Dave Woodhall mulls over a week of drama and defeat at Villa Park.
Another week over and again there was more to talk about off the pitch than on it.
Villa’s annual accounts were published and against the trend of recent years losses were up and wages certainly up. How that came about during a period where big earners were being shed on a regular basis is anyone’s guess, but even so it wasn’t as much of an eyebrow raiser as the revelation that Tom Fox gets paid almost £1.3 million a year. Doug would have looked at that sort of salary, and possibly wept.
Then came some good news for a change, with David Bernstein being appointed to the board and Brian Little named as an advisor. Both fill gaps in areas where Villa have been lacking for years – since the departures of Messrs Stride and Ellis we’ve lacked the sort of figure who commands respect throughout the game, someone who everybody in football would take a call from. David Bernstein provides this. Equally we’ve had no-one in any formal position that supporters and media alike can relate to, who can act as a conduit bringing all factions together and who knows the club inside out. There are maybe three or four people who could do this role and Brian Little is one of them.
The timing of this particular announcement may have been suspect, but better late than never. Bernstein and Little aren’t the answer by themselves; they’re a start.
Then on Saturday morning the death was announced of one of Villa’s great characters, former chairman Harry Kartz, at the grand age of 102. Mr Kartz was part of the 1968 takeover that began during Villa’s darkest hour and ultimately led to our greatest triumph. The men involved sought neither personal gain nor glory; they did what they thought was right and they never lost sight of the fact that the most important people inside Villa Park were those who came in through the turnstiles. Just as importantly they did their best work quietly and effectively. To these men we owe the very existence of our club.
There was also a match, on a Sunday due to Spurs’ European commitments and at four o’clock for no apparent reason. It was the usual afternoon of tedium, livened by an occasional flash of calamity. Seven minutes in and Villa were resorting to last-ditch defending. At one point a goalmouth melee saw Brad Guzan making a reflex save and the ball hitting the woodwork before being scrambled away. In the dying minutes you might have seen this as a sign that your luck was in. With an hour to go you knew it was delaying the inevitable.
It seemed that we might get to half-time level, which would have been some consolaton, but it wasn’t to be. A quick free kick, a suspicion of handball and you know the rest. Two minutes after the second half began Spurs got a second, which was at least down to their ability rather than Villa’s incompetence, and they didn’t need to score any more.
After that the main focus of attention was the occasional bout between stewards and supporters over possession of a banner. If anything shows the absolutely ludicrous nature of what’s going on at Villa Park this season, this was it. What goes on in the mind of someone who decides that holding up a five foot wide piece of cloth with a couple of words sprayed on it is unsuitable behaviour for a football ground? No, I don’t know either but it’s something Brian Little can sort out in the first fifteen seconds of his new role.
Villa hit the woodwork twice in the end stages of the game although even a single goal wouldn’t have been deserved. It was a throughly miserable afternoon and yet again the only positive sign was that it’s another match nearer the end of the season. The performance of the team was bad enough but even worse was the jovial banter between our supporters and the away fans. They were telling us how bad we are, we replied that we already know, thank you very much. It’s the sort of thing that used to happen when we played someone like Norwich on their way down. When you’re being patronised by Spurs you know something’s going wrong.