Saturday marked the start of the new season and should’ve been a day of excitement yet unfortunately it was marred by an undercurrent of negativity. This all arguably started last week with the delayed delivery of season tickets. I, myself, only received my season ticket Friday but I must commend the club for their communication during the last week where they explained the reasons behind the delay and the process to follow if your ticket didn’t arrive by matchday.
Despite this, many took to social media to vent their frustration and some went to the extent of directly addressing Dr Tony. I understand that people were angry, but to personally attack the owner was a step too far and really did get the season off to a negative start.
The atmosphere before the game Saturday and during the first half in particular, must be congratulated. Although not entirely full, the home fans really made their voices heard at Villa Park and the effect this had on the players was evident. Villa started brightly and this culminated in Gabby Agbonlahor putting us ahead early on. The fans responded to this by taking their support up a notch and, in turn, the players took full control of the first half and were unlucky to not be further ahead at the break.
To me, this first half proved that the positivity off the pitch has a tangible effect on the pitch. John Terry recently said in an interview that he had felt the effects of a Villa Park crowd against him while he was at Chelsea and so if a player of his magnitude can be intimidated, imagine the effect it could have on our Championship opposition. Furthermore, imagine the positive effect we can have on our own players by getting behind them.
There were, unfortunately, some negative aspects on Saturday. The biggest of these was the treatment of Leandro Bacuna as he was subbed off. I will be the first to point out that he played poorly, no question about it. This, however, doesn’t excuse how he was jeered off of the pitch. It is exactly the same treatment that Sam Johnstone got early on in his days at B6 where every save he made was ironically cheered. The effect this had on Johnstone was evident and yet this behaviour has continued into the new season.
There is absolutely nothing positive that can come from jeering a player being substituted. Not only will it shatter Bacuna’s confidence, it will have a knock-on effect throughout the squad especially on the younger players in our squad. The other players are going to be nervous to try anything on the ball for fear of getting the same treatment. Look at Josh Onomah for example. He hadn’t even stepped foot onto the pitch yet and yet one of his first experiences was watching a player jeered for having a bad game. This would have only added to the nerves he had about making his debut and could’ve seen him go straight into his shell.
The final piece of fan negativity I wanted to mention was the clusters of boos at the final whistle. It must be stated that the ‘boo boys’ were in the minority but still they can’t be excused. Not only was it the first game of the season, but it was a game that we dominated for large spells and were very unlucky not to win. The Championship is a long season and so inevitably there will be peaks and troughs, just look at Newcastle last season.
If fans are going to get on the players backs every time we don’t win, then it is going to be a very long season indeed. Fortunately, from where I was sat in the Upper Holte, the booing didn’t last for long as the culprits were soon shown they were in the minority.
To end on a positive, I want to mention how refreshing it was to hear Villa fans singing and supporting the team just seconds after we conceded the equaliser. The chanting drowned out the celebrating Hull supporters and may have been the difference between us earning a point and losing the game. This kind of positivity needs to build as the season goes on and the constant negativity from the minority needs to be stamped out.
Yes, results on the pitch will help this but it is also our duty as supporters to do just that, support our football club and help us achieve promotion.