Close to the edge

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s remarkable consistency.

And so we inch ever-closer to the certainty becoming mathematical reality. Nine points became twelve and by ten to five on Saturday afternoon it was fifteen. By this time next week Villa will probably be relegated and the only consolation is that it will happen away from the gaze of the watching TV millions. There will be no last day of the season drama; instead we’ll quietly slip away while everyone else is occupied with events at the other end of the table. No hopes cruelly dashed, no heartbreaking tears beamed around the world.

Chelsea were the latest club to come to Villa Park expecting to pick up three points. We used to be their bogey team and even Alex McLeish beat them once. This Villa side, though, are a different proposition altogether. Supporters have long complained that Villa’s training is slapdash to the point of non-existence but I disagree. To be this bad must require dedication and endless hours of practice. It surely can’t just happen without working at it long and hard.

The script was written in advance and as with all good TV programmes everything went to plan. Villa looked vaguely in the contest for the opening stages, conceded a comedy goal and another couple either side of half time. One more for luck and the visitors declared. Writing a Villa match report must be the easiest job in the media – all you have to do is use the same report as last week and just change the names of the goalscorers, although credit to the Daily Mail writer who said the game had all the competitiveness and atmosphere of a pre-season friendly. He showed more creativity than the team have in two months.

Randy Lerner got the usual abuse, which he probably didn’t hear. After the latest crop of unsavoury headlines the players got a bit more abuse than usual, which they probably didn’t care about. If we’d still got a manager he would have doubtless come in for some as well. And that’s about all you can say.

In terms of points this isn’t the worst top-flight team ever. Neither is it Villa’s worst, at least not on paper. But without a doubt this is the most feckless, under-achieving, couldn’t care less, out of touch with reality set of players ever assembled. It was said that not one of the relegation side of 1987 would have got near the squad that conquered Europe five years earlier. I can’t think of a current Villa player who would have even got into Gerard Houllier’s team that just about finished in the top half of the table in 2011.

I’ve said that David Moyes would be my choice to manage them, and while I wouldn’t blame him for not wanting to touch this situation with a bargepole I also wonder if he’s capable of getting anything out of these players. That’s not a criticism of his abilities – you have to wonder who could turn this situation round. Graham Taylor only inherited a shambles; what’s facing whoever is lucky/insane enough to take this job makes what Sir Graham had to do look like a walk in the park.