Villa lost on Tuesday. Nobody, least of all Dave Woodhall, was surprised.
As I walked past the Villa Chippy before the match I heard someone coming out saying “They’ve got no chips”. As metaphors for a relegation-bound football club go, a chipless chippy is pretty high up the list.
Inside the ground there were plenty of things in equally short supply. Skill, flair, passion, heart, tactical acumen; the basics of a football team. What there was plenty of though, was empty seats, as even with a healthy turnout of Everton supporters the gate was yet again below thirty thousand, which in reality means no more than 25,000 of us had turned up to watch the team continue to go through the motions of the most depressing season since the last European referendum.
Of those 25,000 probably only a handful coudn’t see the inevitability of what would happen as early as the fourth minute. Opposition corner – free header – game over. It’s now so predictable that it’s almost funny.
And the match continued in the expected way. Villa had much of the ball, they did the usual four or five ineffective passes before losing possession. Everton waited a while then went upfield and scored. They added a third in the second half and then sat back with the job done.
The mooted 74th minute walkout took place on schedule. It had been noticable that the third Everton goal hadn’t triggered the usual mass exodus, so presumably there was a lot of hanging around to make a point before leaving. There was also a lot of anti-Lerner and Tom Fox chanting, plus a couple of banners aimed at the increasingly embattled CEO.
The game wound down in an atmosphere resembling a pre-season friendly. Rudi Gestede came on and scored one of the most pointless goals imaginable but it was hardly the signal for a Villa revival, and the final whistle was greeted with boos, jeers and a general feeling of apathy mixed with relief that the seassn is another 90 minutes nearer its merciful end.
It’s difficult to know where Villa go from here, although the obvious answer is to the Etihad on Saturday, and God knows what might happen at that one. What’s easier to answer is where the blame lies for this ongoing farce. The obvious is that it lies with everyone concerned, from Randy Lerner down.
The owner’s many faults are well-documented, and the sole consolation for the unfolding debacle is that the loss he will surely make when his time in charge ends is ever-increasing. Tom Fox continues to give the impression that he regards his job as no different to that of running a marketing company, or a clothing manufacturer, or any business where profit is the prime concern. Good luck selling corporate packages against MK Dons next season, Tom.
Meanwhile Remi Garde seems to be on a mission to alienate as many of his players as possible, and while Garde was undoubtedly dealt a poor hand in January he’s not gone about making the best of it in anything like the right way. His team selections are becoming strange, to say the least, his tactics are poor and his motivational powers appear non-existent.
The way in which Garde talks about the team in public can’t be helpful – the first rule of management is that any criticising of your staff takes place behind closed doors, not in the full glare of the world’s media. At the moment I’m torn between wondering whether he was the right appointment at the wrong time, or just the wrong appointment.
And as for the players, if they can’t, or more likely won’t, do the basics, regardless of what they think about manager, owner and each other then they don’t deserve our support. They deserve our contempt.