In pursuit of excellence

Dave Woodhall on Villa and yet more records.

Another game, another record. To be accurate, one record was equalled on Saturday and while another strictly hasn’t been broken, there has been a notable event in the unpredictable world of Aston Villa.

Losing to Watford was Villa’s eleventh straight league defeat, which equals the record set in 1963. Such an achievement hasn’t been easy; there have been occasions when they’ve looked like they might break the run with an unlikely draw, but the new mark was eventully set in memorable style at Vicarage Road. It takes a determined effort to get to ninety minutes in the lead and still lose, but Villa managed it with ease.

In ordinary circumstances the result would have been a sickening blow. The team had, for once, performed half-decently and were well worth their 2-1 lead going into the final stages of the game. But Aly Cissokho’s needless dismissal changed the course of the match and there was a famiiar inevitability about events from then on. And these are not normal circumstances.

There weren’t many Villa supporters who had travelled down the M1 that seemed particularly upset at the defeat – we’ve grown used to them by now. In fact, the team were given a reasonable reception at the final whistle. They’d put in a bit of effort, they were clearly downcast at the result and in all honesty, that’s as much as we can expect from them as the season winds down.

The other notable event occured at midnight, as May 1st arrived. April was the first calendar month during the season that Villa have not had a permanent manager since November 1950. There have been longer periods without anyone in charge, and during March 1982 Tony Barton was still technically caretaker although the job had been his for some time, but we may as well remember all the pieces of history we’re living through. With any luck we won’t see their like again.

In other news this week Gabby Agbonlahor has been fined a “significant amount” (probably not all that significant to him, although it would be to you and I) and resigned the captaincy for a string of off-field misdemeanours. Jores Okore and Eric Black have had a disagreement over the former’s reported refusal to play for the latter. There are also three reported parties interested in buying an impending Championship club with one careless owner, the price now as low as £40 million according to some reports.

On a happier note, Stiliyan Petrov is reported to be aiming to get back into first team reckoning. If Stan got anywhere near contention it would undoubtedly be the greatest comeback in football history and producers will be queuing up to film the story. Whatever he does, he will do it with more determination and feeling for the club than the entire first team squad have shown all season.

Back in 1950 Villa went fifteen months between the resignation of Alex Massie and George Martin being appointed his replacement. During that time there was a belief in some quarters that a team manager was unneccessary. Villa’s greatest times until then had taken place when the board had been in sole control of playing matters and therefore it followed that harking back to tradition would see a return to previous glories. It didn’t work then and, please God, don’t let them try now.

And so the action moves to Villa Park on Saturday, for the final home game of the season against a resurgent Newcastle. This fixture has had a bit of spice attached in recent years, mainly because the visitors keep going on about it. Given their position in the table, either history will be made or they’ll have something to go on about for a bit longer.