Stumbling over the line

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s stagger to safety.

You can usually tell when it’s a mundane, nothing on it, end of season match – we start singing about former players. And lo, midway through the second half against Hull City, the sighting of Ian Taylor in the crowd caused his name to be sung, along with other names from the past. By this time all relegation worries had been banished as Villa had gone into a 3-1 lead against a visiting side marking time until their forthcoming FA Cup final appearance. For the past couple of years we’ve still been in danger with a game left so to be safe 2 ½ from the end is undeniable progress and shows irrevocable proof that Villa are on the right track…

The match itself was that rarity this season, a routine win against opposition who, Wembley date apart, were of a similar standard to Villa. That’s what often happens when you play a decent (if frequently disappointing) striker up front and an in-form winger out wide. Not rocket science, even if it has taken Paul Lambert since August to realise it. Perhaps if this tactic of picking players in their best position had been used more often, we might have had a less exciting previous month.

Lambert called this the most important game he’d ever been involved with, which given that he’s won a Champions League final is probably a bit of an exaggeration. He then spoke about how he’s looking forward to the future and wants to remain Villa manager but there’s a lot of uncertainty on the horizon. There sure is, and it needs to be cleared up as soon as is possible once the season ends.

Two games left; both away, and both difficult. There’s always plenty of evidence to show the insanity of life in the Premier League and Villa having effectively two dead games that could still be the difference in prize money of almost £6 million is more of it. We keep saying that such an overblown financial situation must surely come crashing down one day, but we’ve been saying it for over twenty years and there’s no sign yet.

Leaving aside the Herculean impossibility of getting anything from Manchester City on Wednesday night, the most intriguing aspect of the week will be the reaction of travelling Villa fans at Spurs on the final day. In similar circumstances two years ago at Carrow Road Alex McLeish received ninety minutes of abuse that surely hastened his departure the following afternoon. It’ll be interesting to see if Paul Lambert suffers a similar fate on Sunday.