It’s not coming home

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s latest FA Cup failure.

Villa lose FA Cup tie. It’s hardly big news; it happens every year and as last season was our once a decade decent performance in the competition we shouldn’t have expected much in the way of a cup run even before the fourth round draw.

Consequently, Saturday afternoon was as depressing as any other matchday has been this season. A low gate saw the confirmation of what we knew already – City’s first-choice team are much better than Villa’s and taking a few players out of each side made the gap between them even more embarassing. We let in an early goal, a couple of lateish ones and another in the middle. City didn’t have to try very hard to extend Villa’s search for that eighth FA Cup victory to 59 years.

After Villa had lost 5-0 to Bradford City in the ill-fated Simod Cup during what turned out to be a successful promotion campaign, Graham Taylor said we’d needed the game like a hole in the head. As with most things he was right, but it helped that Villa were able to go up to Valley Parade a couple of weeks later and beat our fellow promotion-chasers with the aid of the two debuting Gray brothers, Stuart and Andy. In contrast, Villa’s defeat on Saturday could well have shattered what confidence has been built up in the recent unbeaten league run.

It also highlighted the absolute folly of the (lack of) transfer window activity. Villa’s defence has improved immeasurably this month yet it’s inconceivable that we will be able to go much longer with a central defensive pairing of a 33 year old and a partner whose fitness is still suspect. Take either of them out of the team and we’re struggling; both out and there’s always the possibility of a repeat of any one of Saturday’s defensive calamities. That’s without the usual problems of midfield inconsistency and attacking invisiblity.

I haven’t got a clue what Villa’s strategy has been this month. Surely to God Steve Hollis wouldn’t have taken the chairman’s job if he’d been told we’d already accepted relegation. Equally, Tom Fox’s mantra of selling more shirts and improving income streams is going to take an almighty knock if Villa aren’t in the Premier League. If, as he says, Randy Lerner has now taken a total back seat then what’s happening now is down to this pair. Neither of them are stupid, they must know the reality of what’s staring the club in the face. Yet such inertia while every other club are managing to find players to improve their squad is mystifying.

I accept that it must be difficult to sell a club so far adrift at the bottom to prospective new signings, but at the same time I don’t believe that there isn’t someone, somewhere, better than our current shower and who would be prepared to spend three months in the highest-paying and highest-profile league in the world.

Anyway, hope springs eternal even if it is in danger of running dry any day now. Villa are at West Ham on Tuesday. This time last week I would have been confident that our new-found resilience might grind out a point. Now it seems as likely as another two debutants and a 4-2 win.