The long goodbye

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s week; losses, walkouts and grand farewells.

There isn’t much you can say about the game at Stoke. Villa competed, a bit, in the first half. Stoke turned up the pressure, a bit, after half-time and scored twice before declaring, because they knew they’d done enough to win the game. It was the sort of thing that used to happen when Villa played Manchester United; now it happens against Stoke. You couldn’t sum up the past five years any more neatly.

if you care to go back that far, Mat Kendrick of the Mail once described Gerard Houllier’s time in charge as being akin to an elderly holidaymaker taking a final tour of the places he visited in his youth. The rest of the season is now having that sort of feel to it. Since the Villa board resigned from the Premier League at the end of January, we’re now basically filling our time bidding a fond farewell to grounds and teams that we won’t be seeing for a while. Some will be missed, Stoke definitely won’t. For us old hands the away end at Oldham has always been the definition of cold. The Britannia Stadium runs it close.

I’m always loathe to find any consolation in the performance of our supporters in defeat – it strikes me as the ultimate in small club behaviour – but yet again on Saturday the only people wearing claret and blue to come out of the afternoon with any credit were the ones who pay good money to wear the colours. We, at least, are going down with a fight.

And on we go to the next chapter in Aston Villa – the Farewell Tour. Playing Everton usually brings up talk of two clubs linked together in under-achievement. As everyone should know by now, it’s the most-played game in the top flight, although I’m starting to wonder which one is second in the list and whether there’s much chance of it catching up.

There’s a planned walk-out protest and while everyone is entitled to behave how they see fit, within the bounds of legality, I hope there’s no ill-feeling between stayers and leavers. Whatever time you leave the ground on Tuesday night, or at any match for that matter, no-one specifically supports Randy Lerner and/or the waistrels that make up most of the current playing staff. Every one of us supports Aston Villa, and we all want what’s best for the club.

Tuesday night’s game will have added interest as Everton are in the throes of being taken over by a new owner. I suppose it’s only fair; they’ve been on the market for a lot longer than the Villa have and a figure valuing them in the region of £200 million is an interesting one given that they would need that much and more just to bring Goodison Park into the 21st century.

I wonder if our current owner is looking at that sort of money being paid for a club who will at least still be in the Premier League for the forseeable future, seeing that it would represent a reasonable return on his investment, and thinking to himself, in the words of the legendary Jim Bowen, “Here’s what you might have won.”