Villa beat Bournemouth with Dave Woodhall happy in the rain.
On the way to Villa Park on Saturday afternoon I saw a Bournemouth supporter who had a shirt with “HOME AND AWAY SINCE 1977” on the back. My first thought was that this was a strange way to show your love of an Australian soap. The cynic in me wondered who he’d been supporting for all that time – probably Liverpool at first, then Manchester United with a few years off at Chelsea. Then I reminded myself that I shouldn’t be so cruel to someone who is probably still in awe of the global phenomenon that is the Premier League. Sometimes I over-think things.
Anyway, inside Villa Park Leon Bailey was back and despite some wishful thinking Boubacar Kamara wasn’t. Leon Bailey was in the side for what must surely be his final opportunity, and he got off to a good start by taking out three defenders and laying on a chance for Douglas Luiz to give Villa the lead after seven minutes. There should have been more after that but the team got a bit too casual for a while. Ollie Watkins should have done better when one on one with the keeper after a move that involved both Emilianos and there wasn’t much more to talk about for the rest of the first half, because Villa getting the rough end of a VAR penalty decision is so common that it’s not worth mentioning.
Martinez made a good save from a free-kick soon after the break and Tyrone Mings made a good interception when Bournemouth broke. Villa were still looing bright but without scoring again there were a few more worries than there should have been against such limited opposition. Then with ten minutes to go Jacob Ramsey got the ball on the edge of the box, made room for himself and put Villa two up. That was the match wrapped up and Villa celebrated with one of the most dominant periods we’ve seen for some time. Tyrone Mings should have scored when he was left unmarked eight yards out but no matter; in the last minute of normal time a Douglas Luiz corner was headed home by Bunedia. In the end it was a routine three-nil win and they don’t come around too often.
Or at least they hadn’t used to, but that might be changing because anyone watching the Villa now and seeing what’s going on can’t help but be impressed. We might not – as always – be grabbing the headlines but there’s definitely real and inexorable progress taking place at Villa Park. The team are unrecognisable from the shambles that looked relegation fodder when we played Bournemouth last August. They’re a vast improvement from the FA Cup humiliation that might, possibly, prove a blessing in disguise. Comparisons are being made with the first season under Martin O’Neill, when a team was being built that went on to cement sixth place in the league while rarely looking capable of improving on it. This time round there’s no egotism, no short-termism, just the confidence that comes from having a manager who knows what he’s doing.
And to finish on another positive note, total respect and congratulations to Bournemouth’s David Brooks, who came on for his first appearance in eighteen months after being diagnosed with cancer. I’m sure he’ll have better days but few more memorable.