What’s it all about, Ashley?

Dave Woodhall watches Villa’s first home defeat of the season.

I’ll start off with a point I’ve made many times before. I don’t know much about football. I watch it, write about it, often argue about it and spend far too much time and money on a team who try to play it. But it’s not my living, I don’t have to spend all my waking hours devoted to it and like everyone else in a similar position, whatever the subject, I can’t claim to know as much about it as those who work in the football business. Neither, I suspect, do many of us.

However, most of us would say that if you’re going to play 3-5-2 then you then the most important part of the team is to have full-backs who can get forward. Without them you’re outnumbered in midfield and lack width in attack. Why, then, does Steve Bruce, with players available who can attack better than they can defend, pick two out and out defenders?

Put the sort of team out that he did on Saturday against opponents with the same idea and even us amateurs can see what’s going to ensue – a turgid affair with the only prospect of a goal likely to come from a mistake. And that’s what happened. The mistake also came from the most likely source, namely Calamity Tommy Elphick.

It happened after 83 minutes but the time was immaterial. 83rd minute, third or, in the event that we ever play at Old Trafford againthe 93rd, you know that once the Villa go a goal down that’s it; game over. So it proved on Saturday and with it Villa’s only source of anything approaching pride in this wretched season.

One supposed bonus about life in the Championship was the thought of going to the match and looking forward to enjoying yourself again. Small consolation definitely, but after years of losing it would have been a relief to watch a winning side no matter how poor the opposition. Instead, we’re back to the days of gloom and despondency, with not even the excuse that we can’t hope to compete with the big clubs and their wealthy owners.

Nobody, however much we profess to know about the game, knows what’s gone wrong. Nobody seems to have much idea about how to rectify the situation, apart from the clearly unsustainable approach of throwing money at the problem. Everyone in any position of authority has changed since the summer yet nothing has altered except the name of the team beating the Villa.

On Sunday afternoon the much-maligned Ashley Westwood, last seen being laughed out of Villa Park amidst gasps of astonishment that someone was willing to pay good money to take him off our hands, played alongside his former Villa colleague Matt Lowton as Burnley came back from a goal down to draw with Chelsea. Since Westwood left Villa have lost to Brentford, Forest and now Ipswich. Coincidence, yes, but there must be some other reason why our cast-offs can do well elsewhere. It’s beyond me, though.

And on to the next game. Barnsley, on a cold February evening. Dreams are made of such events.