The sweaty weight of expectation that comes with wearing the Aston Villa shirt


We all love an excuse – so much so that some have become popular idioms, meaning something beyond the literal. Consider, for example, “The dog ate my homework”, which now describes any exculpatory tall story; “the wrong type of snow”, used to reference official failings which extend far beyond non-running trains; or “I’m left-handed and flat-footed”, shorthand for all kinds of indolent incompetence, not just DIY avoidance. OK, that one’s particular to the Daily, but you get our drift.

And nowhere are excuses more frequently deployed – and with less guile – than in football. The football machine, though, is extremely receptive to them because it keeps the debate defecating which keeps the tills ringing, which allows players and managers unwilling to take responsibility for their own ineptitude to blame officials instead. Happily, we’ve resolved all this with VAR, the loss of the total and unrivalled ecstasy we feel when our team scores a small price to pay for the certainty we now enjoy.

Related: Aston Villa demand new kit after team complain of feeling weighed down

Which is not to say the game is stagnating. A relatively new excuse and, indeed, a relatively new cliché, is that a particular shirt is “heavy”, the weight of expectation too much for some players – Manchester United’s No 7 shirt, say, worn with such distinction by Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia and Alexis Sánchez, or Newcastle’s No 9, made legendary by Imre Varadi, George Reilly and Ian Baird. No one, though, could have predicted that in these days of breathables and base layers, this line would graduate from metaphorical to actual. Yet today we learnt of Aston Villa’s complaint that their kits are too heavy, weighing them down and affecting performance.

The offending garments are made by Castore, which is also responsible for kitting out Andy Murray in some of the saddest garments ever seen – though, in their defence, Ben Stokes looks sound in a bucket hat. “Demand better – premium performance” orders the company’s tagline which, though it takes a liberal approach to sense-making, is what the Villa players have done. The current shirts, it says, cling to them like a second skin when they get hot and sweaty, creating a wet look which isn’t great for elite sport. Concerns have also been raised by Villa’s women’s team, who are due to wear the shirts for their televised opening WSL game at home to Manchester United on Sunday.

According to Brentford, who found a similar issue with their Umbro-made tops, this means players might carry as much as 500g extra during matches – a whopping 0.64766839% of their total bodyweight. Which, of course, explains why Villa found themselves a disorganised rabble when they visited Warsaw, and their squad will, presumably, commit to jewellery removal, full-body waxes and pre-match nose-picks, to ensure accurate passing, reliable finishing and disciplined defending. Though it is unclear, at the time of writing, how the team will dress for tonight’s Fizzy Cup encounter, one thing seems certain: even if they turn up in chainmail, clodhoppers and iron maidens, Everton will still find a way of losing to them.


“The problem with confidence is we cannot buy it in the supermarket … it is about little by little creating situations that can provide the trust and the confidence and the belief. With [Mykhailo] Mudryk, I like to play hitting the crossbar from outside the box. He said to me today: ‘No, I’m not going to play any more with you because always you win.’ I said: ‘Yes, because I have the belief – the balance between belief and quality I know very well because I am 50 years old and you are still young.’ Today was the first time that we draw” – fresh from riffing about lemons Mauricio Pochettino is taking heart from his £80m winger not losing to him in training. Consider that a corner turned.


Join Rob Smyth at 8pm BST for updates on Newcastle 1-3 Manchester City in the Rumbelows Cup.


Re: David Blaine doing card tricks that Exeter never paid for (yesterday’s Quote of the Day). Could they not have got Graham ‘three yellows = one red’ Poll for much cheaper? Or even plain old Paul Daniels for ‘not a lot’?” – Antony T.

My wife, my two children and I were in Exeter, watching City struggle, when or near to when that picture was taken with the old spoon-bender. Such memories! We were in Exeter due to my working at the University with colleagues in the School of Physics. No one in the group I was working with had any interest in football, but we did and we lived within walking distance of (the real) St James Park, and enjoyed watching City very much. Thanks for the great reminder. It is wonderful to see Exeter under strong and proper management, and in League One!” – Robert Zoellner.

I enjoy Ian Potter’s letters to you and I hope he’ll keep trying to win a non-prizeless ‘letter o’ the day’. May I buy him a copy of the Football Weekly Book so that he doesn’t stop trying?” - Scott Dreher.

In an uncharacteristic oversight, Monday’s Football Daily failed to point out that my beloved Watford lost 8-0 at Manchester City in September 2019, and went on to be relegated come season’s end. But perhaps if I don’t say anything, no one will remember it, or the 6-0 Cup Final defeat the previous year, or the fact that the Hornets have had a different manager each of the last five times they’ve played West Brom” – Mac Millings.

Send your letters to Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … Mac Millings, who wins a copy of the Football Weekly Book. We’ve more to give away all week, so keep tapping.

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