96 Hours

Dave Woodhall turns up to Villa Park as it opens for 2012-13 business.

Aston VillaTwo home games in four days, one against a club from Liverpool and the other against a club who are Definitely Not Scousers. Both times what bit of rain there was came just after kick-off. One game finished 3-1, the other 3-0. The only thing marring what would otherwise have been a perfect start to the new Villa Park season was that the 3-1 was a defeat. Such a minor detail apart, welcome to the place where you’ll once more invest so much time, money and emotion over the next nine months.

Villa were awful against Everton, the only consolation coming in the last 15 minutes when three goals down and with ten men, they battled rather than giving up. That and Paul Lambert seeing for himself the extent of the job he has to do while there was still a week left of the transfer window. Everton, on the other hand, look impressive. One point to bear in mind is that had David Moyes been appointed two months earlier than he was, he’d have been at Goodison during a time when Villa have had seven permanent and five caretaker managers. As Tommy Docherty once said, “If you can’t give a manager money, you have to give him time.” Actually, Moyes has had both time and money, because in his ten years with the club Everton have always been perceived as perennially skint, yet they usually find the money to buy a big name every season. Then again, they often finance these purchases by selling off young players for massive sums – Jack Rodwell being the latest.  We boast about our own youth policy, but Villa are still a long way short of bringing through a Rodwell or Wayne Rooney. How many of our own youngsters currently easing their way into becoming first team regulars will be good enough in the long run remains to be seen.

After Saturday’s short, sharp shock Tranmere on Tuesday was potentially akin to approaching a banana skin on an ice rink in heavy fog while wearing dark glasses and carrying a ladder. Just 15,316 were in attendance – Villa’s lowest gate for 18 years, and many of them were from the Definitely Not Liverpool part of Merseyside. We negotiated this particular obstacle without too much difficulty thanks to goals from Fabian Delph, Chris Herd and Darren Bent’s first for seven months. Stephen Ireland played well and there was a nice cameo from Graham Burke, who came on for 15 minutes and looked promising.

Attention now turns to matters off the pitch, and in particular the last three days of the transfer window. Villa are being linked most prominently with strikers and left backs, which are two problem areas, but another central defender and a midfield general would also be welcome. Then the season can really start.