Dave Woodhall on another Villa Park failure.
There always seems a bit of mutual respect between Villa and Wolves. Both big clubs, both ‘should’ be doing better and both began the season looking forward to brighter prospects under new ownership. Both can also shiver at the memory of far worse times that, for Villa at least, are uncomfortably reminiscent of the present.
One of the regular features of modern-day Villa Park is greeting a new manager. Steve Bruce arrived with little fanfare but got a decent reception as he arrived on the big stage. I don’t suppose there were many supporters who would have had him as their number one choice for the job, myself included, but pragmatism is now the order of the day. I don’t want Bruce as manager in the same way that I don’t particularly want eight or nine of the players in the team but he, and they, are the best we can get at the moment and Bruce, in particular, has a track record of doing exactly what needs doing.
Having said that, putting Micah Richards in the team was something that he shouldn’t have done and hopefully never will again. As usual when picking out one player, though, the rest shouldn’t be overlooked because more or less all of them were poor.
The game itself followed a familiar pattern – start brightly, take the lead, retreat, desperately battle to hold on. That they managed in this partial success was down to Wolves’ failings rather than any great ability on the part of the Villa team. The clocks will be going back soon and even the limited promise of the early weeks has evaporated. Surely Villa can’t dragged into another relegation battle, but with a quarter of the season gone they show no signs of putting together even the couple of wins that would see them advancing into the safer reaches of the table, never mind towards the promotion places.
After the game, Bruce was honest enough to admit that there’s much work to be done. The worrying thing is that much has been done already – with a new owner, new manager, wholesale changes in playing staff and another new manager, Villa are effectively an entirely new club to the one that finished last season so ignominiously. By every logical conclusion we ought to be brimming with confidence and every one of us convinced that a new golden era has just begun.
Instead, we remain the same mistake-ridden, failure-haunted shambles that lurches directionless from crisis to catastrophe. Ron Atkinson once remarked that the biggest challenge a Villa manager faces is convincing the club that they can win trophies. For Steve Bruce the challenge is convincing them that they can win games. He can start with the trip to Reading on Tuesday. Given the relative resources both clubs had at their disposal during the summer it should come as little surprise to see that eight points and thirteen places in the table already separate them. It’s too depressing to elaborate any further on that one.
One final point – charging away supporters £35 for a game that’s on TV is extortion. We don’t like it when we’re the victims and it’s only fair that we should object when our club do likewise to visitors. After all, it’s looking more likely with every game that we’ll be wanting them to come back next season.