Villa eased into the League Cup third round against Wigan. Dave Woodhall wonders if a corner has been turned.
You can’t talk about the League Cup these days without saying how sad it is to see one of football’s noble institutions being so sadly downgraded. I said it after Villa beat Colchester and I can say it now, because despite the scoreline and the many positives to come out of Villa’s win over Wigan on Tuesday night, the occasion was still a downbeat one.
News that the draw for round three would be taking place in the early hours more than five thousand miles away showed how much the Football League themselves care about their major knockout competition. The team that Steve Bruce put out showed that his priorities lie elsewhere as well. A crowd of 18,108 (Wigan brought the 108) told much the same tale, and that included a healthy amount given away to season ticket holders although there might have been a few more there if the rest hadn’t had to pay £15.
It’s hard to see how the competition’s decline can be reversed – even for the finalists a trip to Wembley has lost its attraction, so often is the venue used, while a place in the Europa League for the winners is often more trouble than it’s worth.
But looking on the positive side, Tuesday night’s performance was, in its way, even more promising than the win over Norwich on Saturday. Scott Hogan scored another two goals, Albert Adomah got one to continue his return from injury, Birkir Bjarnason capped a decent display with Villa’s fourth.
Even better were the promising displays from Callum Hare and Jake Doyle-Hayes. Wigan also put out a weakened side but Villa’s recent record against teams from lower divisions in this competition would have given them cause for optimism, at least until the kick-off. Villa played with flair and not a little attacking intent. What danger Wigan showed was dealt with easily by a makeshift defence and one particularly good bit of news was that when the visitors did pull a goal back, we got another almost immediately.
That’s three conceded in the past two games and after each one we’ve scored straight afterwards. We’ve got into enough bad habits over time, this is a good one that we could do with picking up.
And so on to Friday night’s M5 derby at Bristol City. There’s no excuse for not knowing how to get there – the way to Bristol and beyond is genetically inbred into everyone from Birmingham and its environs. Last season’s performance down there was a harbinger of things to come, as we managed to loser a game that was ours for the winning. The sort of mentality we’re now seeing at Villa Park, together with a boost in confidence, and we could be showing a TV audience that this season’s Aston Villa are a very different prospect.