Dave Woodhall on events at Villa Park.
I was going to write yet more words of bewildered vitriol based around a performance typical of those we seen far too often. I could have laced it with references to another suicidal line-up and another week when Tim Sherwood was building an exit strategy based around damage limitation and blame deflection.
Losing to a poor Swansea team wasn’t really a surprise – these things are getting tediously predictable now. Even when Villa went a goal up an equaliser was more than likely and a late winner certain. The way Swansea’s goals would come had been obvious for some time before they happened. In particular Kieron Richardson was clearly exhausted and should have been taken off long before the game was lost.
Everyone in the ground could see it, except Tim Sherwood. I know I’ve been saying that Christmas was the time to talk about the manager’s future, but that was in the expectation that the team would be improving as they got used to the Premier League and each other. Instead, they were getting worse, and more importantly the manager showed no signs of learning from his mistakes.
Results elsewhere over the weekend mean Villa are bottom of the table. It’s where we’ve been headed for weeks and where we looked likely to stay for some time. Then came the news that most were waiting for but few had dared to hope would come so quickly.
Tim Sherwood didn’t get sacked for what he’s said over the past fortnight. He didn’t get sacked because he’s fallen out with the board, or the fans, or lost the dressing room. He was sacked because of four points in ten games and, more importantly, because his team lost consecutive home games to Albion, Stoke and Swansea, without ever looking as though they deserved anything from any of them. Whatever else he said or did, no manager can hope to get away with such a string of results.
Sherwood’s gone and hopefully before he caused any terminal damage. Within hours his buddies in the media were defending him and laying the blame everywhere else. Yes, it wasn’t all his fault. Villa have been run badly for years and losing Christian Benteke then Fabian Delph would weaken any side. But the manager must surely have known there was a good chance of them going and had plenty of time to find replacements. Then, when he did find them (or they were found for him) he couldn’t make the most of them.
To labour a point I’ve often made, there’s the makings of a decent squad at Villa. They might not be worldbeaters, but they certainly shouldn’t be below Bournemouth and Norwich in the table. The board has to take the blame for the overall poor running of the club but the team’s current league place is squarely on the shoulders of Tim Sherwood.
It’s strange to look back and see how a manager who was so bright when he was appointed, who dragged the club out of what looked like an impossible position, whose football was so good to watch, could so quickly turn in to a negative, haunted, excuse-seeking failure. It’s strange to think that one of the short-reigning and according to statistics worst managers in our history, someone who could make Alex McLeish and Paul Lambert look like a golden era, could also have given us two of our finest hours this century. These were strange days indeed.