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At the end of 2015, I take a tongue in cheek poke at the crisis that’s enveloping the Pride of the Midlands. 

The morning’s faint light trickled through the drawn curtains of 18 Winless Street. Restlessly tossing from side to side on his unyielding mattress, a Villan emerged from his broken sleep with no more than a generous headache. Plagued by nightmares of spectacular Alan Hutton own goals, worry had defeated his entitlement to 8 hours’ rest, and beads of perspiration sat upon his forehead like a flat back four organised by Lescott. He jolted upright in readiness for the shrill full-time whistle of his alarm clock; he would be prepared. Sure enough, when the sound pierced the stale air, he flung his arms to his immediate left and battered the alarm clock into submission. He’d been rehearsing this very routine and, decorated with more agility than Guzan, was able to pull off a sensational save from this discord.

The Villan was downbeat, quiet understandably, but refusing to let Randy Lerner control his state of mind, he had decided upon an outing to the seaside, to, well, get away from it all. It would be his ‘Grand Day Out’. He searched through the semi-darkness for his trusty wardrobe, only to recoil in disgust at an outfit that had magically appeared there overnight. An N’Zogbia inspired floral linen shirt and trousers leapt out at him, its garish pattern unmistakeable.

“How bizarre” thought the Villan to himself. “I’ve never seen one of those retailed in Solihull, let alone make its way into my wardrobe.” Despite his initial contempt towards the clothes, the Villan concluded that such a summery little number would be a perfect fit for a day at the beach. He hurriedly threw on the matching garments and collected a bucket and spade; plastic implements that he intended to use for digging himself out of the relegation quagmire. The Villan skipped breakfast, his stomach still sloshing with a number of spirits consumed after his club fell 11 points adrift, and he unadvisedly hopped behind the wheel of his Ford Unfocus.

An hour into his ropey journey, the Villan got stuck behind a desolate double-decker on the narrowest of country lanes. The traffic was backing up, he some 19 cars from the front to reflect Villa’s pitifully negative goal difference. Staring morosely at this unsightly vehicle painfully reminded the Villan of how a bus, not dissimilar to this one, could have been driven through a defence consisting of Richards and Crespo for Stoke’s winner in early October. Such memories were hardly lifting the gloom from the Villan’s shoulders and his headache was showing no sign of relenting. The Unfocus’ radio suddenly roared into life with an announcement of a burst water main just 2 miles northbound of where he was heading. The Villan slowly put his hands to his face in astonishment, a body movement reminiscent of that which he made in the Upper Holte when Ayew shot wide from 3 yards against Swansea. Still, no time to cry over spilt milk. This, after all, was his ‘Grand Day Out’.

“Rats!” cried the Villan some minutes later. It had been a coy manoeuvre that had seemingly backfired on him. He had made the bold decision to complete a 34 point turn in the Unfocus – a skill that Westwood would have appreciated, less so the other irritable and stationary road users. The Villan was successful in turning the vehicle around and heading back towards his own goal, only to tragically get his rear wheels stuck in some of the thickest mud known to man. The tiring tyres whirred with as much energy as Carles Gil’s little legs, but no forward progress was made. He was well and truly stuck!

The Villan started pouring through his phonebook looking for some help with this latest difficulty. ‘Agbonlahor’, ‘Bacuna’, the lesser spotted ‘Llori’: no they’d be no good for this particular predicament. Against his better judgement, the Villan had to call for some roadside support. He reached the voicemail of T. Fox, who eventually returned his call to advise the Villan that a double team of Remi and Remy would soon be on their way. The Villan patiently sat for hours, watching the queue of cars sporting lesser teams disappear gradually into the distance. After further tapping of his watch and more biting of nails, the Villan became resigned to the fact that no rescue act was forthcoming, that there was no getting out of this hole. He would have to walk the long way home.

It was getting close to nightfall now when the weary, walker Villan saw a haven of comfort to his right, a public house in the middle of nowhere. A flag outlining a small but resilient boat in choppy waters, hung from its uppermost window. As he got closer, the Villan was able to decipher the unlit lettering of the pub. It read: ‘The Champion Ship’. Warmed by the thought of a pint or three, he entered briskly and immediately felt at home. ‘The Champion Ship’ was an environment that smelt of mediocrity, was hardly ornately furnished, but could be considered a good and proper “not so local”.

And it’s at this point, that our narrative ends as I’d like to raise a glass to all fellow Villans and wish you a happier and more fruitful New Year! Cheers.


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