Football’s been just about the last thing on my mind, and it feels very strange to be coming back to the keyboard to write about a resumption of sporting hostilities when so much else has been going on. But here we are, and Villa will start fighting for their Premier League lives again in a week. God only knows what’ll we get. Regardless, it’s time to shake off the rust and get our game faces on.
I get the money. I get the legal issues. And at least some are finally copping to those being the primary considerations for finishing rather than “integrity.” There is no sporting integrity to the season if it’s played out in bizarre, forced circumstances that affect clubs disproportionately. It’s a very small fig leaf.
The world’s finally, belatedly going on lockdown. It’s the only sensible thing to do—slow the spread by isolating ourselves. The response has been badly bungled all over the place, but some recognition of reality has finally started to take hold. And while Villa’s fate hangs in the balance, the only thing I care about in regard to sport is the workaday people whose lives and livelihoods will be affected. People who don’t have guarantees. And of course, the clearest priority is doing anything and everything we can to minimize the number of deaths and follow-on consequences from overwhelmed health systems.
Villa managed to record a vital, but costly, away win at Turf Moor on New Year’s Day, outlasting Burnley 1-2. The match was notable not only for getting us back out of the drop zone and seeing a new formation from Dean Smith, but also sadly for season-ending injuries to Wesley and Tom Heaton. What already looked to be an extremely important window suddenly became even more so.
None of us have a backdoor into the thinking of Sawiris and Edens. Of course they want to stay in the Premier League but even at almost $200,000,000 spent on players, they don’t seem to be any closer to a cohesive unit that will stay up as they did at the start of the season even though they showed some promise last August. How are they thinking over the Xmas season? Are they true fans of the sport? Are they looking at the team from a purely financial view? What is their timeline for success in the Premier League?