Dave Woodhall endures Villa’s goalless draw at home to Millwall.
I tend to think that where football supporting’s concerned nothing is as good as it used to be. But if there’s one thing that has improved it’s the way clubs can cope with bad weather. Climate change or not, in the not too distant past Villa’s game against Millwall might not have taken place, and even if the pitch had survived the snow it would have cut up badly and become a mudbath for the rest of the season. Instead, technology means that the Villa Park turf was perfect, as it will be from August until May no matter what the weather might throw at it.
Which means there was one less excuse for the diabolical performance we witnessed on Saturday afternoon. Millwall are the sort of opposition that should be beaten with the minimum of fuss by any team with ambitions of promotion. Instead, ninety minutes of tedium saw them ending as the better side and had Sam Johnstone not been on top form they would have taken the points.
It was the sort of off-day that can happen to all teams, no matter how good they are. Wolves only got a point at home to Sunderland while on Friday night Bristol City needed a sending-off and an injury time goal to keep their winning run going. The difference is that both those sides are doing consistently well, which is why they can afford the odd slip, whereas for Villa this was the second poor display at home in the past four games – and the other two were scarcely conclusive evidence that the road to success is going to be a straight one.
Once again the line-up was scarcely changed, and once again Steve Bruce took too long to change the team once it was clear that the starting eleven were getting nowhere – I suppose inspired substitutions two games in a row were too much to ask for. Why Jack Grealish can’t get a start is one of those unfathomable mysteries that life throws up from time to time, although why Keinan Davis is still in the team when he’s clearly in need of a rest is easier to answer – there’s no-one to take his place. It’s incredible to think that after spending so much money Villa can still be so short of attacking options that there’s been talk of Gabby Agbonlahor getting a contract extension.
Villa do have justifiable reasons for looking to the injury list as an excuse for struggling; we’ve been without the best defender in the league for over a month, while almost halfway through the season last term’s top scorer and our talismanic central midfielder have scarcely figured. Any team, at any level, would find coping with that lot difficult, yet any sympathy that the current situation might engender towards the management is gradually being eroded by Steve Bruce’s inbred caution and reluctance to let the team impose themselves on mediocre opposition.
Villa have got a difficult but not insurmountable run of fixtures between now and being able to reinforce the squad at the beginning of January. There’s still a four-point cushion between us and dropping out of the top six; staying in contention then regrouping, hopefully with Messrs Terry, Kodjia and Jedinak fit again and ready to join the fray, is vital between now and the Christmas decorations coming down.