Dave Woodhall sees Villa lose to Manchester City and ponders the future.
One of the great ironies of the week was this game, pitching what would generally be regarded as a traditional, ‘proper’ club against the ultimate in nouveau riches. It wasn’t quite so cut and dried – Villa were the first club in the world to seize what commercial opportunities were available back in the early days of football while City have spent much of their existence generally gaining respect for carrying on regardless in the face of a century and more of adversity.
But Villa’s days as the richest in the world are long gone (for now at least) and the memory of City veering from cock-up to calamity are fading into the distance almost as quickly. They could make eight changes for a fixture sandwiched between a semi-final and a final and still put out a side that would very likely finish runners-up in the Premier League while a couple of injuries mean that Villa’s team was more patched-up than world-beating. Jacob Ramsey got a start with Morgan Sansom missing from the squad entirely and while there was a case for playing Keinan Davis, again this wasn’t the sort of game to throw in a player with limited experience from the off and expect him to make much of an impact.
Talking of impact, it doesn’t get much better than going a goal up in the first minute. Ollie Watkins plays a ball in for John McGinn and Villa were into an unlikely lead. If the lead was unlikely, hanging onto it was even less likely and it didn’t take long for City to show why they will win the league again. There wasn’t a great deal that the Villa defence could do with either goal. There was a glimmer of hope before the break with one sending-off, but it’s probably been written into the Premier League’s rules that as a condition of their re-entry every time the Six get a decision against them it has to be balanced out by an equal decision in their favour. Matty Cash was sent off for two quick bookings and with him went Villa’s faint hopes of getting anything from this match.
Keinan Davis had already come on at half-time to limited effect but that was still more than Anwar El Ghazi and (especially) Ross Barkley made. In the end Villa were well beaten and the end of a season that contained so much hope at Christmas now can’t come quickly enough. The board might have spent heavily over the past two summers but the gulf between these two sides shows that it will take a lot more time and money for this fixture to regularly take place on level terms.
Talking of which, the Super League may be gone for the moment but nobody can seriously doubt that this week’s victory for the forces of right was anything other than the latest battle in an unbalanced war. Greed will eventually triumph and I’m not entirely certain that Christian Purslow’s spirited condemnation of the Shameless Six would be quite so loud in a few years time if Villa start racking up a few trophies and threatening the Big However Many It Is By Then. Twenty years ago it was about chasing revenue from supporters around the country, now it’s doing the same thing around the globe. The sad reality of football is that to get to where we want, we have to become what we despise.