Dave Woodhall on Villa’s failure to get relegated on Saturday.
Just for a change I got into the ground well before kick-off on Saturday. It was raining and the ticket collection queue was as long as you’d expect for Villa v Bournemouth so I was able to see all the formalities that accompany the beginning of a Premier League game. You can add your own punchline here.
By my reckoniong, when the teams were announced eight Villa players were booed, Gana’s reception was mixed and the only two cheered were the Jordans Ayew and Lyden.
The crowd was 31,057, which means that if we were lucky about 27,000 were in attendance. Some of them turned up late, which was the subject of this week’s protest. After that you could pretty much pick wherever you fancied sitting. In the top of the Witton Lane and Trinity Road you could have almost had a block to yourself.
Looking at the betting before the match Bournemouth were favourites. To beat Villa at Villa Park. That fact alone sums up what an appalling season it is – you can’t even have the consolation of a decent price on us to lose. To be fair, the visitors weren’t much better than Villa but they did have the knowledge of knowing that as soon as the stoppage time announcement came after 45 minutes of the first half they’d be getting a goal any second. Which they promptly did.
Midway through the second half I got talking to the bloke next to me about whether this really is the worst Villa team ever. We both agreed that it probably isn’t, but equally agreed that if they played each other the third division team (which I can’t remember, honest) would make up for their lack of ability by actually wanting to win. Bournemouth’s second promptly came along, another for the end of season compilation of hilarious Aston Villa moments.
Naturally there was time for a flickering of hope as Ayew showed that he’s one player we should be trying to hold onto with a fine solo goal five minutes from time. And that was it. There isn’t even much outpouring of anger any more – we’re beyond that. Numb, worn down, resigned.
There was only one bright spot of one of the most dismal afternoons I’ve spent at any football ground, ever. The rain which had been coming down incessently throughout the game had almost stopped and it was easy to get back to town with half the crowd gone by the final whistle. Norwich lost so we’re still not down – typically, Villa couldn’t even get relegated properly.
Next up are Manchester United at Old Trafford, so moving swiftly on to the subject of the new manager. David Moyes is still my choice, but if that’s not going to happen (and I fear that if there was a chance, it would have been sorted by now) I’d fancy Chris Hughton. He did well at Newcastle, handled himself with a bit of class and dignity elsewhere and is doing a good job at Brighton. His time at St Andrews was long enough ago not for that to be a problem and as a friend of mine said while he was there, “The worst thing about him is that they’ve got a manager you can’t hate”.
In fact, thinking of that connection makes me wonder, if the roles were reversed and we’d had the last three Blues managers instead of Messrs Lambert, Sherwood and Garde, whether we’d be any worse off now. I honestly don’t think we would.