They want their Villa back, but what defines Aston Villa-ness?
Not the man affectionately known as the dirty Bluenose b******
Alex McLeish was predictably lampooned as Aston Villa endured their fifth 0-0 draw with a bottom-half rival this season away to bottom club Wigan.
And along with the bland, worn-out cries of “you don’t know what you’re doing” came a chorus that similarly unpopular predecessor Gerard Houllier was once treated to: “we want our Villa back”.
It raises the question, what exactly is their Villa? Whereas fellow mid-table constants of the last decade like Bolton and Fulham have on the whole followed one trajectory over that period, there hasn’t been a clearly defined identity at Villa Park.
Fans evidently can’t be condemning a lack of academy products lending their club a local charm as that is one area in which McLeish has delivered, primarily because he has been handed barely any money with which to recruit experienced players.
So is it the policy of paying twice the market value for the likes of Curtis Davies and Nigel Reo-Coker that they pine for? Attractive football has hardly been a claret-and-blue staple in recent years and the one manager who made it a priority, Monsieur Houllier, was ridiculed, so it can’t be that.
And a popular coach in the dugout can’t really be the missing ingredient given that Martin O’Neill has arguably been the only one that they have felt inspired to get behind in the last decade.
Even he was never quite universally loved, a legacy of his weakened selections in Europe, the late collapses that derailed heroic Champions League pushes that weren’t perhaps fully appreciated at the time, some questionable signings and the disappointing manner of his departure.
However, maybe discontent with McLeish has scaled such heights that O’Neill is longed for again, though their bore draw at the DW Stadium coincided with his new Sunderland side falling 4-0 to a West Brom team with an identical home points haul to Wigan.
McLeish wasn’t an exciting appointment, and if my team hired him, I wouldn’t be ecstatic, but he isn’t the main reason that they are 15th –with the same tally as at this stage last term despite a positive net spend – and doesn’t deserve the abuse.
If the disillusion regards what he is doing at Villa in the first place, surely that’s one to take out on the owners? And incidentally, if the party line is that it’s McLeish ability rather than his Birmingham links creating the unrest, then it may be an idea to knock the “Bluenose b******” song on the head.
Will things deteriorate further? Villa are eight points from safety and 21/1 to be relegated. Click here to claim a £25 free bet when opening a Betfair account.