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Mysterious Happenings Down At The Villa

The moment Obafemi Martins tapped home Birmingham’s League Cup winner last Sunday, something strange and mysterious happened. Down at City rivals Aston Villa, it triggered the start of a horrific week. First Villa revealed losses of up to £37 million. Then Gerard Houllier took the first team to Eastlands (well half of the first team. No, two of the first team). The Martin O’Neill saga continued and then that Saturday game at Bolton… where do I start?

Recently things have been on the up at Villa Park and if you would have asked me last week after the 4-1 victory over Blackburn, do you think we could have beat City? I would have replied, plain and simple, yes. If it wasn’t for Paul Robinson in the Blackburn goal, Villa would have been four up at half time never mind full time. We were fast on the break. Young and Bent were playing well together as they have been doing recently. And with confidence back up high, I thought it would have been common sense to play our best team against a City side that was going to rest some of their stars. Saying that, players like Balotelli, Vieira and Lescott could easily walk into the Villa team any day of the week. Instead we made up to ten changes. This, as a huge fan of the FA Cup was very surprising but more disappointing. Former Villa captain Gareth Southgate was the TV pundit and also expressed his shock of Houllier’s selection stating “A good cup run can produce good results in the league.” I couldn’t agree more and I know they are a League One side but look at Leyton Orient’s recent League form while they were on their cup run. I could go on about the City game but what’s the point? It’s over and done with. But before that… Herd and Delph as full backs? It boggles the mind.

This season, more than I could ever remember, we’ve had to use more youth from the academy. Players like Albrighton, Clark, Bannan, Delfouneso, Hogg, Herd, Baker and Lichaj have become household names. And we could be seeing more of them over the next coming seasons if last year’s losses have anything to do with it. The exact amount of the losses were £37.6 million. I believe this would only be a problem if we were relegated from the Premier League as you see these days most clubs make losses. I mean you just have to look at Manchester United.

The Martin O’Neill saga is now going to an official tribunal at the LMA. Do we care anymore? Really? I would have been interested back in August, maybe running up to some time in November, when I still thought the sun shined out of the Irishman’s backside. But now in March, I’m not bothered. We’ve moved on and now we’re a different team with different mentalities and more worrying issues such as getting out of the bottom half of the table. I not saying I don’t care completely how he left but I’m more concerned why do it now at this time of the season? The LMA should just wait till the Summer especially if it could be a distraction to some of our senior players when they should be concentrating on football.

Now the Bolton game. There are so many mixed feelings about this game. We played very well and should have won but we just forgot how to defend corners, which Bolton and ex-Villa player Gary Cahill exposed us on. Time and time again we have not been able to finish off a team and it wasn’t more evident than at the Reebok. With Villa winning 1-2, the quick feet of Ashley Young cleverly won Villa a penalty. It was one of those goals where you say to the person next to you,’If we score this that’s it’. I knew Young wasn’t confident and didn’t even look up at the Bolton keeper. Mind games at their best were on show and Young lost as Jaaskelainen brilliantly saved down to his right. The rest was history. Ninety minutes up and we lost 3-2.

Disappointing to lose but still confident that we’re the best team in the bottom half of the table and we’ve just been unlucky. Relegation in my mind isn’t a worry. Well OK, it’s still niggling at the back of my mind which will just not go away. It’s not all bad. Birmingham are now in the bottom three and maybe this week will be more forgiving to the Villa, to the players and more importantly to the supporters.

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  1. stevo holte boy

    March 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    We’ve got to get behind our team. Houllier is not going anywhere.
    We need to sort the way we leak goals and this requires a new goalie and possibly 2 new central defenders coming in preseason.
    Houlliers way to play the game is not everyones way, buts its better than the last manager although results do not indicate that. We should have beaten Bolton out of sight and put a strong team out against Man city. At Bolton we had luke young playing centre half so we were never going to win the game by defending and at Man city , Houllier may have been right.
    The next time we get to a wembley final I want to go knowing we have a very good chance of winning the game. This year is not our year, but we will rise again.

    One life, One club, Aston Villa

  2. James

    March 7, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Even with the grammar fixed I am still confused as to what the actual point of this blog post is (and that is coming from a Villa)?!

    If you want a more coherent take on the last week, it is this –

    The club still has someway to go to fix lingering issues from the past, but it is now moving forward, albeit at a pace that some fans are finding frustrating. And in there lies the problem.

    The O’Neill tribunal only serves as a reminder of the legacy Houllier inherited, which in the cold light of the day is more flawed and fragile than many (including me) saw at the time. O’Neill was able to hide his lack of a strategy (in transfers, in developing youth) behind good results on it, but it was never sustainable. Our owners saw that when they looked at the balance sheets (something fans all too rarely do) and when they wanted to take corrective action, O’Neill simply jumped the nest. Good luck to him, but our club needs better management than that.

    In Houllier, I believe we have found a sound long-term steward for the club. Many of the measures he has taken this season have already helped prepare the club for the long term. Greater emphasis on youth, a more sophisticated style of football that will allow the team to progress, a transfer policy that requires our scouts to own passports, etc.

    The problem for Houllier is a simple one, and it is not the reserve solely of Aston Villa, it is endemic across all almost the top flight clubs. It is this:

    Lose one game, and fans will forget all your virtues. Win one, and they will forget all your vices.

    The past week at Villa illustrates that perfectly. A £37m yearly loss should have been cause to remind fans that the club needed a new approach on and off the field to ensure its future success, and that this season is one of transition in the right direction.

    Instead, most fans end up complaining about the manager’s team selection in a cup game while passing worried glances at the league table.

    I didn’t agree with Houllier’s decision to field a weakened team at City, but I do respect it. He wanted to give the youngsters a chance, as he had done in previous rounds, and I think genuinely believed we could win the game. Indeed, if we had, no-one would have even passed comment about the starting line-up (as they did not when we beat Blackburn in the previous round). But we lost, and thus the inquisition started. Many Villa fans I spoke to said they would forgive Houllier only if we won three points at Bolton on Saturday (thus, in their mind, justifying the decision to rest key players).

    Fast forward to Saturday, and the record books show that no such pressure-relieveing result was forthcoming. 3-2 to Bolton it will say, and so that is what people will remember. Never mind that Villa totally dominated the game, played a style of football that strongly hints at good times ahead, and were one spot kick away from wrapping up all three points. Or that three of the team’s first choice back-line were out injured, thus making the team particularly vulnerable to set pieces, the phase of the game which Bolton thrive on and duly exploited for all three of their goals.

    Nope, all people will recall is the scoreline. And so Houllier remains public enemy number one in the minds of many short-sighted fans, while the media talks up the prospect of Villa being dragged into the drop-zone. Until next week, at least. No doubt a win at home to Wolves will chance all that.

    Such short-termism makes little sense. But, so the cliche goes, that’s football.

  3. Nathan

    March 7, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Who really cares about grammar? blane makes some good points except the one about how good martin o neill was i had doubts from the start about him when he bought in stan petrov from celtic (an attacking midfielder) ye right he can only pass backwards. best thing he done was exchanging baros for carew. All our problems stem from this man’s shite tactics and shit transfers for quite large amounts for which he spent over 100 MILLION

    SALIFOU,SIDWELL,PETROV,HESKEY,HAREWOOD,MALONEY,ROUTLEDGE,KNIGHT,SHOREY i could be here all day although i give him credit for buying MILNER,CUELLAR,DOWNING,and YOUNG suppose he had to get something right ay?

    Now i wonder how many of those will be here next season?(with exception to milner lol).The last straw in my eyes was getting shot of cahill (a future england captain in my eyes)to bolton for 5 million and didnt that come back to bite us in the arse on saturday.Now with Mr Frog in charge i can see more of the same coming we still dont score enough,cant kill a team off and play little more than route one football though that dont even work we put crosses in the box all day long but for some reason we only have 1 maybe 2 players in the box when we do. watch any other team and you will find half of their players tryin to get on the end of a cross. I’ve been a villain all my life and will still be after the current crop of shite have all left and or retired.Going back to the frog (houllier) i know he has inherited o neills rejects he still seems at a loss as what to do to the team tactic wise and doesn’t seem capable of motivating i’m Very impressed with the signing of darren bent because that is exactly what we needed but i question the transfer fee of 26 million when we sold james milner for a measly 16m+ a donkey in the summer to me it makes no sense at all.

    now the LEAGUE, we have been in this situation before a couple of times in the past but that was when aston villa were skint thanks to doug ellis.Although to be fair he kept the club in the black and we won a couple of league cups but 1996 was a LONG time ago and since lerners takeover villa have spent about 100 million on transfers dont think the scum have spent even 20% of that yet they win the league cup PROUD HISTORY BRIGHT FUTURE anybody remember that good luck villa your gona need it this season

  4. Red20

    March 7, 2011 at 1:10 am

    I really like when articles on here are written from the fans’ perspective and not from the middle ground.

    However, they are rarely done well and this one is no exception. Grammatical errors, shoddy structure, and a general lack of a point seem to kill them nearly every time.

    If you’re live blogging a game, then train of thought style writing is probably best. But when writing about something bigger in scale like the last week of Villa’s season, it becomes confusing and aggravating to read.

    Gaffer, I visit the site numerous times daily but recently I’m finding less and less reasons to do so because of articles like this. The idea of an article will excite me, and then the execution is so flawed that I get angry at something I shouldn’t. Obviously (I hope) articles like this won’t be a part of the new Pro option, but I would venture a guess that it will hinder people from buying the membership. I certainly has for me.

    • The Gaffer

      March 7, 2011 at 4:54 am

      Red20, this one slipped through the cracks and I didn’t get a chance to proofread it before it was published. It’s now in a much better condition than before but not perfect. Sorry about that.

      The ones on EPL Talk Pro will be a hundred times better (no offense to Blaine).

      The Gaffer

  5. trickybrkn

    March 6, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    I stopped reading after the first run on a run on sentence, then saw the comments…

    and EPLTalk wants us to pay 5 bucks a month for Pro. Gaff you HAVE to have these these proof read.

    • The Gaffer

      March 7, 2011 at 4:49 am

      Blaine posted it Sunday without me having a chance to read it. I’ve now fixed the story. This is not the type of articles you’ll be seeing on Pro, that’s for certain.

      The Gaffer

  6. paul

    March 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I’m a Villa fan, and although we lost this Saturday, I have to say that it was one of the best and most exciting games I have ever seen in my life.
    I agree that the FA Cup was horrid, but to imply that this Saturday was part of a problem or to have “mixed emotions” is just plain odd. Sometimes you play extremely well and still lose…

    The sky isn’t really falling. It just looks that way.


  7. Steven

    March 6, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    I agree. It could have been a good article but was ruined by grammatical errors.

  8. Jon

    March 6, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    I don’t normally comment on such things…but your grammar made that piece nearly unreadable.

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