Grinding to a halt

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s week.

I saw a manager at Villa Park on Saturday who continues to get results while working under budgetary restraints imposed by an owner insistent that the club is self-financing. His team are doing better than expected in the league and the football they play is consistently eye-catching. He’s one of football’s nice guys, always seems to have a smile on his face and nobody in the game ever has a bad word to say about him. He’s also claret and blue to the core.

Unfortunately this was at around 2.30 and the manager in question was Dean Smith of Walsall. From 3 o’clock onwards the Villa, as ever, were under the command of Paul Lambert and a pretty dismal spectacle it was too. The tribulations of the previous week had seen backroom staff members Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa replaced by Gordon Cowans and Shay Given but while it’s always good to observe Sid on the bench, let’s be optimistic and say that he hasn’t yet had enough time to work his magic.

After an opening first fifteen minutes when Villa seemed as though they were destined to a fifth consecutive defeat, the game settled down into a lifeless, end of season lethargy. From a Villa point of view the only incident of note occurred when Callum Robinson came on as a sub and in six minutes did more than Andreas Weimann has done in six weeks. That apart, the final whistle once more brought to a halt 90 minutes of torment and if nothing else the end to a run of defeats that has made the final weeks of the season more ‘interesting’. I suppose we’ll scrape another couple of points and once more stagger over the finishing line with the grace of a first-time runner in the London Marathon, but without the 100% effort.

There were a mixed bag of results elsewhere that left Villa lower in the table although not really in any greater danger of going down than they were at kick-off. But that’s not saying much – we shouldn’t be in this position and at the end of the season the blame can be shared out between just about everyone from Randy Lerner down.

Talking of whom, renewed rumours about a new owner led to a quite frankly bizarre statement issued by the club on Sunday afternoon to the effect that Paul Lambert’s doing well under difficult but unspecified circumstances and Randy’s future will be announced once the season’s over. It’s hard to draw anything from that other than the concusion that the Villa are, indeed, up for sale once more. No sooner do you get used to one new owner than there’s the prospect of another. It wasn’t like this in Doug Ellis’s day.