The local un-derby

Dave Woodhall sees Villa lose 2-0 to Wolves.

Villa playing Wolves is a strange fixture. There’s a bit of needle, but there’s also some grudging mutual respect and the knowledge that the real rivalry lies elsewhere. But, this is modern football and everything has to have a label, so the game becomes a derby, with all the hpe that goes with it.

Wolves are doing well, no question. They’ve taken the progressive approach and appointed a manager with no experience in English football but a good track record elsewhere. They also seem to have spent wisely, although how long their current stars will be at Molineux and who actually owns them is another matter. For the moment, though, they don’t seem too worried and with good cause.

Villa ‘celebrated’ the first anniversary of our more pragmatic approach to management last week. Steve Bruce’s first game was at home to Wolves, where we were lucky to escape with a draw, so Saturday’s fixture would have been a good chance to gauge our progress over the past twelve months. Oh dear.

I’ve always believed that you should let the opposition worry about you rather than the other way round so I don’t really blame Bruce for not changing a winning side, with the exception of the banned Neil Taylor. Alan Hutton might not have been the popular choice to step in at left-back but his commitment couldn’t have been faulted, not that it ever is. The trouble is, there were far too many other areas where fault can be pointed out.

To be blunt, Villa were second-best in every department from the first kick almost to the last. The only time we caused any sort of problems was when Callum O’Hare came on, by which point the game was already lost. Yet again Bruce sent the team out against half-decent opposition with the mindset of avoiding defeat to the fore; it might have been justified when he first arrived, with years of losing in the Premier League and memories of recent late goals conceded still affecting the team’s psyche, but twelve months on he should have eradicated such negativity.

On the surface, losing to opponents who were better on the day isn’t the end of the world. It happens to every team, unless they happen to be a truly exceptional, once in a lifetime one. The important things are to learn from such setbacks, and to ensure that it’s the other team that beat you, not yourselves, your performance and most of all, your attitude.

Villa, and Steve Bruce, have got to show that they can learn from Saturday afternoon. They can do that with a convincing display next Saturday against a decent but far from world-beating Fulham side. And then comes a real derby.