Villa lost at Norwich on Saturday, bemusing Dave Woodhall again into the process.
One thing you can rely on from the Villa is that if a door is opened for them they’ll obligingly… run headlong into the doorframe.
We’ve seen it many times in cup competitions – the big names get knocked out, leaving us with a clear run to glory only to get beat by a team you’d only come across before on a pools coupon*. Saturday showed another example.
Cardiff’s defeat to Wolves, in the most gut-wrenching way possible, had opened up the possibility that a good win at Norwich would see Villa go into action this coming Tuesday ready to cut the gap between us and the side currently in second place down to a point. It wasn’t as if the opposition were particularly awesome; Villa’s record against them over recent years is so good that Norwich are half the teams in the world afraid of Gabriel Agbonlahor. So, let’s start showing that when the pressure’s on, we respond.
That was the theory.
In the spirit of fairness I’d like to offer up an excuse for the shambolic performance that resulted. The kick-off time had been altered twice and with footballers never the brightest of beings, it could be that the Villa players were confused and maybe suffering from jet lag, or something.
There’s got to be some explanation, because I can’t fathom out why players can be so unbelievably inconsistent from one game to another. There’s the argument that Steve Bruce should have learned from what happened after beating Wolves when he kept with the same side and they were roundly beaten by QPR three days later. Maybe, but Reading were seen off with much less effort than Wolves and there was an extra day’s recuperation this time round.
Anyway, Villa started poorly, looked like they were getting back into the match, then just on half-time a bit of part-slack marking and part-he’ll never score another one like that if he plays until he’s fifty gave Norwich the lead and once Villa go a goal down on a day like this you may as well go home, or turn the TV over, or whatever else you’d rather be doing because they’re never getting back into the game.
Jack Grealish got one back but Norwich had scored again before that, and any brief hopes of recovery were ended when they got another one. It was an afternoon to forget, which would be a lot easier if there weren’t so many others just like this to choose from. I don’t know how much Steve Bruce earns, other than it’s got a nought or two at the end more than he deserves lately, and he’s not the only one at Villa Park. But whatever the amount might be, he’s got a month to show that he deserves it.
Automatic promotion has gone now which leave the only realistic aim as fourth place and the home second leg in the play-offs that goes with it. It shouldn’t be beyond the ability of the team that beat Wolves, but then again neither should beating Norwich City.
*Ask your granddad.