I ate lunch with my old man the other day and, as usual, once we’d finished the typical formalities of catching up on what we’d both been up to since we last met, we drifted into our favourite father son past time of discussing everything Villa.
The reason I support Villa is because of my dad, a lifelong fan who no doubt would have been gutted if his son hadn’t followed in his footsteps climbing up the stairs of the Holte.
Supporting Villa isn’t the only thing I’ve inherited from him; he and I both tend to lean towards the optimistic side of being a football fan. So half way through lunch I’m intrigued when he says to me, “Son I think we’ve hit a ceiling. I think we might take a backwards step next season.”
He argued that we missed out on a massive opportunity to finish 4th last season and suggested we might not be that close to breaking up the cartel again for some time.
He grumbled that the best we could hope for was to qualify for the Europa League and mocked the competition on the basis that MON abandoned it last season.
He lamented the loss of key players and the lack of urgency in finding replacements. He questioned the squad size and the standard of the players with which we are linked. He was worried about the chairman’s commitment to investing funds in the transfer market and MONs ability to spend them wisely.
I was surprised to hear such negativity coming from him but I shrugged off his concerns. I read the same arguments every day on here and will do until the season starts and the window closes.
So have we hit a ceiling? Absolutely not. There is no ceiling in football. Ever. Had Man Utd hit a ceiling when they cleaned up in 1999? Of course not, the beauty of football is there’s always a chance to do it all again three months later.
I believe the O'Neill / Lerner era is just beginning. I’m ecstatic that we have two steady captains guiding our ship through rough financial waters. MON has a habit of finalising deals in August, I don’t like it but I have to lump it. If he says he expects five more faces before the window slams shut that’s good enough for me.
We were close to gate crashing the party last year. I actually feel it would have been ahead of schedule and you could argue it would have overstretched us, no doubt others will argue there is never a bad time to finish in the Champions League spots.
In two weeks time we go again. Attempt number four under O'Neill and Lerner. There will be those who see it as failure if we don’t kick on from a sixth placed finish. But for me, a successful season represents competing for European qualification and finally producing a good cup run (or two).
I’ll be sat next to my old man in the Holte on 15 August eagerly anticipating a good start against Wigan. My mind will drift to my last visit to Villa Park, a 1-0 win over Newcastle. And I’ll think to myself how delighted I am that Villa will be competing for European qualification instead of embracing visits to Barnsley, Doncaster and Blackpool.
And the truth is; I know that he’ll be thoroughly excited and full of optimism too.