Thoughts and issues regarding the past and present of a great football club by "The Chronicler".

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Ref Saw Red - But They Wore White!

While we sit waiting for the Cuban missile crisis to unfold, I find myself 'twixt the devil and the deep (claret and) blue sea.

Having announced my intention of withdrawing from any further viewing of the Villa if this Cuban entity manifests himself, I had thought that the recent play might have prepared me sufficiently in my proposed withdrawal, that I would ignore the visit of Man U and use the time to perform other duties that 'her indoors' might appreciate. But what happened instead was that the missus was in a good frame of mind as a result of the fixing of the kitchen light by a certain contributor to this famed blog (thank you muchly, Deano!) and thus - bribed also by the promise made by Plumbert of seeing Villa youth given a chance - I weakened. I saw the match on the PC.

But Plumbert's words and deeds were a mile apart (will I never learn?!). His enigmatic manipulations of the Villa squad knew no bounds as the usual players that remained available stepped onto the ground once described as a fortress but now more structured as a week-end resort, perhaps trying to emulate the Victorian days of the Aston Lower Grounds. The prawn sarnies served in the spectator boxes now provide the kind of mouth-watering satisfaction that used to be provided by the sight of Gordon Cowans in his hey-day, and the heady taste of Chateau Beaune makes up for the absence of a Hateley special. Even the sporting pictures on display in one or two of the Trinity suites are a pastiche, more akin to what you would expect to see in the Birmingham Art Gallery. It's a bit late to recall Fred Rinder, I suppose, but he would know how it should be: how the Villa should have it's feet on the ground and be a football club. But I digress.

So for the first 15 minutes we wondered which team was the home-team. But, in fairness, Man U did not get so close to goal in that time that there were apprehensions of they running riot. They were just - sort of - in control, spraying passes around as in a practice match, with Villa not even getting into the opposing half until about the 10th minute. And then, Villa got a free-kick within danger distance of the Reds' net. The Man U defence had, of course, not even warmed up by that stage as the Villa had hitherto not made any kind of dent of note into their penalty box. So when the righteous man named Christian received the ball, the Man U players looked kinda hypnotised as the big man swayed right and left and manouvered himself inside a little to take aim. The Man U keeper - also hypnotised - remained glued to his line as a sweetly aimed and struck missile curled into the net. The keeper would have wasted his time leaping for it anyway - his arms would not have been long enough to keep it out. Yup, even Brad Guzan would have had difficulty with that one.

The fact that Stewart Downing (also still wearing a claret and blue shirt but a defector from Villa Park) scored a similar goal that same day, and one or two other players also scored from comparable efforts (all seen on Match of the Day), should not take away the chance of Mr. Benteke's goal being the Goal of the Month.

The question then became - going by recent form - would Villa be able to hang on? The question was not, nor could ever be these days, how many more could Villa score, as recently we have seen Villa succumb to equalisers and even defeats after going ahead. And this was, of course, a match against the magnificent (but over-rated) Manchester United, who have never lost at Villa Park since they were hurt by the famous statement hurled in their direction, "you'll never win anything with kids", following Villa's last-ever win against them at Villa Park in 1995. That's 20 home league matches ago now, let alone those cup matches when they came from behind to win on each occasion.

The second-half started, in fact, with some promise as a bombardment of the United goal saw the great Benteke leap and thunder a header towards goal. Alas, the Man U manager must have provided their keeper with smelling salts during the break as the keeper responded in an equally thrilling manner to turn the effort over the bar. But Man U managed to equalise soon after, with Master Lowton admiring ex-Villan (but seen as villain) Young and his ability to centre when allowed to.

For some time, the match became a bit enthralling as the two sides tried to out-think what the other might do. Then the referee saw red. A 50-50 challenge between Young and Gabby at full-pace was the cause of the referee consuming too much claret through his optic (after all Young was wearing lillywhite, so could not be the guilty party) and off trudged Gabby looking wryly amused as he went. He must surely win his appeal. The ref then became a double villain as he only yellow-carded a Man U player for a less heavy collision in another incident.

Well, the match was for the taking by Man U, wasn't it? I recalled a home match against Man U a few years ago when Villa lost 1-4 after losing not one but two players to red cards. But after a flurry of 4 Man U corners on the trot - and especially after Plumbert had brought on Bacuna and moved Clark to left-back - the Villa had in fact looked capable of springing a shock win. But it was not to be. And the Villa youngsters were saved for another day.

The question now is, will Plumbert now see the futility of bringing Zoggy into the fray? Against Man U he and Bacuna both came on as subs and it was easy to compare the two. Bacuna looked decidedly more dangerous, and why he does not start is a vivid question. With Gabby out for awhile (unless he wins his appeal) surely Bacuna must prevail? But we all know it will be someone else instead that fills the spot: probably Cleverley.

With the matches between now and mid-January looking decidedly winnable, the team is beginning to look as though it has some solidity and, importantly, some ability. What we are short of, however, is the creative element. To win we need to score: can Plumbert plumb deep to find that lacking ingredient?


Sunday, 14 December 2014

An Attitude That Is Shocking...

In the last couple of days, the Daily Mail ran a detailed expose of events surrounding Roy Keane's short sojourn at Aston Villa. The whole article needs to be read, but the following statement - allegedly from an unnamed Villa player - is nothing short of shocking in my view:

The problem with Keane is that he demands the same standards that he was used to at United and the lads at Villa don’t get paid enough to put up with that kind of c**p. He just got everybody down.

See the Mail article: Here

If true, this kind of attitude from a player points to a reason why the Villa is no longer at the top of the tree. How can you have players asserting that they need more money to train better? Isn't 40-50k a week enough for them? Perhaps it's about time that Villa recruited players solely from the country villages of Malawi, Chad and any other African country you would like to name - I'm sure those youngsters would put in a full shift.

It is enough to put you off Aston Villa - and football - for good. Professionals? Downright amateurs it would seem. And the attitude goes with their performances, with the exception of very few players.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

All it takes is a win or two...

Well, everyone sank to possibly their lowest ebb after the 9 games without a win, but the fans have proved they were just waiting to be cheered up a bit more.

The return of CB and a lovely goal from him followed by two nice goals on Sunday from defenders have caused the re-appearance of some cheerfulness!

The fact remains
, though, that Villa’s defence seems to have fallen into place entirely by accident, and further injuries to the decimated midfield may well see Grealish make a start on Saturday, thereby fulfilling the wishes of quite a few. Who knows, when January arrives we may be seeing a quality team!

Despite some fans great attempt at putting a positve spin on it, we did beat a very much below par Liverpool early in the season, and Southampton did not put in their accustomed standard when they came to VP and have since proved to have gone off the boil somewhat.

Amazingly though, leaving the Man U match aside (which even I think might yield a point) it looks as though we have five other fixtures between now and mid-January that are utterly win-able. Then we have Liverpool (home, again win-able), Arsenal away and Chelsea (home).

Who knows, come mid-January and we might have gone 11 matches undefeated and be around 5th in the table and bringing about the return of the fans to VP! That would be a cue for giving Lambert a life-long contract perhaps?

Christmas is upon us and every good Villan needs to find a stocking filler as a warmer for his Villa chums. These days, we Villans need something to remind us of warmer days! 

Why not enjoy a low-cost primer of Villa's history added to all the main stats from 140 years of football? What is more, buy more than one and you start getting a good discount! Please click here for more info.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Mind-boggling, or what?!

It's becoming a truly predictable pattern isn't it? Six defeats on the trot, hardly any goals and shots on goal all season and lack of confidence sets in; the hoof ball starts and the absent Christian Benteke is looked upon as the saviour to get Villa out of the mire.

But wait, against Burnley Joe Cole made a magical debut for Villa in the Prem and looked as though he might put some icing on the cake. We looked forward to the CP match, drooling at the thought of Cole and Benteke as a twin force and able to stop the goal drought. Well pipe dreams are what they are; they disappear with a puff, and last night Cole revealed that, after all, he does have an on-going injury that probably does explain why he hadn't made a league start before this season.

So we're back to the same situation as in the previous three seasons: no quality creativity in midfield (Delph's absence as well doesn't help) and a desperate lack of entertainment expectation unless 'the Beast' gets into full stride. With Weimann's enforced absence from the upcoming Leicester match we cannot expect his replacement to be Cole (injury) nor any sight of Villa's wunderkid, Jack Grealish, in the starting line-up. Paul Lambert's focus (and ours too, I suspect) will be on getting maximum points out of the Leicester match by any means at the team's disposal. A win here and also against Albion might see the incongruousness of Villa being in the top-8 with 9 goals scored in 16 matches. It's mind-boggling!

 But we could go on about the negatives ad nauseum. In fact there is a plus-side to Villa's squad that has not been apparent for the last three seasons: it seems that we have a defence that has mostly shown up well when Hutton has been available and another incongruous revelation that we appear to have about four decent permutations of CBs. The worry is that there's no backup of quality for the full-backs, unless Clark or Baker (when fit) is played there. Unfortunately, any positives yet again become depleted with the thought that come January we might have lost Vlaar, Delph and Benteke, probably Villa's best three outfielders. If not in January, we may well lose them at the end of the season.

 A new owner and a new manager is becoming a desperate requirement to stop any further rot. To put it in a nutshell, a new owner (or a revitalised current owner) is needed by this May in my view. But it so happens that this May will also see another General Election and it is a possibility that any potential new overseas owner may want to see the result of that before committing his finances in the UK. And Villa also need to be ship-shape by then.

Anyway, there is the thought that we could finish 8th in the league this season having scored 25 goals and showing a goal deficit of 20. That would be another Lambert-like record!


Christmas is upon us and every good Villan needs to find a stocking filler as a warmer for his Villa chums. These days, we Villans need something to remind us of warmer days! 

Why not enjoy a low-cost primer of Villa's history added to all the main stats from 140 years of football? What is more, buy more than one and you start getting a good discount! Please click here for more info.