Dave Woodhall sees Villa fail to win again on Boxing Day.
I was talking to a West Ham supporter before the match on Saturday and he summed up one of the reasons why Villa’s annual struggle against relegation seems to be coming to an end. “It’ll be a pity if you go down,” he said. “I love coming here. It’s a great ground; you always make us welcome.”
And therein lies the problem. Villa Park is a great ground, and we make everyone welcome. Turn up. Have a good time. Help yourself to three points. Goodbye, and with a bit of luck we’ll see you again next year.
Everything about the place oozes class, and from the moment visitors, whetehr they be players or supporters, walk through the gates they know that if you can’t play here, you can’t play anywhere. The top teams invariably perform to the best of their ability while the surroundings bring out a bit more than usual from the lesser lights. It’s not the only reason we’re so bad, of course, but it’s certainly a factor and sometimes it takes an outsider to point out what’s under your nose.
That’s not to say West Ham were world-beaters. They’ve got a lot of injuries and Villa had the best of the first 45 minutes. Unfortunately Carlos Sanchez having to go off added four more minutes stoppage time, and in the second of these the ‘Ammers were decidedly ‘appy as Villa, temporarily in disarray after the substitution of a player who for once in recent weeks had made a good start to the game, gave the opposition far too much space yet again.
The team bucked up after the break and had a few decent chances although as ever they managed to waste all but a penalty which was put away by Jordan Ayew with more coolness that the situation should have merited. Ayew is coming into his own now, and with a top quality partner would be helping Villa to much better results.
A draw was the least Villa deserved although in the context of the season it wasn’t enough. Had this game been in August we could have taken a lot of consolation from the display despite dropping a couple of points. The team showed promise and its deficiencies can be remedied easily enough in the next few weeks. The trouble is that we’re at the end of December and if this is the start of the season proper Villa are kicking off with the equivalent of a twenty point deduction.
Remi Garde said we needed to win two from the four match Christmas period. None out of two isn’t a good start although one defeat from four – two of them away – shows that the team is at least becoming a bit harder to beat and it wouldn’t have been a bad return in different circumstances. In these particular circumstances, though, those three points have been nowhere near enough.
Monday sees a journey to Carrow Road, against opposition that have been as inconsistent as every other club in the league with the exception of Villa and Leicester. A win, and hope still flickers. But as we all know it’s the hope that kills you.