Thanks for the Memories

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s week; trophy wins, new players and no news isn’t good news.

Villa supporters of many generations will have known Jack Watts. Jack died in 2015, aged 96, after spending more than eighty years working for the club. He started off sweeping the terraces then did just about every job going but was probably best remembered for the time he spent doing guided tours of Villa Park.

Jack revered Billy Walker, idolised Doug Ellis and loved the Villa with a devotion that never lessened for almost a century. One of the facts he never tired of telling visitors on his tours was that Villa had won more trophies than any other club in the world, although this included some spurious souvenirs that had ended up in the trophy cabinet during assorted tours to foreign climes.

Another one will be arriving when the team get home from the Cup of Traditions tournament with what looks like a small replica player bursting Alien-style from a football on top of a plinth. And it looks no better than it sounds.

Villa won the first game, against MSV Duisburg, 3-0 with two goals from Scott Hogan and one from Andre Green, then in the final Chris Samba and Gabby Agbonlahor scored in a 2-0 victory over Hertha Berlin. It would be far too cheap a jibe to say that John Terry upheld his own tradition by lifting a trophy despite not playing in the final.

It was a much improved display from the goalless draw at Walsall earlier in the week. Not only was the defence solid again, there was more attacking threat and some promising performances from Callum O’Hare and Jake Doyle-Hayes in particular.

Also giving cause for optimism were the no-nonsense performances from last week’s signings. Chris Samba, Glenn Whelan and Ahmed Elmohamady won’t sell many season tickets nor get supporters’ pulses racing but after the ‘throw enough money at it and it’ll work out eventually’ strategy of the previous season, a bit of will to win and determination will be welcome. This summer’s arrivals will certainly be better role models than the ghosts of transfer policies past who continue to hang around Vila Park long after their sell by (or rather, their pay to have someone take them off our hands by) date.

Villa are playing Armenia Bielfeld on Tuesday, in a game hastily arranged after one with Vitesse Arnhem was cancelled due to some hitherto-unknown German FA regulation forbidding two non-German teams from playing each other there – so presumably no European finals for them.

Although it was out of their control Villa did themselves no favours by taking a long while to confirm that the Arnhem game was off, leaving supporters to pass the word themselves. There’s also been mutterings about the time it’s taking to update the club’s online ticketing system, meaning that tickets can’t be bought for home games two weeks before the season starts.

These are the sort of things that started to go wrong midway through the Lerner years, and were the first indications that what had until then been a sure-footed approach to communicating with supporters was starting to fall apart. I hope the current incumbents learn from this and continue to keep their eye on the ball.

Next Saturday brings Watford to Villa Park for the Graham Taylor Memorial Match. This really is one day when the result doesn’t particularly matter although further improvement in the team’s performance will be expected. It’s the last chance to get things right for when the real stuff begins.