Dave Woodhall is a witness to Villa’s defeat at Reading.
I may as well start with a question. It’ll give me something to think about while I ponder on how to describe the latest horrorshow from the Aston Villa Book of Calamities.
When was the last time Villa signed a top-rated player who enhanced his reputation while he was with us? Jonathan Kodjia maybe, although he’s still in his first full year at Villa Park. After that I’m struggling. It might be as far back as Robbie Keane, and he was only with us for a couple of months. Apart from that there’s been a catalogue of highly-priced failures, square pegs in round holes, mercenaries and misfits.
And with that out of the way it’s time to talk about Tuesday night’s fiasco. Or not, because if the players can’t be bothered I don’t see why I should be. Almost eighteen months ago, after our final game in the Premier League, I praised Villa’s travelling supporters and said that was the last time I wanted to write about them, because boasting about your support is a bit smalltime, the sort of thing unsuccessful clubs do when they’ve got nothing else to boast about. 49 league games (and three cup ties) later, I’m still talking about them because in all that time our support has been the only thing about Aston Bastard Bloody Villa worth talking about.
We sold out another away end on Tuesday night, another 4,000 spending, taking time off work and going to the effort of getting to Reading for the third away trip in seven days. Their reward was witnessing the sort of effortless, score two goals via a comedic defence, then ease off because the game’s won, home performance that we’ve seen many, many times. The only difference is that the ability of the home side is a lot lower now than it used to be, but they still usually manage to win with ease.
If you want a bright side to look on. Ritchie de Laet’s first start for almost twelve months showed that he could become an asset to the Villa and it’s already clear that Joshua Onomah is too good for us. Apart from that, the facts speak for themselves. It’s one win in nine now, and Steve Bruce is showing no signs of this particular run ending.
It is, just about, possible that Kodjia’s return (and Mile Jedinak, who seems to have vanished somewhere) might kick-start a revival. I wouldn’t say it’s anything more than a very faint possibility. There’s more chance that Bruce will soon be headed for the door and the golden, diamond-studded handshake, another victim of the strange curse that haunts the Villa manager’s office.
However long it is until the sacking that’s becoming inevitable, there can’t be many decent managers who fancy risking their reputation with a club that’s at the stage you occasionally see where whatever happens just makes the situation worse. Usually you sympathise with them, sometimes you snigger at their downfall. Always, you’re glad it’s not you. Until one day it is.
It’s Norwich at home next. They came down with us last year, they did marginally better than we did last season and they’re not doing too brilliantly this time round. We should be going down the match on Saturday confident of winning. We won’t be.
I’ll finish with another question. When was the last time we bought a player and made him better? Not the sort of Fabian Delph/Christian Benteke-type promising youngster but someone who was more or less fully developed when he came to the Villa and after a year or so with us had supporters from his previous clubs wondering why he hadn’t played like THAT for them? If you can remember who it was, try telling the Villa scouting staff where another one like him might be found.