Villa’s 1-1 draw with Hull posed the usual questions. Dave Woodhall tries to find an answer.
There are probably more cliches about the opening day of the season than any other occasion in football. The pitch always looks greener, the weather’s warmer and there’s a sense of optimism all around. At Villa Park, that optimism is always tempered by the nagging doubt that something is bound to go wrong – and in fairness, it usually does. There were also a couple of heavy downpours in the hours leading up to the match and if that’s not an omen…
This won’t be the last time Villa will feature in a live TV match this season. Schedulers love us because not only are we the biggest name in the division, there’s also a good chance of an upset. They probably don’t think they’ll be showing a feat of free-flowing football. But, and this is where optimism started to peep out of the grey clouds of reality, all was going well soon after kick-off.
Villa began brightly and went a goal up from Gabby Agbonlahor, a controversial starter but who in the pre-season friendlies looked as though he might have finally, definitely, have started to knuckle down after seven years out due to injury and sloath.
We could also have got another couple of goals, in fact the game should have been won well before Hull started to get back into it as the first half came to an end. You can guess the rest.
Hull equalised and pressed for a winner. Villa hung on, and seemed unable to change the game. New signing Joshua Onomah came on and could have scored while Andre Green missed a golden opportunity to get his first senior goal. We even had Chris Samba thrown up front in the final stages in a desperate attempt to get the win.
So, another summer and nothing seems to have changed. John Terry may have brought with him a winning mentality and an assurance that was evident throughout the game but it hasn’t yet rubbed off on the rest of the team.
Glenn Whelan had a good debut until fading late on and Sam Johnstone seemed more confident than for most of his first loan spell, but there was little else to get excited about. Scott Hogan again looked like £15 million of fish out of water and no matter what permutation of midfielders is picked the winning combination seems no nearer.
Steve Bruce got most of the criticism for the dropped points, which is only to be expected as the manager is invariably scapegoat when points are dropped needlessly. The thing is, though, that this problem goes back a lot longer than Bruce’s arrival.
Villa have been unable to capitalise on a bright start to the match for years. It’s much deeper than the current or any other manager; no matter how much is spent on new players, how many new managerial ideas are employed and how many supposed leaders are signed, we still can’t kill games off. Perhaps Villa Park is cursed?