Monday afternoon saw Villa lose their second game of the Easter programme. Dave Woodhall got there eventually.
The train to London on Monday morning was delayed due to cows on the line. I’m struggling not to say this was followed by donkies on the pitch.
Fulham is traditionally the most eagerly-awaited away fixture in Villa’s calendar. Whether it’s the traditional lines of Craven Cottage, the tree-lined approach to the ground or the opportunity to buy a water buffalo burger on kale foccacia after paying more for a pint than you ever dreamed possible, we always travel in large numbers even though Villa’s record at the ground isn’t one to get optimistic about.
And neither was the team that was put out. Steve Bruce has said that he thinks 4-4-2 is the way to get out of this division. Some of his best results this season have come by playing 4-3-3. So naturally he goes back to the 3-5-2 formation that immediately hands the initiative to the opposition, particuarly with Tommy Elphick and Gary Gardner in the team. We can only hope he was resting a few of their colleagues for the battle that lies ahead
The outcome was predictable – go a goal down, have Jonathan Kodjia harshly sent off, go in at half-time demoralised and looking unlikely to get anything out of the game. A rare moment of magic from Jack Grealish raised hopes but for the second time in three days an equaliser inspired the opposition more than it did the Villa. A 3-1 defeat was no more than the team deserved. As usual, the supporters deserved much better.
The play-offs might be lost but we should at least be hoping to finish higher in the league than Brentford. Afterwards, Bruce said that the sending-off and having to play two games in three days contributed to the afternoon’s disappointment, which they undoubtedly did, but to say different circumstances would have produced a different result is clutching at straws. It was a disinterested performance that was no better, and sadly not really any worse, than most of Villa’s contribution to the season that is spluttering to a merciful halt.
And now, we have coming up the other most-awaited game in the season, namely Blues at home. It’s been half a century since the last time the teams were at such a low ebb when they played each other – this fixture in 1967 was dubbed the ‘Desolation Derby’ by the local press with Villa sliding on their ultimate way to the third division and Blues unlikely to get promoted to the first. The sort of ironic twist of fate that often accompanies such fixtures means that there are probably a few Blues fans who would take our manager back and while there surely can’t be any Villa supporter who would want the recently-departed Gianfranco Zola in charge, there are definitely those who would jump at the chance of welcoming Gary Rowett, his predecessor at St Andrews.
I’d like to be optimistic about the match, in the hope that Villa might give us one afternoon to remember from a campaign of utter mediocrity. But with Kodjia missing it’s hard to see where the goals will come from and I’m highly sceptical that whatever players are picked, in whatever formastion they play, will be bothered to raise their game against a team who will be battling for their lives.