Falling off the edge

Dave Woodhall sees Villa’s inevitable confirmed.

Well, it finally happened. Sunderland’s surprise win at Norwich delayed the inevitable for a few hours but unless Villa upset the form book, the bookies and every law of physics by winning at Old Trafford, relegation would be a mathematical certainty. And so it proved, with the team taking such a potentially memorable occasion in their stride to perform with their usual consistency.

You have to give them credit. From the start of the season, whether the venue has been the tiny Dean Court or the ‘awe-inspiring’ Old Trafford, this Villa side have approached their task with the same attitude, then gone out and performed in exactly the same manner.

Saturday was no exception. Against what was probably the worst Manchester United side in decades, and them even then not having to perform at anything like their best, Villa went down once more, to their ninth defeat in a row and their 24th of the season.

As I’ve said before, reporting on the Villa must be the easiest job in football. You mention the lack of fight, the total absence of inspiration and anything like a gameplan, and the only thing that changes every week is the time of the goals. That Manchester United only scored once was down to their own shortcomings rather than any battling performance from Villa, whose tactics, such as they were, became clear from the moment Eric Black’s team selction was revealed. Damage limitation was the only aim and in that context a single goal defeat was probably regarded as a job well done.

If so, it’s the only job that has been well done in the past five years. Everyone at Villa Park must take their share of the blame for the position we’re in, from Randy Lerner down through anyone who has had to make an important decision and finally to the players, who responded to Saturday’s events with the usual lack of class and shame we’ve come to expect. I don’t know about Villa, but I struggle to think of any club, at any time, where the mutual contempt between supporters and players is so obvious. Never has the old adage that if you can’t support the player at least support the shirt he wears been so difficult.

Talking of which, one aspect of Aston Villa 2015-16 has been beyond criticism all season. Yet again on Saturday our supporters were on top form, mixing support for the club with gallows humour and scathing criticism of the team. We don’t deserve them and they certainly don’t deserve us.

But the time for recriminations must soon pass. We now have to look to the future, and next season has to start on Monday morning. The right manager has got to be appointed and he must be given every bit of help in achieving promotion, whether that be in terms of finance or in assistance off the field. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp, but Villa have singularly failed to do it since 2010 and that more than anything is why Saturday’s visit to Old Trafford will be the last for a long while.

Of course, whether that’s a good thing or bad is another matter entirely…