Life without the Lions

John Russell rails against the dying of the light.

Last week used to see one of the most exciting days of the year, second only to the Monday lunchtime draw on the radio for the third round of the FA Cup. It was the day the football fixtures were published for next season.

The day was even exciting when it brought forth the realisation that we were now in the lower reaches of the football chain because even that brought with it the prospect of visits to different grounds and different, often smaller towns and cities.

But having abandoned my season ticket after 78 years spectating the day holds no such excitement. No planning of weekends ahead or worrying about who would be playing at Christmas and where. Or the chance of breaking my sequence of birthday failures. And therein lies the rub because in recent years the first fixture list always shows matches as being played on a Saturday. As if.

Because it is impossible to think ahead, as like all things in football these days the game has surrendered its charms to the great god television. The dates shown are only the ‘weekend’ dates and any and every game is likely to be rearranged from anytime between Friday night and Monday night, including especially in the case of Villa now that we have qualified for a minor toy town European trophy the certainty of Sunday afternoon games. But which ones and when? The thought of Villa winning the thing and parading around the city on an open top bus may be considered an achievement in East London but would only serve to demonstrate how low the club has descended since the halcyon days of the great Ron Saunders.

I used to follow with interest the daily gossip column on Ceefax just to see who our latest acquisition was likely to be. But I no longer get excited at finding a mention of Aston Villa deep down on the internet equivalent of page 14 of the inevitable 16 or so pages which make up the rumour mill. And the idea of spending eye-watering amounts of shekels on unheard-of players from Asia or Eastern Europe when their qualities are totally unknown or as to how they will fit into the scheme of things, if indeed they do fit in, has me wondering quite whose judgement is deciding these things.

The club used to be synonymous with Birmingham. Indeed it definitely belonged to Aston and thanks, dare I say it in part to my own efforts, it used to feel that in part to belong to me as a shareholder. But now the owners are effectively alienated from the city, the club and its fans and even the local newspapers. At £515 plus per season spectators have become little more than cannon fodder to the ever-expanding ego of those in the posh seats who can drink tea out of proper cups at half-time and glorify themselves afterwards.