The long goodbye

Dave Woodhall on another Astonian debacle.

It’s difficult to know how to make sense of the complete, total and utter ineptitude that reached its peak on Tuesday evening. The team was, on paper, a decent and well-balanced one. The way Villa had played last Saturday against Chelsea, in parts at least, gave some slight grounds for optimism. And we were playing Hull, themselves desperate and a club who hadn’t beaten Villa since September 1987.

Then the game kicked off. There’s no need to go into any great detail; if you saw it you knew what happened and if you didn’t you’ll have found out by now. if by any chance you’re not aware of what happened, one cameo of the game sums up the ninety minutes – Villa took a corner and within seconds three Hull players were attacking into our half.

That’s what happens when a team who know what they’re doing, even if they can’t do it very well, play one who haven’t got a clue. No clue, no ideas, no leadership, no vision, no points, no goals.

Villa were outplayed by one of the few teams below them in the league and that, coupled with other results are now in the bottom three. Which is where they deserve to be because this is a team with more than the whiff of relegation about it.

Villa last went down in 1987 and the parallels are worryingly uncanny. Back then relegation had been avoided the previous season, new players had been added and with what looked a stronger team there was a feeling of optimism that such a close call wouldn’t happen again. In a way it was right, because the team never looked like battling against relegation, or battling against anything else for that matter as they went down without a fight.

The end result led to that previous defeat against Hull, when the Villa side included Bernie Gallagher, Steve Sims, David Hunt and Warren Aspinall. That’s the grim reality facing us as we head into the final third of the season, on a day when another obscene TV deal was announced which will see Premier League clubs get even richer while the rest may as well not exist.

The main difference between now and the game in 1987 is that on the bench for Villa that day was Graham Taylor, a man who came into the club and rebuilt it from top to bottom. I look around Villa Park now and I see no Graham Taylor. I do, though, see a worrying similarity to Graham Turner. Out of his depth, out of ideas and, please God, soon out of time.