Ask the experts

Dave Woodhall watches Villa lose to Norwich, and ponders.

I’ve listened to lots of music, but I can’t play a note. I’ve seen many films, but I wouldn’t have a clue what to do when the director shouts “Action”. And although I’ve spent far too much time and money watching football, particuarly watching the Villa, I wouldn’t call myself an expert. I’m certainly not in the same league when it comes to football knowledge as someone who’s been invoved in the game professionally, not least when they’ve won almost every major honour as a player and been a top-level manager for almost twenty years.

So having said that, perhaps Steve Bruce can explain to me and others why Alan Hutton is in the Villa team ahead of Leandro Bacuna, how Ashley Westwood is in the team at all, why Aaron Tshibola can’t get on the bench and most mystifyingly of all, how he can justify having Gabriel Agbonlahor in the team from the start at Carrow Road on Tuesday night. On the bench, possibly – he’s got a good record against Norwich but by starting with Agbonlahor in the team, the fear factor would have lasted for about as long as it would have taken the opposition to realise that the player who tore them apart on a regular basis is but a fading memory.

An even bigger mystery was why, against a team in poor form and whose supporters were looking at who their next manager might be, Bruce didn’t pout out a team with the intention of getting at the opposition from the off. If they had done we might not have had ninety minutes of ineffectual nonsense with the ball booted long at every opprtunity and defeat inevitable long before Villa conceded.

After the game Bruce rightly called the performance “pathetic”. He might easily have been talking about his ine-up and tactics. The manager also hinted that some of those at his disposal have been getting way with less than maximum effort all season. He promises changes for the game at QPR on Sunday, and let’s hope that he’s finally seen what those of us without his vast knowledge of football but with infinitely more experience of watching the Villa, could have told him a long time ago. I like him and what he’s done so far, but it’s obvious that there are players in the team who are either vastly under-achieving or just not good enough for even this level and they have to be shipped out as soon as is practical.

On paper Villa have got the strongest attacking line-up in the Championship. Three players have proved that they can get twenty goals a season at this level and Jordan Ayew should be setting the league on fire. On grass we’re struggling to score more than one a game and Ayew looks disinterested. It surely can’t be THAT hard to get goalscoeres to score goals, can it? But what do I know…

I may as well finish on a happier note. Congratulations to Stourbridge, who beat Northampton Town in the FA Cup second round at the same time as Villa were going down in Norfolk. Taking all the teams who play at a level above the Glassboys into account, they beat a side about 120 places higher – or to put it another way, it’s like Solihull Moors beating Chelsea. Maybe the Villa can take a few tips from the part-timers whose effort and attitude on Tuesday night put our millionaires to shame.