.
The wage bill’s biggest drain of Darren Bent’s £65,000-a-week wages will be removed from the equation, so there should be room for spending from the off.
Next season sees the massive TV revenue increase kick-in, so there’s an extra reason Villa must speculate to accumulate.
4. Sepp Blatter Resigns
It took the FBI to start shaking the tree of corruption in the game, but finally headway has been made to cracking down on the corruption that goes right through the game. Blatter is just the tip of the iceberg of the corruption in the FIFA and what’s wrong with the game of football as a whole. Football bodies such as the UEFA and FA have failed to hold FIFA accountable, as they’re far from perfect themselves. Mass TV money and third party sponsorship and advertising has created an insidious industry far removed from supporters and the notion of football being the people’s game.
Maybe the crackdown on FIFA will help make supporters realise that they should question and challenge their clubs and football authorities more, since fans are the last to see any benefits from the game’s ever-increasing wealth. Together supporters could potentially form a very strong and influential consumer group, that can at least make the football bodies more accountable.
5. Supporter Solidarity over Wembley Ban
We saw from the support we got on the issue of our banned Wembley surfer flag that there is hope of a mass supporter voice across club lines. We had several leading Arsenal supporter groups come out publicly to support us with a statement, Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankley, Manchester City’s 1894 Group, Watford’s 1881 Movement, Leicester City’s Union FS, amongst others, all backed us too against Wembley Stadium’s stance on the flag.
The response from Arsenal fans was amazing with over a thousand signing the petition, which only had a few days to run before the actual game.
Remember it was only a handful of marketing and events people that essentially decided that the surfer flag wasn’t allowed because it had the word ‘Arsenal’ on it (it didn’t stop them putting the word on their free scarves), while in the space of two days 6000+ football supporters had signed a petition saying the flag should be allowed.
National newspapers also ran stories calling the FA and Wembley’s decision ‘bizarre’ and ‘ridiculous’. Even the conservative Fox Sports in the USA thought the flag should have flown [see Fox Sports report here].
In the end, it was a big disappointment as the flag would have added some heart to what was a soulless stage-managed presentation of flames, plastic flags and cheap acrylic scarves.
If you feel the fan funded flag should have been allowed into the FA Cup final, please still sign the petition here