Dave Woodhall on Villa’s week, ending with the traditional trip to Walsall.
It’s 25 years since Bescot stadium was officially opened at a pre-season friendly against Villa. No, I don’t know where the time’s gone, either.
That makes 26 pre-seasons and Villa have played there in probably twenty of them. I honestly can’t remember a defeat, there have been wins and draws a-plenty, but the one thing I do know is that none of them have had any bearing on the rest of the season. That first game, for example, was a 4-0 win with goals from David Platt (2), Tony Cascarino and Tony Daley yet Villa ended the season battling relegation.
In contrast I can remember losing to the Albion in 1995, gloom and despondency being predicted as a result, then a week or so later we were three-nil up at half-time against Manchester United at the start of a seaosn that hasn’t been equalled since.
You can’t take much from a pre-season game, particularly when half your likely strongest team are missing or haven’t been signed yet. Walsall’s always a popular choice to play at this time, not least because it’s as easy to get to as a home match and the Walsall manager loves it because it adds a few quid to his wages budget. This time round the players looked as short of sharpness as you’d expect as fortnight before the season proper starts, although it was noticable that Tim Sherwood didn’t make the usual mass substitutions that are a feature of these matches.
Of the starting line-up most of the attention was naturally on the new signings and the French pair of Jordan Amavi and Idrissa Gueye showed some neat touches while Micah Richards clearly has a footballing brain.
After a week when the club’s best striker since those halcyon days of the nineties was finally sold after what seemed the longest medical of all time, Villa’s biggest problem was obvious. Libor Kozak still isn’t up to speed and with Scott Sinclair trying for spectacular too often when safe would have been a better option there was no consistent goal threat.
Callum Robinson put Villa ahead, a deflected free-kick saw Walsall equalise seconds before half-time and the second half was noticable mainly for the introduction of Jerrell Sellers, who played well in the fifteen minutes or so he was on the pitch, and a cameo appearaqnce by Harry McKirdy, who may well be the youngest-looking footballer in history.
There are two more games starting with Wolves away on Tuesday night and two more weeks until the Premier League season kicks off at Bournemouth. Villa look likely to sign French striker Jordan Ayew, whose behaviour has already led to speculation that his time at Villa Park, should the deal be completed, will be a bit interesting. Him and the perenially-linked Emmanuel Adebayor could go a long way towards cracking the goals scored problem, which only leaves the creating and defending areas to solve. Football management is THAT easy.