Saving the best until (almost) last

By Dave Woodhall.

It’s been a nervous few weeks for Villa supporters. Logic would dictate that the threat of relegation was so infinitesimal as to not be worth worrying about, but you never know….

A quick calculation on Saturday morning showed that the sequence of events which would have led to Villa going down would pay odds of something in the region of 45,000-1. Wolves’ win at Sunderland and Blackpool’s victory at home to Bolton reduced these odds a bit, but relegation was still highly unlikely. You never know, though…..

The last away trip of the season is always an excuse for some people to make prats of themselves/enter into the spirit of the occasion by wearing fancy dress. I don’t know where the idea came from, but a curmudgeon like me wishes it would stop. Talking of idiocy, there was a protest before the game by Arsenal supporters bemoaning their club’s lack of investment and proposed 6% increase in season ticket prices. They’re not happy because they haven’t won a trophy for six years. My heart bleeds.

As for the match, well, you saw it even if you didn’t believe it at the time. Villa were two goals up within 15 minutes, courtesy of some some sublime attacking work from Darren Bent, who timed his runs to the millisecond so as to stay onside and finished both off with the clinical accuracy we’ve come to expect from the best goal scorer England can boast. With Villa two up and Wigan in trouble against West Ham the pressure was off and everyone could enjoy themselves.

This may come as a surprise in a season where nothing’s gone right, but we even benefitted from a couple of fortunate decisions from referee Michael Oliver, who ruled that Richard Dunne’s challenge on Aaron Ramsey in the first half was fair and disallowed an Arsenal goal after the break.

After such an opening 45 minutes it was inevitable that the second half would resemble the Alamo at times, with Arsenal desperate to ensure their Champions League place. Even if we did get some luck with the ref and the woodwork coming to our assistance, it was no more than Villa deserve after a torrid season. Of course, just when it looked like we might complete a fairly panic-free victory Robin van Persie scored and in injury-time a free kick on the edge of the box caused palpitations, but that one was wasted and the fun could begin.

News that West Ham were relegated and Blues had lost was greeted with even more glee. I quite like West Ham and there are far too many teams from Lancashire in the Premier League, but the sight of the Brady Bunch on TV later on as the goals went in gladdened the heart. Truly, it couldn’t happen to a nicer collection of ‘people’. As for Blues, we’ll see what next week brings but my feeling is that they’ll stay up with Wigan and Blackpool both losing while Wolves v Blackburn has 0-0 written all over it.

As for Sunday, I finished off a pleasant day in a very nice pub somewhere close to Piccadilly Circus. It wasn’t too crowded, the beer was ridiculously expensive but very good, and I sat reflecting on a few questions. Like why is it that a team who can play this well had to wait until the penultimate game before relegation was impossible? Why can’t they play like this more often? And the most important question of the lot. What if Carlos Ancelotti could have seen into the future last January and bought Darren Bent instead of Fernando Torres?

The answer to that one doesn’t bear thinking about.