Music blaring, beer flowing, naked torsos left, right and centre, combined with 100’s of excited faces, you’d think I’d just walked into happy hour at Club Tropicana. But in fact, this was the scene of the less exotic Central Pub, London East End, at midday, Saturday. Lambert’s Limes are out in force, for the moment we’d spent all summer waiting for, the opening weekend of the Premier League. There’s no feeling quite like it is there? The European Championships were ok. The Olympics were even better, but this was the summer’s main event.
Adrenaline levels were high, and as the beer slipped down, the fans began to bounce a tune or two around, rather amusingly so, one chorus from Hammer’s fans of “chim chim chriee, chim chim chiroo, we are those b*stards in claret and blue”, saw Villa fans ironically join in, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the pub was completely full of Villa fans, same shirt sponsors, same colours, and the same hope, an opening weekend 3pts.
Marching down Barking Road just after half two, Claret and Blue army in full voice “West Ham’s a sh*t hole, I wanna go home”, the mid-afternoon sun blazing high in the sky, I literally couldn’t have been happier.
I don’t think the Boleyn Ground’s stewards were quite expecting the onslaught of Lambert’s Lions. As they struggled to maintain a degree of control over us; calls to have our tickets ready, saw 1000+ Villa fans hold their tickets high in the air, repeating the instruction for all to hear. Luckily, the cockneys appreciate a bit of banter.
The opening 20 minutes were great, the butterflies that once filled my stomach leapt out of my throat and transformed into cheers, as we completed perhaps more passes than we had done in the whole of last season. “We’re Aston Villa, we’re passing the ball!” rang round the stand, as we watched in opened mouth in disbelief, as attacks were built in a fashion we were unaccustomed to (don’t get too excited however… Jääskeläinen wasn’t exactly batting away balls, but a promising start nonetheless). Then came the goal that shouldn’t have been, the flag was clearly raised for offside and controversy followed, when the Referee overturned the offside decision rewarding Nolan with the goal. “1-0 to the referee, 1-0 to the referee, 1-0…”.
The away support is hard to fault, always lively, always vast and always game for a laugh. Fast becoming a recent speciality is picking out an individual home supporters to wind-up – remember Mr Pink at White Hart Lane, last season? Today the unfortunate soul to attract the attention of the 2600+ travelling Villa fans was for want of a better description, an overly bronzed macho man. Fake or not, it was hard to avoid his glow as you scanned the lower East Stand. “Go back to Tenerife, you fat b*stard” – must have bruised his ego a little.
Once half-time came around, I think everyone welcomed the break, narrowly avoiding a frustration overspill, with the aim of grabbing a beer. The heat became suddenly much more stifling now there was no football to concentrate on, and I know people were unhappy at the lack of facilities/unhelpfulness of the stewards, which reiterated the previous “West Ham’s a sh*t hole I wanna go home” chant, but luckily half-time is only 15 minutes, and before we knew it the boys were back on the pitch.
A renewed sense of optimism greeted the returning troops to the field, however this was short-lived, as we failed to make any real impact. We must learn not to give away free kicks in crucial areas of the pitch, Cole and Diame winning free kicks minutes apart both just 20-yards from goal. Better teams will punish us. Limited options up front, still mean Villa struggle to produce an end product, when positive periods of possession seemingly point towards an attack or shot on target, there isn’t a target man as such to nail home the goal. Bent for me is not creative enough, more of a goal poacher, looking for the ball to be fed straight to his feet and tapped into the net. We need someone who can take, own, control and convert attacks into goals.
Another issue remains on the wings, Lowton on many occasions sprinted down the wing, but the play was kept in the centre, once the wings are utilised to their full potential we may see a change in fate, N’Zog who looked promising pre-season, especially at Forest for me, was drawn in too deep and proved disappointing. For the first 20 minutes, the new short-passing philosophy seemed effective, drawing a few cheers from the crowd, but then the realisation that completing passes sideways, or backwards, whilst better than giving the ball away is not entirely effective. Perhaps the team just need a game or two to settle into the new style of play, and a bit more fluidity wouldn’t go a miss as ‘uncomfortable’ best described the team for long stretches of play.
It is easy to read too deep into one game, this was after all the first game of the new season, there is a lot of hard work still to be done, and some very obvious (WINGS, FORWARDS) areas for improvement. However, negativity isn’t going to get us anywhere, so quit your bitching and instead I’d be interested to hear your personal views (positive criticism) on the game, predictions for the season ahead, amusing chants etc … In Lambert We Trust.
(Lambert’s Limes next away game is at Newcastle)
Instagram pictures copyright MOMS
Follow MOMS on twitter: @oldmansaid