The greeting of a handshake is said to have derived from medieval knights gripping each others’ hands to show that they were not concealing weapons and meant no harm to each other. Today, handshaking is used to greet another person, congratulate, or “seal” a deal. At Villa Park though, it seems to have become a subverted mixture of the two.
Over the past couple of seasons it’s been noticed that out of the two Villa mascots on show at Villa Park on match days, Hercules and Bella, Bella, the lioness, seems to be more keen to make a point of shaking the hands of managers and players. But is she as friendly as she seems?
At first, whispers out of the Doug Ellis stand of a ‘handsake curse’ were largely ignored, but they were enough to prompt MOMS into an investigation.
Below is evidence that has escaped most Aston Villa supporters and certainly the supposed watchdog eyes of the media. Evidence, that makes very ominous reading for Wigan manager Robert Martinez…
The Case Files of ‘Bella’ the Aston Villa Mascot
Victim No.1 – Alex McLeish
The appointment of Alex McLeish which went against most Villa supporters and mascots wishes alike, has been pinpointed as the time when Bella started dabbling in the dark arts seriously to develop her ‘handshake curse’.
Result: Beginners luck – a tight handshake that made McLeish grimace, saw the Scot sacked at the end of the season.
Victim No.2 – Paul Lambert
After Paul Lambert registered the worst start for Aston Villa in 54-years, Bella decided enough was enough. In an attempt to get rid of him early, she went for the ‘full hug’ on top of the handshake curse.
Result: Initially, the curse was strong and was responsible for Bradford City knocking out Villa in the semi-finals of the League Cup (yes, that’s how it happened folks). However, the warmth of the embrace started to reverberate with Bella and she became to grow fond of Lambert thus weakening the curse just as the end of the season approached. Relegation, which is normally the direct symptom of a ‘mascot hug’, seems to have been averted.
Victim No. 3 – Arsene Wenger
It’s often wondered why Arsene Wenger hasn’t brought much in the way of silverware to Arsenal since the clubs relocation to the Emirates. Well, it was because Bella used to enjoy away trips to Highbury. Being a sucker for history, she was mortified by the club’s relocation. It was the first recorded time the ‘full hug’ curse was actually used. Making Wenger Bella’s first recorded victim; although she admits, black magic was a mere hobby back when Wenger was cursed.
Result Pretty spectacular. Wenger hasn’t lifted a trophy in almost eight years.
Victim No. 4 – Darren Bent
Players are generally immune from the curse of the mascot handshake, as Bella feels they are her teammates and friends. There is one exception though, as Darren Bent found out to the cost of his Aston Villa career. Whatever you do if you are a player , do not, I repeat, do not, avoid eye contact at the time of the handshake.
Result: After this incident at Villa’s FA Cup game against Ipswich, Bent has hardly set foot on the pitch in a Villa shirt and is expected to be shipped out in the summer.
Victim No.5 – Howard Webb (and Sir Alex Ferguson)
Howard Webb’s constant breaking of the rules being Manchester United ‘s 12th man was never going to wash with the sense of fair play that Bella was brought up on at Villa Park as a young cub.
Result In order to get Howard Webb removed from his job at Manchester United, the curse claimed an innocent victim in Webb’s boss Sir Alex Ferguson. Sir Alex had originally set his heart on a Champion’s League trophy triple, but was found days before United’s final home game of the season against Swansea City, wandering the halls of Old Trafford in a zombie-like state waving his resignation letter in the air. With his paymaster gone, Webb’s influential role at United came to an abrupt end.
Victim No.6 – Roberto Mancini
How do you go from winning the Premiership on the 13th May 2012 to getting sacked on the 13th May 2013? Answer – see the above picture.
Result: Sacked. He really had no chance, there couldn’t be anymore City six-point hauls at Villa’s expense.
Victim No.7 – Roberto Martinez
After Wigan chairman Dave Whelan belittled Villa in the press, saying Martinez was too good for them, the Villa mascot decided it was payback time…
Result: Brutal relegation for Martinez’s Wigan. ‘But Martinez won the FA Cup?’ You cry. Well, the explanation for that must be that Martinez has a limp handshake, which apparently lessened the power of the mascot curse. Still, it didn’t save Wigan from the drop.
Bella also has the power to give Villa a resounding win by doing an impression of the manager of the opposition team, as Mr Di Canio found out to his cost, when Sunderland got thumped 6-1 at Villa Park.
So…who will be Bella’s victims next season? UTV
*A Venglos View is a satirical (and sometimes surreal) look at Villa. Check out other Venglos Views
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