It was twenty years ago today

Dave Woodhall on Villa not losing for a change and a momentous anniversary.

Someone I know once called the internet “a repository for man’s most inopportune thoughts.” This was before social media got going, so God knows what she now makes of the outrage that fills most of Twitter and Facebook.

But, monkeys, Shakespeare, typewriters and all that; I saw a good point made on Twitter after the match on Saturday, namely that if Villa had sacked Paul Lambert last Monday and brought in a new manager during the week, a draw at West Ham would have been seen as a good first step on the road to recovery. But we didn’t, so it wasn’t.

In isolation, getting a point against a side who remain in the top four, and whose boss has just been voted Manager of the Month, isn’t to be sniffed at. Most clubs in the Premier League would take it if it were offered. But, and this is the cause of so much anger and frustration, a goalless draw away from home now seems to be the summit of Villa’s ambitions. We never looked like getting anything more and were reliant on Nathan Baker, before his inevitable injury, and then Brad Guzan in stoppage time to come away with even that limited achievement.

There isn’t really much that can be added to what happened during the game. Lambert put out a side that had survival as its only aim with Jack Grealish and Jores Okore once more absent. The team were reasonably solid but possessed no attacking threat. It made for a depressing afternoon, and Villa are now the lowest scorers in all four divisions. Five goals in eleven games – could anything be more graphic?

As a side note, today marks the twentieth anniversary of Ron Atkinson’s sacking. It followed a 4-3 defeat at Wimbledon the previous day, which had seen a poor run stretch to one point in nine games, although at least they’d scored eight goals. Atkinson’s dismissal was widely criticised at the time, in fact it was probably the only time Doug Ellis read public opinion so badly. I remember the club closing early for the day and then-commercial manager Abdul Rashid reading a statement through a crack in the locked gates of the North Stand car park.

But in hindsight getting rid of Ron proved a masterstroke as his successor, Brian Little, put together Villa’s last successful team. The chances of Lambert being dismissed and replaced by a former Villa legend who goes on to win a trophy are about the same as us doing to West Ham in the return this season what Little’s side did to Wimbledon at Villa Park twenty years earlier.