Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Less than a week until the transfer window shuts, and one of the things that’s marked it out from previous transfer windows is that I’ve noticed fewer fans moaning about the transfer window. I don’t think this indicates any degree of acceptance whatsoever, just that fans have decided that moaning about the transfer window is an idle distraction from the more serious business of moaning about their club’s transfer policy.

I was recently amused by the comments thread of a News of the World story, where fellow Aston Villa fans were fuming at the report that Nigel Reo-Coker and Craig Gardner would be sold to fund a move for Jermaine Jenas. Now, this might happen. It might not. But IT’S IN THE NEWS OF THE FUCKING WORLD. Is it really worth getting so worked up about it? There’s a strong chance that it’s utter bollocks cooked up by an agent. But football fans clearly enjoy getting worked up about transfers. The plausibility of the story doesn’t come into it – any excuse will do.

This happened again last night, prior to the game with Liverpool. One Villa fan on the BBC’s home of totally reasonable football debate, the 6-0-6 forum, raged at Martin O’Neill’s failure to ‘build a team’ in the past three seasons. It was unclear what this actually meant, as O’Neill has built a team – the one he put out on the pitch in last night’s game, and which beat Liverpool 3-1 thankyouverymuch. One can only assume that the 6-0-6 poster (he’ll remain anonymous because I can’t be bothered to go looking for his post again) meant a better team.

It’s surprisingly hard to make a lot of football fans understand that the transfer market is not like a high street shop, where the things are just there and if you want a tin of beans then you just buy it. It’s like a high street shop where if you want a tin of beans, you have to convince it that the meal you’re making is something it wants to be a part of, and also hope that someone else doesn’t turn up and offer more money for it because it’s the only tin in the shop and you’ll have to have peas instead, which are OK but not really your favourite.

The plainly obvious fact is that clubs can only buy who’s on the market, and even then they often can’t get who they want. If a club isn’t buying enough players, or isn’t buying the right players, this is not necessarily because the owner is being stingy or the manager is an idiot. It’s not always clear to me who fans expect their clubs to buy. In Villa’s case, I think O’Neill has done extremely well to convince players like Ashley Young and James Milner to come to the club at all, since the promise of riches and glory have enabled a tiny number of superclubs to hoard all the best players in the world and not let anyone else have none. Fabian Delph was linked with Manchester City before we snagged him. I remember when our players were leaving citing ‘lack of ambition’ and then going to Middlesbrough, so this makes me happy.

A couple of years ago, one Villa fan on 6-0-6 was grumbling about the club buying Zat Knight, saying this was not the kind of big-name signing we’d been promised (we hadn’t been promised anything of the sort). To be fair, Knight wasn’t a roaring success at Villa. But when this fan was challenged by a more sensible poster to name some players he felt Villa should sign, he came back with Juan Roman Riquelme. Yes, the acclaimed Argentine international playmaker. In this fan’s mind, the fact that Riquelme was out of favour at Villareal for non-footballing reasons meant he’d be overjoyed to come to Villa Park. If that doesn’t convince you that he was quite mad, I’d also note that he wanted David O’Leary back as manager.

In its own stupid way, this is how some fans like to show their love for their club: of always having greater ambition than the owner, and failing to comprehend why players wouldn’t give their right arms to play for the team. But the rest of us can safely blank it out, or mentally replace it with the words I BLOODY LOVE MY CLUB I DO and move onto the next thing.

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