Villa’s final away game of the season saw a one-nil defeat at Blackburn. Dave Woodhall reports.
I suppose that given the traumas of the past years it makes a change for Villa to be going into the final games of the season free from the stresses that would accompany fixtures of any importance. The only real things that are at stake now are a top half finsh, or failing that, seeing if we can finish lower than we did in 1974, the last time Villa were stranded in division two obscurity. We finished fourteenth then, so it’s still possible.
Given our poor recent form and the game’s lack of importance, taking almost seven thousand supporters to Blackburn was an incredible achievement, or it would have been if it was anything out of the ordinary. But if there’s one thing we know about the Villa this season it’s that wherever the game is being played, at whatever inconvenient time, our supporters will be travelling in massive numbers. I’m not saying we’re the best, and clubs such as Orient and Coventry would argue that we’re nowhere near the longest-suffering, so I’ll settle for saying we’ve been absolutely incredible.
There’d been a bit of talk in the days leading up to the match about how much we wanted to win given Blackburn’s situation, and my opinion was to want the team to win but wouldn’t be heartbroken if they didn’t. Many of our supporters seemed to be of the same mind and once the game kicked off the team and management seemed to share our thoughts as well.
Steve Bruce ignored that traditional end of season call to “Give the kids a chance,” although it’s hard to see that the kids would have been anything but relieved that they weren’t a part of this debacle. A goal-less first half was poor, another defensive error meant that Villa were going to end their travels as they began them. We don’t do comebacks, particularly when our only source of goals has gone off injured. Bruce said it was the worst performance since he’s been manager and Keith Wyness wasn’t too impressed either, although I’m not sure that directors should be commenting in public on playing matters. Call me old-fashioned but I’d rather such things were kept private.
Other results meant that Villa will now finish between eleventh and fourteenth. We’ll already be below Brentford, we now have to see if we’ll be looking up at Cardiff and Barnsley as well. When he returned in 2002 Sir Graham said the trouble with Villa was that we were bored with finishing sixth. That’s sixth in the Premier League.
The season finally fizzles out on Sunday, with a twelve o’clock kick-off at home to Brighton, who will win the league if/when they beat us. It would be good to see a performance full of attacking flair and goals, a resounding win to send us into the summer with at least one fond memory of 2016-17 and a feeling that things ain’t so bad after all. There’s more chance of the kind of display that makes you wonder if seven thousand Villa supporters at a game in the future might not be far short of what will happen when we’re at home.
And on that happy note…