Villa continue to explore uncharted territory. Dave Woodhall keeps watch.
I know I keep saying it, but the Villa do keep on doing it. The ‘it’ in question is hitting lows last seen during the mid-seventies, and I know those of us who were alive back then (mostly) had more hair, less waistline and the music was better, but I really don’t want to re-live those days down the match. For a start, it only cost 40p to get in then.
Yesterday’s debacle at Cardiff was a lot more expensive to witness, and the fact that much of the increased cost (calling it a 7,500% rise isn’t far off) goes straight into the pockets of those responsible for the latest fiasco wasn’t lost on the thousands who travelled to Cardiff hoping for an improvement on what we’ve seen so far this season. Some hope.
What they saw was another contender for the title of worst performance in those forty-plus years. From the errors that lead to Cardiff’s first goal until those that came before their third, there was barely a sign that the end result would be anything but the usual.
Two games in and the team seem unmotivated, clueless and lacking fitness – and of all the common traits that have bedevilled us over the past decade, this last one is the most puzzling. Players, managers and philosophies have come and gone, yet the team invariably run out of steam before the opposition. The players look what they are – a collection of individuals thrown together with no coherent plan as to how they will work.
A goalscorer was needed so Scott Hogan was bought. He’s primarily a goal poacher, so the tactics employed to get the best out of him are to lump the ball high at every opportunity. Villa’s defence was the one success of last season; the summer’s main transfer strategy has been to bring in new defenders. Unsurprisingly, they’ve got worse. There are many reasons for all those problems I mentioned earlier, but these last two can only be aimed at one man.
Speaking of whom, we seem to be heading towards the same inevitable (that word again) outcome. The knives are being sharpened and the supporters beginning to turn.
Should a manager’s future be in doubt after two games? Probably not, but Villa haven’t done logic since about 2009 so I doubt we’re going to start now. Twelve months ago perceived wisdom was that we needed a manager who knew the Championship. We eventually got one whose record at this level is second to none but now, it seems, his methods are outdated. He got promoted five months before getting the Villa job and I’m not aware of any tectonic shift in football between May and October 2016 yet Bruce has rarely looked capable of doing what he was employed for. As the modern saying goes – you had one job…
Is managing the Villa too big for him? Given that he captained Manchester United and football managers by necessity have to possess the self-belief of a small planet I don’t believe this is the case. The only conclusion I can reach is that Steve Bruce has hit the wall that has ruined virtually every Villa manager since Jimmy McMullan was first appointed in 1932.
I hope he can pull the situation round. This set of players, under-achieving though they may be, is good enough with only minor adjustment to get promoted with the minimum of fuss. Whether Bruce can manage it, though, is becoming more difficult to answer with every passing calamity.
I’ll finish with something else I’ve said many times before. On Tuesday Villa are away to Reading, a club who have spent most of their history as the sort of opposition we only meet in the early stages of the cups, they haven’t made a particularly good stat to the season, yet anything better than a routine home win will be seen as a surprise. Villa have once again sold out their allocation of tickets and will have thousands of supporters making the journey, as we did to Cardiff and as we did to Colchester last Wednesday evening.
This current collection of players don’t deserve us. And we certainly don’t deserve them.