Come Saturday afternoon 1197 days will have passed since Villa Park last hosted Premier League football. Our last top flight outing resulted in a tepid 0-0 draw with Newcastle United that, at the very least, halted a run of 11 straight defeats and dragged our opponents into the relegation mire.
A lot has happened since then mind – a couple of takeovers, three Championship seasons, two play-off finals and four wins (zero defeats) against our cross-city neighbours! However, one thing is for sure, we’re in a much better place now both on-and-off the pitch than were back in May 2016.
And whilst we were dogging it down in the Championship this weekends’ opponents Bournemouth have been up to a different kind of graft and guile; steadily building the foundations of what can now be considered a reasonably safe and sturdy Premier League outfit. Having said that, manager Eddie Howe is as down-to-earth as they come and will know that survival is not a given. As is the case for most clubs outside of the ‘big six’.
It has been some wait – 1372 days to be precise. That’s how long it’ll have been since Aston Villa have kicked a ball in the Premier League come Saturday evening. And although I’m not going to make any bold match predictions for our opener there are a couple of Heart of the Holte specials that I wish to draw your attention to.
Our partners at FansBet are offering 4/1 on the Villa to finish in the top 12 and they’ve got Wesley Moraes at 7/2 to score over 9 Premier League goals (max bet £25 on each).
This weekend Premier League football is back and with it we’ll see the introduction of the much debated Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
The German Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A were the first European leagues to implement the technology two years ago and last year Spain’s top flight also began using it. But VAR in football hasn’t been without controversy, with many hand ball decisions hotly disputed and – as we saw in the recent Women’s World Cup – goal keepers being adjudged to have moved off their line by a matter of inches when making a penalty save. Yet the biggest gripe for a lot of supporters is just how long it can take for a referred decision to reach its conclusion.
Last month Heart of the Holte put a poll to our Twitter followers. The question was simple: do you consider VAR as a positive for football? From a total of 3,054 votes 44% said no it’s not, 32% believe it to be of benefit and 24% were undecided. The post itself received dozens of comments, some of which I shall be dissecting in this article, and explain why I believe VAR will be the death of football as we know and love.
Supporting Aston Villa over the last 10 years has been like being in an on and off relationship with someone you know isn’t good for you and constantly makes the same mistakes. Yet, every single time you think they’ve ‘changed’ and you always go running back to them saying to yourself “It’s different this time”.