Away from the numbers

Dave Woodhall looks at Saturday’s Molinuex clash from a Villa perspective.

I watched a few seconds of the Wolves v Blues FA Cup match in midweek and as the camera panned across the crowd I noticed a young Wolves fan doing that depressing ‘Wind Up the Other Team’s Supporters’ ritual. It wasn’t that he was abusing the opposition rather than watching the match, but the fact that he was doing so by pointing to the Premier League badge on his replica shirt. The Premier Uber Alles ideal has even spread to abuse now, because what that young whippersnapper was saying is that his team are in the Premier League, you aren’t, and that’s all that matters.

Wolves are another example of the mentality that affects all mid-ranking clubs who get into the rarefied atmosphere of what my Albion counterpart Terry Wills accurately calls the Greed League. They sacrificed their place in the FA Cup for the sake, presumably, of Saturday’s game. They play music and wave giant flags when they score. They aren’t bothered about anything except avoiding relegation. For a club which sets great store on their history, it’s a woefully short-sighted attitude.

Anyway, Villa turned up at Molineux looking to extend what’s turned into a decent unbeaten away run of three wins and two draws almost without anyone noticing. After ten minutes we were looking good to continue that run after Darren Bent’s penalty. After half an hour we were looking abysmal. Awful. Depressingly, McNeillian bad. So bad that all I could hope was that we could go in at half-time only a goal down and with a slim possibility of turning the match round in the second half. I’m no expert but I know you don’t play high balls in a swirling wind. In the battle of the unpopular managers, Mick McCarthy was definitely on top.

The teams came out for the second half with Gabby Agbonlahor replaced by Stephen Warnock. Scarcely had the cries of disbelief died down and “You don’t know what you’re doing” been mentally rehearsed than the slim possibility had turned into reality courtesy of a goal from nowhere by Robbie Keane. Warnock at left-back stopped much of Wolves’ attacking threat, but so did the injury to Emmanuel Frimpong, and I hope his injury isn’t as serious as it looked when he was stretchered off. Karl Henry’s sending-off also helped. I shouldn’t criticise other teams’ supporters, but how Wolves fans could applaud him off the pitch while booing Robbie Keane (who had the class not to celebrate when he scored) I know not.

Six minutes to go (or 14 as it turned out, including stoppages) and up pops Keane again, with a thunderous goal that proved to be the winner. Our defence has been criticised on many occasions this season, but with Wolves resorting to an aerial bombardment we coped with ease. Three points, and those flags stayed down. And that half-time change-round? Maybe he does know what he’s doing.

As I often say at such times, winning at Wolves no more makes us title contenders than losing at home to Swansea says we’re going down, but the away run continues and we should enjoy it while it lasts. One final point – we had six Academy graduates on the pitch at some stage of the game. None of them, particularly debutant Gary Gardner, looked out of place. We’ve got Arsenal away in the cup next. It could be worse – we could be at home.