Concentrating on the league – part II

Dave Woodhall finds it’s grim down south for Villa.

One of my favourite quotes about Luton, in so much that Luton can have a favourite quote, is that it’s a northern town thirty miles from London. Never is this more proven than in the area around Kenilworth Road, with rows of terraced houses that even now wouldn’t be out of place in a sixties Play for Today.

It’s never going to be the sort of venue that dreams are made of and where legends are born, although on Wednesday night it might, possibly, have witnessed a small piece of history. Villa have been bad in cup games against lower league opposition before. Veterans of such places as Doncaster, Bradford and for those with really long memories, Aldershot, will have seen a certain familiarity in what we witnessed against Luton. But surely this was the most abject surrender of the lot.

I wasn’t around for the Aldershot game, but I can accept that Doncaster was a one-off and Bradford the sort of weird occasion where Villa could have been four goals up before the home side touched the ball and ended up winning 6-3. This debacle, though, took farce to new and uncharted heights.

The most surreal aspect of the evening is that for half an hour Villa dominated. A goal from Jordan Ayew, the woodwork hit twice, the only real conversation point was wondering when Villa would get the second goal to kill off the tie. Then a moment of defensive hesitation, an equaliser and from then on Luton, of the fourth division, dominated.

A couple of odd half-time substitutions didn’t help but even so there was no excuse for the shambles that was topped off by Micah Richards and Jores Okore, who even on a night such as this stood out by virture of their sheer ineptitude.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this performance. Are these players really inferior than an average League Two team, or is their confidence so abolutely shot to pieces that they collapse at the first minor setback? Not only do I not know, I’m also not sure which of the two scenarios would be the worse.

Whatever the reason for this latest episode of that great Astonian tragi-comedy You’re Not Fit to Wear the Shirt, it has to be the last. Roberto di Matteo has got to, somehow, instil both discipline and a winning mentality into the team. Tony Xia has got to stop playing silly buggers on Twitter and bring in some new blood, preferably before Rotherham turn up at Villa Park on their big day out. As for the players themselves, words fail. Well, they don’t but the ones I feel like using aren’t the sort best read by children or those of a nervous disposition.