Monday, February 15, 2016

valentine’s day massacre…

Yesterday, for the first time for over 20 years (yes, I know, shameful!), I attended a Villa home game.The opponents were Liverpool and I sat alongside my great mates Steve and Dan Eyre (great mates – even if they’re also Liverpool supporters!)
Well, as anyone who has the remotest interest in football will know, things didn’t go too well for the Villa… This is a slight understatement.
They lost 0-6.
It was their worst ever home defeat in the Premier League.
Liverpool didn’t actually play brilliantly either... they really didn’t need to (they scored six goals from nine shots on target!).
Villa’s performance was extremely painful to watch… embarrassing for all concerned. Lack of skill; lack of passion; lack of leadership; lack of ideas; lack of organisation; lack of talent… and, perhaps not surprisingly, complete and utter lack of confidence.
Villa were pretty much clueless in defence (frequently statuesque). In their current plight, the manager must surely look to the senior players to use their experience and to help and encourage the younger players. In the event, Lescott and, in particular, Richards (both England internationals) had terrible games. Lescott’s positioning was dire throughout the afternoon and Richards just didn’t seem interested in playing at all (and he’s the team captain!)
Villa’s midfield was poor (they failed to support the attack in any numbers and left the defence wide open): Westwood was one of the few players who seemed prepared to battle (but I really question if he’s a premier league player – not for much longer anyway!); Bacuna had an awful game (riddled with errors); ironically, defensive midfielder Gana looked reasonable going forward, but lacked any the cutting edge to counter the opposition’s midfield; Veretout was largely anonymous and never really got involved.
All too often, when Villa DID attack, it involved just one isolated forward. Agbonlahor was ineffective and apparently went off with vertigo (yes!); although Gil was probably Villa’s most skilful player, he again lacked support; the “talented” Sinclair (he came on after 58 minutes) consistently fails to “produce the goods” (but he did hit the post and was Villa’s most effective player - not particularly high praise in the circumstances!).
Villa’s performance yesterday was abject.
They’re clearly going to be relegated this season – on paper, they COULD escape but, in reality, based on this performance, it’s just not going to happen… and, frankly, they don’t deserve to avoid relegation.
People talk of Villa being “too big a club for the Championship” and that they’ll have no problem bouncing straight back up to the Premier League the following season. Frankly, without a wholesale cull of the existing playing staff and new investment, this is just a fairytale.
I’m old enough to remember Villa dropping down from the old First Division to the old Third Division in four seasons (1967-1971)… and, believe me, it was a very tough job clawing their way back to Division One (which they did in 1975).
One might have imagined that the fans would have booed the team off the field at the end (yes, there were SOME boos, but not that many in the circumstances) or to have simply staged a mass walk-out 20 minutes before the end… but no. Instead, the wonderful Holte End supporters ended the game in full voice (constant chanting+clapping)… and bragging to the Liverpool supporters that THEY were making more noise at the end of the game!
Dan+Steve were very magnanimous at the end of the game – almost embarrassed by how easy it had been. In the meantime, I’m expecting a letter from Villa’s Board of Directors asking me not to attend another home game for at least another twenty years!
Photograph: the huge Villa banner being paraded at the Holte End before the game (the “exit” sign, top right, seems somewhat apt in the circumstances!).

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