Dave Woodhall on happenings in B6.
You might have noticed that it was warm over the weekend. The hot weather might not have improved the attendance at Villa Park, and the cheap offers that were available didn’t seem to have had much effect either, but those who were there enjoyed a routine victory that was also (Football Began in 1992 Alert) our first home win in the league against the might of Wigan.
Further evidence that most football supporters tend to be the same came before the game when a Wigan supporter I was happily depriving of £2 told me that some of their number had begun complaining chairman Dave Whelan wasn’t spending enough on new players. ‘Blame the Owner’ seems to be a national pastime.
Gabby Agbonlahor scored, then made another for Darren Bent, which surprisingly was his first at the Holte End. I keep saying it, but Gabby is the best all-round striker in the country on current form while Bent looked much sharper after his lay-off. If our front two were playing in Manchester their combined worth would start at £50 million and keep going upwards.
In midfield Barry Bannan and Stephen Ireland looked like they could be building a worthwhile partnership, at least until the latter was forced to go off after 57 minutes. No matter, he was replaced by Emile ‘Platini’ Heskey and Bent’s goal came five minutes later. The two facts may not be entirely connected. Wigan had a bit of late pressure but nothing to worry about. Three points, a clean sheet (the memories of last season are fresh enough to still make this an important achievement) and further signs that we might, after all, be starting to play something approaching attractive football. Wigan are a poor side, but they had to be beaten, and they were, without too much fuss. By my reckoning that’s one defeat in 15 league matches.
As the next home game is our proper derby the gate will certainly be higher than the one last Saturday. It would be good to see a few more Villa supporters realise that this team might not be Brazil ’70, but neither are they as bad as they’ve been painted and Alex McLeish is not the Antichrist.
As an aside, it was interesting to see a couple of familiar names on the Wigan bench. Shaun Maloney, who was one of Martin O’Neill’s earliest signings when he joined from Celtic in January 2007 but never settled and soon returned to Scotland, came on to a good reception from Villa supporters and did well without ever looking as though we made a mistake in letting him go. Also sitting in the away dugout was one of the many bright goalkeeping hopes over the years, Chris Kirkland. From the England team to Wigan reserves – that’s a fair comedown.
We’ve got an international weekend to look forward to, so you should be thinking about going to watch one of your local non-league clubs, then we’re off to Manchester. That could be interesting.