Law and Disorder

Dave Woodhall looks back at a week in Aston, and in the courts.

It’s been One of Those Weeks again. Following on from the debacle against the Albion came the welcome news that sanity had prevailed and Chris Herd’s red card has been rescinded. Sadly we don’t get awarded the points, but let’s be grateful for small mercies. Talking of appeals and replays, I wonder how long it will be before some club (probably Liverpool) in similar circumstances does go to court in an attempt to get a game replayed. If, of course, they ever get a player sent off in the first place.

Then Barry Bannan, in the company of former Villa player James Collins, was arrested and bailed on suspicion of drink-driving. Bannan was then suspended by the club pending further investigations. Whether or not it was the right thing to do, credit to Alex McLeish for having the will to go ahead with such a decision bearing in mind that we could do with Bannan in the side, and it certainly contrasts with clubs that are only too happy to sign players who have committed far more serious crimes. However, suspending the player at this stage of the investigation is unheard of – at least I can’t think of any other occasion when it’s happened – and makes me wonder whether there might be more to this that we’ve been told. Hopefully it’ll be sorted out quickly and our Scottish international midfielder’s Villa career will continue on its upward path.

And finally in the courts, former manager and serial litigant Martin O’Neill has forced the Guardian to apologise after they made some incorrect remarks about the manner of his departure. Whatever O’Neill’s motive, other Villa managers – successful ones, who won trophies – have fallen out with the board and been written about in less than flattering terms but haven’t resorted to repeated legal action.

There was also some football as well. A draw at Sunderland would have been regarded as a decent result before the game, but at the final whistle the prevailing mood was one of disappointment that two points had been tossed away.  We went into the lead twice, the first time from a stunning drive by Stilyan Petrov, but although we left it late to go 2-1 up, Sunderland left it even later to get a second equaliser.  This time last year I was forming a grudging respect for the way in which Alex McLeish had got his Blues side to play for 90 minutes, defend well and pick up vital late goals. If he could do it with them, surely he could do the same at Villa.

From now on the games will start to get progressively harder. We may only be a quarter of the way through the season but the points we lost in the final minutes at Loftus Road and the Stadium of Light – plus against Albion if you include their first-half equaliser – may prove vital in May.