Villa lost two-nil at home to Albion on Saturday. Dave Woodhall wonders what comes next.
Two years ago this week I called a 3-1 defeat at home to Barnsley the lowest point in the Villa’a history. I’m not sure whether it was beaten by the events of the past five days; the performances against Brentford and the Albion weren’t as eye-bleedingly awful but the feeling of desperation is up there.
Villa weren’t second-best all over the pitch on Saturday afternoon; in fact, for the first half-hour or so there wasn’t much to chose between the two sides. But a bit of defensive worry, followed almost immediately by a deflected second, and the game was over.
I often refer to something Graham Taylor once said, when he talked about turning up, getting the points and going home following a routine away win. To be able to do that is the sign of a team on a roll; it happens for us occasionally but more often it’s the opposition that take the points from Villa Park without scarcely breaking sweat.
Albion didn’t have to do much in the second half, just make sure that they made no fatal errors because Villa were certainly not going to create anyhing resembling a match-changing opportunity.
And so, as our oldest rivals celebrated what must have been one of their easiest wins in a series that goes back well before the formation of the Football League, we have to wonder what happens now. It’s been made clear that Dean Smith is part of a long-term that may or may not ultimately include him in charge. Having such a plan is commendable, and about fifteen years overdue, but when you’re fixated on the horizon it’s easy to lose sight of what’s happening under your nose.
The same sort of problem occurred during Gerard Houllier’s brief time in charge – he was attempting to put together a strategy that would have stood the Villa in good stead for the future, but results suffered against a backdrop of injuries and one manager’s players being instructed in the philosophy of another’s.
Only when the team went back to basics did the team’s form improve, and one of the great what ifs? of Villa’s modern history comes when wondering what he might have achieved. Then again, Houllier was helped by being able to spend £18 million on Darren Bent to help fix that short-term hole and players such as Ashley Young still on top form. Dean Smith has a fraction of those resources available to help him do what’s required right this minute.
And if I wasn’t depressed enough, Jacob Ramsey, aged 17 and a bit, made his debut during the second half. Not that he played badly, but it was bad enough when the players started to be younger than me. Then they could have been my sons. And now, just about, one of them is young enough to be my grandson. Cheer me up, someone.