Everything’s great but could still be better, says Dave Woodhall.
Many times over the years we’ve said that the saying about if you take care of the little things then the big ones take care of themselves is never truer than at the Villa. Too often we’ve let something insignificant build up and prevent us from taking our rightful place in world football. Now, though, the world’s turning upside down at Villa Park as well as everywhere else.
Villa are getting all the big things right. We’re doing well in the league, and even better than that we’re doing well despite injuries to key players and with a feeling that we still haven’t hit top form yet, particularly away from home. You can be confident that any new players we sign will be well-scouted and adding to what’s already a top-quality squad rather than a vanity purchase. For the first time in decades we have a team who are only going to get better, with one of the best managers in the world and owners whose ambitions match his. And that’s without the plans for ground expansion. We’re even getting the national media beginning to say complimentary words about us. The big things are doing very well. Pity about the small ones.
It might be a very small thing indeed but before we played Fulham I was talking to someone I haven’t seen for a long time. He told me about an incident that took place towards the end of West Ham. There’s a few minutes left before the final whistle, the match is won and so naturally there’s a load of people leaving the Upper Holte and walking down the steps. Someone is walking into the Terrace View and they’re getting booed by just about everyone leaving. A triviality maybe but it shows that despite the massive strides the club are making on the pitch, despite the huge wave of optimism that’s currently engulfing Villa Park, something still isn’t right.
Terrace View and its bastard offspring the Lower Grounds aren’t popular – you only have to witness the response from the crowd when they’re advertised on the screens. Seeing Villa supporters getting abused for using them is something a lot more disturbing. We should all be on the same side, but the club seems determined to drive a wedge between those who, let’s be honest here, can afford to be the new type of supporter they want, where buying a ticket is just the start of the day’s expenses, and the rest, who either can’t or won’t pay any more than they have to.
There’s also stories about supporters losing their buying history for behaviour around tickets that might have been technically against the rules but would have been dealt with by a quiet word in the past. All of this might sound unimportant in the great scheme of things, and of course it is when compared to the fact that Villa are arguably in a better place than we have been for forty years, but little things have a habit of becoming bigger. A bit of fairly good-natured booing when we’re winning could easily get out of control if the results aren’t going for us. The attitude of if you don’t want it there’s plenty who will might be fine when there’s a supposed thirty thousand waiting list for season tickets – although how many of them would take the opportunity should it ever arise is, of course, open to debate.
The trouble comes when results aren’t going our way and that fabled thirty thousand, many of who won’t have known the really bad days, start to drift away. That’s when the Villa will find out who their friends are. At the moment, for all the wonderful football we’re watching and all the world-class players in the team, no matter how promising the future looks, it seems that the people in charge, who are getting so much right, don’t seem to going out of their way to make friends.