Love, questions, probing, answers and Aston Villa

I made few friends with a recent article accusing Randy Lerner of not wishing to take the risks necessary to push us into the top four. Upon later inspection I accept there were a couple of oversights; certain factors I neglected to consider and other sensationalist factors that I probably put too much emphasis on.

But I’m still glad I wrote that piece because it was my way of dealing with an uncertainty we all face as Villa fans. Further, the ensuing debate has brought my knowledge to a point that is greater than it was a week or two ago and for that I am grateful to my shit stirring.


You see, we are pattern seeking animals and we are side picking animals. We loathe uncertainty. It goes against every effort we've made to understand the world around us and as a consequence it spurs debate, investigation and scientific exploration.

From the moment we are born and for many years thereafter we are asked to pick sides. What is our favourite colour. Who is our best friend. What is our football team. Are we left wing or conservative. Indian or Chinese. Blonde or Brunette. Tits or Ass.

There's a reason we do this: uncertainty is a menace to our minds.

When dealing with uncertainty, some of us will pull that grey area towards black, others will pull it towards white. The glass is either half full or half empty and all that carry on.

Which direction you chose to pull the grey probably depends on your personality, what genes you inherit or a whole host of arcane nonsense (typically involving sexual attraction to either or both parents) that a psychologist will happily spiel out to you for a hefty fee.

But one thing is for certain - we can't leave things unknown.

When we hear a loud unexplained noise late at night, is it enough to simply accept that we don't know what it was and go back to sleep? Hardly. We will either comfort ourselves with an optimistic interpretation, "probably just a cat" and go back to sleep; or we will freak out "it's a serial killer" and call the cops.

Now, knowledge is certainly one way to minimise the grey - the more we know, the less we assume. Good or bad, quite often knowing the truth is strangely comforting. What's more, when we are kept in the dark about something for too long, the grey overpowers us and we become crazy people. Sides split, black takes on white, all hell breaks loose.

Adding to this problem is the contemporary movement in football journalism and media - where do we get our information from, and more importantly, what agenda does it serve?

Most teams have their own television channels, be they web based or on cable. This allows for quick release of whatever propaganda they wish the public to believe, using meticulously prepared press releases, staged questions, pre-recordings and other dressings to make us believe we are getting a news conferences - we're not.

We're getting answers to the questions they were hoping to get, not the questions we want answered. Sky Sports News and other supposedly reputable media agencies then just lift these releases and present them as fact. Why? Because it's cheaper than hiring journalists.

On the other side of the coin, you then have the sensationalist nonsense disseminated by tabloid rags, who will gladly twist words, falsify statements, invent stories and adopt whatever other strategy they can think of to piggyback off the public's feverish interest in all things football in order to boost website traffic and newspaper sales. There’s no point giving examples here, just log onto NewsNow, or Google “Bill Howell” to see for yourself.

The club chooses not to inform us of certain things, that's their strategy and that's fine. But that won't make our interest go away, leaving us at the mercy of club television broadcasts or tabloid nonsense. However some of us aren't happy with these options and choose to ask our own questions. Granted, they may stray a little close to the bone at times, but to probe, to question and to justly criticise is to truly love something.

We are free to question, for example, whether the Acorns deal was an act of genuine philanthropy from an enormously kind and generous man, or whether it was simply a calculated strategy to generate both goodwill and media coverage, in addition to increasing the sponsorship fee we charge Nike on the grounds of them having uncontested corporate brand presence on the front of our kits.

We are free to question if our paltry average annual net spend on players is attributable to the unavailability of funds from the club's owner, or the frugal, unilateral transfer strategy of our manager.

We are free to seek a satisfactory explanation for the capitulation from February through to the final day of last season. Was it fatigue, was it managerial ineptitude, did the owner not want to risk bankrolling further acquisitions, was it too much too soon, were we simply not ready, does Emile Heskey have photos of MON with another woman?

We are also free to question why, the day before our season opener, we were still to replace (by the manager’s own admission) our two best players who departed some months previous.

These are the 'little from column A, little from column B' questions that comprise a lot of the grey area that sparks rage around boards and blogs on the internet, present location definitely included.

But the fact of the matter is, our press is failing us. We have profit driven spin doctor raconteurs on one side of the fence, and wool-pulling propaganda merchants on the other and absolutely nothing in between.

I'm probably overcomplicating things beyond all need, but the message I am trying to get across here is actually quite simple - to question something, is not to hate it. And so few people are asking the right questions these days that I fear the practice may soon die completely.

My love for Aston Villa extends beyond any woman, possession or experience I have encountered and I do not see that changing any time soon. So regardless of what light it puts me in, I will continue to critically analyse all avenues of potential explanation for anything that's left unknown about my club.

Whether I hit, miss or limp with an accusation or suggestion, please forgive me, for my heart is in the right place - beating claret out one side and blue out the other.