B is for…

Villa a goal up with seconds remaining. Dave Woodhall fills in the blanks.

I don’t know what was the most inevitable – that Sam Allardyce’s reign as England manager would end in tears sooner or later, or Villa would let in another last-minute equaliser. Both were equally predictable and both were avoidable.

Sam should have known that the England boss has to be seen to be whiter than white, and that given his reputation there was always going to be someone trying to stitch him up. There would have been plenty of time to cash in on his status when it became “ex-England manager” in a couple of years so all he had to do was wait until then before hawking himself around the developing footballing nations of the world.

And what happened with Villa was, again, always going to happen. After finally realising there’s no law stating that Ashley Westwood has to start every match, Roberto Di Matteo could surely have resisted the temptation to bring him on in an attempt to see out the game at Oakwell. Even on one leg, Aaron Tshibola staying on would have been the better option. Whether unfairly or not, Westwood is seen as the root cause of most of Villa’s problems and his arrival on the pitch with fifteen minutes to go was only ever going to heighten the tension being felt amongst the Villa supporters.

I do wonder how much that fear and tension is a factor in the current dismal run. I know players shouldn’t look for excuses and managers shouldn’t even think about them , but is some psychological phenomenon transferring itself from the crowd onto the pitch? Do the players, sensitive types that they are, pick up on the negative vibes and freeze during the late stages of every match?

Or is it just appalling tactics and a woeful lack of nous from a manager who despite winning some of the game’s major honours looks increasingly naive and manages time after time to be out-thought by opposite numbers with a fraction of his experience? It should be ludicrous to think that Roberto Di Matteo is under pressure so soon after being given what in Championship terms was a blank cheque. It’s equally ludicrous to see the same mistakes being made time after time with the same results.

Villa had done the hard part. As they did against Newcastle, they’d recovered from a poor start to get well on top. Jordan Ayew scored one, there were plenty of candidates for getting another, they were on top and looking good for that elusive win. Then bang on cue, after eighty minutes the forcefield that prevents Villa players from advancing beyond the halfway line is switched on. You might as well go home then because you know what’s coming next.

Looking at the forwards Di Matteo has at his disposal we should be making Warwickshire an offer to use the Edgbaston scoreboard during the winter months, not trying – and failing – to hang onto a single goal lead against Barnsley, and Bristol City, and Brentford. And that’s only the Bs – there’s another 25 letters to go.