Deep mire at Deepdale

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s latest setback.

At least we’ve stopped that run of draws. We didn’t let in a late goal, either. See, it’s not all bad news.

You may as well laugh, because the alternative wasn’t so much crying as getting downright bloody furious about the shambles that was witnessed on Saturday. 5,700 Villa supporters were there officially, plus a good few dotted elsewhere around the ground. They travelled expecting to see the win that would finally kickstart the season. They saw another candidate for that hotly-contested award, the Worst Performance for Twenty/Thirty/Forty Years.

The scene was set with the team announcement. No Gollini, Tshibola or McCormack. Bunn and Westwood in the team. What came after was inevitable.

I can understand in part why the changes were made. Gollini is clearly having an inconsistent start to his Villa career, while Roberto Di Matteo thought Tshibola isn’t yet up to playing twice in five days. I could also understand the logic of having McCormack on the bench – it’s good to have someone who can come on and give the opposition an “Oh shit, not HIM” moment if the game is still to be won – better known at Villa Park as the Giggs/Rooney approach. All these things are logical, in isolation and if your team are doing well. Put them together in a side lacking both form and confidence, and any pre-match optimism is blown away, handing the initiative to the opposition.

From then on the outcome was predictable. An early goal for Preston put them in control and another towards the end of the first half was game over. They eased off in the seccond half while Villa strolled around the pitch as though the game was an end of season non-event. Individual players might have caused the goals but to single them out is to let the rest off the hook. None came out of this debacle with any credit.

The post-match comments from both managers summed up the difference in their approach. One said, “We have players who want to make careers in the game” – knowing that his club and everyone playing for him have to work for everything they achieve.

From the other there was, “There’s a team here that is good, it will come good for us.” In other words, don’t worry about what’s happening now, don’t work to change things, it will all miraculously start happening eventually. And that’s why, before this week is much older, one of those managers will be sacked.