Saints, sinners and spells

Dave Woodhall on superstition, chance and Aston Villa.

Sometimes you wonder whether you should just give up. Villa, complete with a patched up defence, travelled to Southampton with many expecting a routine heavy defeat, and came away with a creditable draw. It wasn’t the best of performances and in truth the home side should have had the game wrapped up in the first twenty minutes. But in our position beggars can’t be choosers and to get a point against a club who are being held up as ideal role models in the modern game is never to be sniffed at. Under normal circumstances it would be regarded as a good afternoon’s work.

Then we watched Bournemouth get three points at Stamford Bridge, followed on Sunday afternoon by Newcastle, Villa’s closest rivals in the relegation battle and our only close competitors in the current decade’s Worst-Run Club in the Premier League competition, pulling off the unlikeliest of wins aganst Liverpool. One shot on target, two goals, three points. When was the last time we got a result like that?

In fact, when was the last time we scored the sort of fluke/deflected/jammy goal we seem to have made a habit of conceding? I’m not saying that Villa deserve to be anywhere other than where they are in the league, but you do wonder what might have happened if the ball had bounced differently a couple of times early in the season. Add that to the annual injury crisis, and you’re left with the feeling that Blues might not be the only club in the city that have been cursed.

As the greatest living Villa man said after winning the Manager of the Year award for the first time, “It’s a sobering thought to think that the dividing line between success and failure is so very thin.” Confidence is much the same – you win a match and suddenly things start to go right. Keep losing, and the expectation becomes a self-fulfiling prophecy.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that Villa have still got a slim chance of avoiding relegation. If they can somehow get a win next weekend, even if a solitary goal goes in off the backside of a stray dog with six players offside and the rest holding down the opposition defence on the blind side of the referee, it would improve morale ahead of what might be be the most important run of fixtures the club has faced since Ron Saunders won his second Manager of the Year award.

And the team turning up next at Villa Park? Arsenal, aiming to cash in on what seems the intent of every other club at the top of the table to give away daft points and who were last seen losing here in 1998. If you believe in omens, that was on Decemeber 13th as well. If you don’t, I suppose there’s always blind faith.