The sands of time

Villa’s latest defeat, debated by Dave Woodhall

First there were thirteen, then twelve, and now just eleven. Eleven games for Villa to avoid relegation, to gather enough points to be able to start next season in the Premier League.

It’s not an insurmountable task, even if every game does seem to bring another unwanted record. We’re currently level with QPR and Burnley, and have to play both of them at home. Every season a team puts together a run that gets them out of trouble a lot easier than seemed possible and there’s no reason, looking at the players available, that this season it can’t be Villa’s turn. Unfortunately, the Gods are not smiling favourably.

At St James’ Park, just as they were against Stoke the previous Saturday, Villa were up against opponents who, man for man, and given the run of the ball, they could have beaten. And again, any good work was undone by defensive frailty and an absence of goalscoring instinct. There’s not enough quality in the side to worry the top half of the table overly but too many players are guilty of a lack of effort, and that’s the main reason why Villa are struggling. Newcastle got the win that they could gloat over (it’s been five years now and any other set of supporters would have done exactly the same – get over it, and yourselves).

If success breeds success then failure has exactly the opposite effect. Villa’s confidence is at rock bottom and the team are treating every little setback as a terminally-damaging catastrophe. We can but hope that a major slice of luck, a dodgy penalty decision, deflection off a player’s backside or that unlikeliest of scenarios a moment of inspirational genius, can turn things round again. With enough self-belief there’s still more than enough time to get out of trouble.

Any dream of a new manager bounce has gone so let’s hope for a newish manager revival. Two games in the next five days are shaping up to be the most important period in Villa’s recent fortunes, and it’s a matter of the greatest irony that they’re both against the club who have played the biggest part in our history, dating back almost to the club’s formation in 1874. A couple of wins and Villa are at Wembley, with a handy three points cushion in the league and a massive confidence boost. Two defeats are not worth thinking about.