Dave Woodhall watches the claret and blue flame flicker ever-lower.
The other day I said it was the hope that killed you. If that’s the case then Villa supporters should be safe until at least May because all hope is now surely extinguished.
The team went into the match at Carrow Road trying to build on what had been, in parts at least, a promising Boxing Day performance against West Ham. The trouble was that they also went into it with the kind of line-up that makes you wonder whether Remi Garde really is the man to lead the Aston Villa revival.
It isn’t his fault that Jores Okore has got alabaster knees, or that Joleon Lescott isn’t up to two games in three days at this stage of his career. It isn’t his fault that Jordan Amavi’s injured or that there’s no better right back available than Alan Hutton. But Garde has no-one but himself to blame for the eleven players who started, or the lack of substitutions until the game was lost. I could excuse the reluctance to go chasing the game when we were drawing recently, but Villa have got to stat winning and at no time did Villa field a side who looked capable of getting three points.
As is often the case, the team started brightly enough without looking like scoring. And then, equally predictably, there was a defensive cock-up that let to a goal conceded, and with it the communal dropping of heads throughout the team. That’s the real problem – once things go wrong too many players hide and not enough make their presence felt. I don’t know whether this team doesn’t hate losing enough, or whether they don’t think they possess the ability to turn things round. Whatever the reason, it’s a failing that has cost the Villa time and again, and for a much longer period than this season.
Norwich’s seconde goal was both predictable and unnecessary, as Villa were never going to equalise and there was always the likelihood of another defensive calamity. The final whistle saw the match, and the year, draw to a merciful finish. Both were much the same in terms of success and enjoyment.
2015 started badly, had a few unbelievably memorable weeks and then sunk back into the abyss. 2016 promises to be no better. At least there’s now a month in which to plug a few gaps although it’s hard to envisage anyone good enough to improve the club who would be willing to join the Villa at this stage. I did read recently that the law which introduced press gangs has never been repealed so it’s just possible that we might kidnap a couple of decent players should they be walking down Trinity Road one dark night but that’s about the only chance we’ve got of a morale-boosting arrival.
And so on we go, to Sunderland on 2nd January. Our away supporters, who deserve every bit of credit they get, have racked up some miles lately and never mind free coaches, they should get complimentary tickets, mileage allowances and an expense account for this one. You can but hope.