As the Premier League season draws to a close, Aston Villa's 9th place finish doesn't quite tell the tale of a year of uncertainty and disappointment. Here's one fan on why Gerard Houllier isn't the only one who's been having heart problems this season...
The ‘I f*****g love this game’ highlight of the season? - There's not been many, just eleven league wins is an appalling return for a club like Aston Villa, who've finished in the top six for the past three seasons. On the pitch, Gabby's last minute winner at West Ham, that just about secured our survival was our only moment of euphoria, but the signing of Darren Bent in January, which proved the club still meant business was many fans highlight.
The season ticket shredding moment? - At home to Wolves was probably about the worst performance (and atmosphere) I've ever seen at Villa Park, but our lowest point came before a ball had been kicked when Martin O'Neill threw all his toys out of the pram and walked on the eve of the season, leaving us in turmoil.
Moment that just about summed it all up? Leading 2-1 and finally playing some thrilling, incisive football away at Bolton, we miss a penalty to go 3-1 up with 15 minutes to go and wind up losing 3-2. Giving up before we'd even kicked-off at Man City in the cup too was pretty indicative of how far we've fallen in the past 12 months.
Got the right manager? - Probably not, no. Houllier hasn't had an easy ride, but a lot of his problems have been of his own making. Chuck in his age and his health problems too and we're hardly building for the future are we? He's a decent bloke but now's probably time to go, and if he can take the deeply unpopular McAllister with him too, that'd be even better.
Player of the season? - I’m tempted to say Darren Bent, but as he’s only been here since January I’ll go for Stewart Downing. He’s been consistently excellent in a side that's been in a state of flux all year, weighing in with some important goals finally winning the fans over. A big mention should go to Ciaran Clark too. Of the younger players Albrighton has got the headlines but Clark has been quietly excellent for Aston Villa whether playing at centre-half, in midfield or at left-back.
Muppet of the season? - I'd love to say McAllister, who seems to have taken great delight in opening war with senior players and proving to be a totally insipid, useless manager. Sticking to the playing staff though Richard Dunne and James Collins have been all over the place, both on and off the field, and Stephen Warnock's slide into obscurity has been alarming considering he went to the World Cup less than twelve months ago. In what was an alarmingly closely fought contest though, the winner is Stephen Ireland. Zero effort, zero application, zero brains, we'd already erased him from our memories until he emerged from his Northeast cocoon to slag off Birmingham. A shining example of everything that's wrong with modern football.
What would you change next term if you were the gaffer? - A difficult question, because the gaffer's the thing we need to change most. We're crying out for young decisive leadership. On the field, we need to spend all summer practicing defending set pieces and find a dynamic force in midfield. Despite our ridiculously poor season, we've still got our fair share of good players.
Stephen Ireland. Zero effort, zero application, zero brains, we'd already erased him from our memories until he emerged from his Northeast cocoon to slag off Birmingham. A shining example of everything that's wrong with modern football.
Which player would you like to sign? - Being realistic, I thing Jack Collison is going to be a quality player and would love to get him from West Ham's imminent fire-sale. But we're desperate for a left back, a centre half and as above, a dynamic central midfielder. If we suddenly turned into Man City that'd be Evra, Vidic and Xavi, but I'd settle for Figueroa from Wigan, Samba from Blackburn and Adam from Blackpool. And I'd keep my eye on the madness that's bound to ensue at City now to see if we couldn't tempt James Milner back home.
Best goal? - Marc Albrighton's at Fulham. An unreal 40-odd-yard pass from Barry Bannan followed by a brilliant first touch and calm finish, it briefly gave us hope for the future.
Biggest tosser? - A toss up between Ireland and McAllister. Ireland probably shades it because at least McAllister was a great player.
Player’s tweet of the season? - Our players haven't embraced Twitter like some clubs, but Kyle Walker's apology after making a schoolboy error at Everton was an example of what a top bloke he is. I'm not as enamoured with him as some Villa fans, but he's put in a few swashbuckling performances for us and he'll be (adopts Jamie Redknapp voice) a top, top player for someone in the future. Sadly, it probably won't be Aston Villa.
Most inspired chant? - To be honest, Villa Park's been quiet this year, but the one about Carlos Tevez being bitten by a shark did make me laugh, especially when it continued to comment on his likeness to Steve Bruce. The "Martin, Martin who?" on the first day against West Ham proved a bit premature.
Best laugh you had all season? - Every time we saw Steve Bruce's face for the few days following the Darren Bent deal. That was worth the £24 million alone. Or watching Robert Pires try and run.
How do you plan to get through the summer without football? - Easily this time, it'll be a joy after ten months of uncertainty and nervousness. I can't wait.
Any other news? - Not yet. We're constantly being told to wait until the end of the season to discover Houllier's future, so hopefully it's imminent now.
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