Football is a sport which attracts dreamers – one need only look at the millions around the country who blindly believed an English success at Euro 2012 was possible to see that.
Every year fans of clubs up and down the land await the start of a new season with a sense of trepidation, excitement and a lingering hope that this year could be their year. However, this campaign I am taking a decidedly different tact and attempting to adopt a realistic approach.
I should probably explain that I am an Aston Villa fan and after the ill-fated tenure of Alex McLeish, hope at Villa Park has been very much at a premium. The arrival of Paul Lambert has brightened the situation somewhat; however I would like to use this piece as a warning to fellow Villans.
Over-expectation is something which has threatened to cripple the club in recent years, with fans still naively believing that past glories mean Villa remains a high-end top flight club. The brutal truth is that we are anything but – we have become a selling club and our expectations need to be readjusted in accordance with this development.
That’s why this year, rather than pining for silverware or believing that against all odds we can triumphantly book our place in European competition, I simply wish to see signs of progression.
Paul Lambert is certainly a man who can achieve this. He is, after all, the pragmatic Scot who took Norwich from the depths of League One to the dizzy heights of Premier League glory in successive years, being the first team to achieve such a feat since Manchester City. 42-year-old Lambert also has a winning pedigree from his time as a player, even claiming Champions League glory with German giants Borussia Dortmund.
So Villa fans can quite rightly place their faith in Lambert, but it is important that patience is exercised in abundance to give the new boss time, an invaluable commodity on the unfathomable merry-go-round that is Premier League management.
My hopes for Villa this season are basic – a move away from the dour brand of characterless football that epitomised the McLeish regime and a season in which the spectre of relegation does not loom large at every turn. It’s not that I wish to absolve Villa Park of all hope; it’s just that I feel that if the club is to move in the right direction then dreams need to be cast aside for the time being, to be replaced by expediency and practicality. It may not be football at its romantic best, but it may well be the recipe to success.