Villa go out of the FA Cup with a 3-0 defeat to Swansea. Dave Woodhall wasn’t surprised.
It’s that time of year when we start talking about 1957 and all that, let hope triumph over reason and reckon it’s our year. The manager shows how in tune with the club’s thinking he is by talking about our poor record and assuring us that he’s the man to change it.
Then we reflect on how the magic of the cup has been downgraded and console ourselves with the thought that ninety minutes watching a few of the fringe players to see how they shape up will be interesting, at least. Then the match kicks off.
For years now, Villa have had the same response to the cups as every other club in their position – that is, to regard them as a necessary evil best got out of the way with as little drama as possible. Dating back the best part of twenty years we’ve lost at the first attempt to clubs way below us, so going out of the cup to a side in the same division was no great shock. What did surprise me though, as it does every time this sort of thing happens, was the lack of effort from players I’d have thought would have been trying their hardest to make an impression.
Callum O’Hare has been lauded as the next Jack Grealish and there have been calls to put him into the first team, yet he showed a few touches and little else – maybe a loan spell is needed to introduce him to the grim realities of playing with the big lads.
Scott Hogan is another who should have been chasing every ball, covering every blade of grass and fighting to the end given the imminent departure of Tammy Abraham. Instead he missed a couple of early chances either side of Swansea’s opening goal and vanished for the rest of the game.
Even more experienced players such as Albert Adomah and Anwar El Ghazi, picked in the one area where Villa do have strength in depth, did nothing to show that they should have a guaranteed place for the games that are taken seriously.
At least Villa were consistent – they were useless throughout the team, from the kick-off until the final whistle. If one of those chances Hogan missed had gone in the result might have been different, although the realist in me says that the only difference would have been that our final score would have been ‘1’ instead of ‘0’. Swansea would have still got as many.
New keeper Lovre Kalinic had a debut to forget; his second touch was to pick the ball out of the back of the net and he seemed a bit hesitant getting down for a couple of shots. New central defender Alan Hutton was his usual trying a lot but not always to good effect self. The performances from the rest are best forgotten; it comes to something when the only vaguely bright spot of the afternoon was half an hour from Henri Lansbury and twenty minutes of the returning Keinan Davis.
Even the crowd seemed lifeless, as though we were accepting from the off what was going to happen. Talking of which – 30,572? Someone’s hit the wrong number there, surely.
After the match Dean Smith said that he hadn’t seen this one coming and hinted that there’s going to be a few words said on Monday morning. I hope so, and I trust that there’s going to be one hell of an improvement at Wigan on Saturday.