Aston Villa End Of Term Report: Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead
The ‘I f*cking love this game’ highlight of the season?
These have been few and far between all season. Andreas Weimann’s bundled last minute winner against Fulham was a rare moment of unbridled joy and proved to be crucial in the grand scheme of things, while the surprise 3-1 win away at Chelsea was another rare highlight. But overall the outpouring of support and the emotional tributes from the fans and everyone connected with the club after the terrible news about Stiliyan Petrov’s diagnosis with leukaemia helped remind everyone that following football is about more than just what happens on the pitch on a Saturday. His illness has been heartbreaking for many but the support shown since from the Villa family has been heartwarming.
The season ticket shredding moment?
It was more a case of the season ticket application form shredding moment. Thousands decided against renewing as soon as the inexplicable appointment of Alex McLeish was announced. Not, as many lazy commentators would have everyone believe, simply because he came from our neighbours down the road, but more because they knew what dreadfully uninspiring football was to follow.
Thousands decided against renewing their season ticket as soon as the inexplicable appointment of Alex McLeish was announced.
Moment that just about summed it all up?
The calamitous collapse that saw us ship two goals in as many minutes to lose to Bolton last month summed up a lot of the failings on the pitch and really rammed home the message that we were in genuine danger of the drop. Off the pitch, McLeish’s post-match comments after an insipid 3-0 defeat to Arsenal, a match in whichVilla registered just two shots on goal, pretty much summed up his completely unambitious, ‘damage limitation’ approach to management: ““If people expected us to come here and win then I think we’ve got to be realistic.” Talk about inspiring the fans. Couple of weeks later, what did little old Wigan do? Went there and won.
Got the right manager?
This one doesn’t really need answering. Most of the fans have been saying it for months and thankfully Randy Lerner and his board now agree that we definitely did not have the right manager. The owner has taken a lot of flak for the appointment but thankfully he’s taken swift action as soon as the season has ended and hopefully will have learned from his mistake. It’s a huge job to take on and I think whoever takes it on will realise that they have quite a task to keep Villa away from trouble next season, but anyone who can at least instill a winning mentality and encourage the team to play with at least a modicum of flair will be welcome.
Player of the season?
This really is the case of picking the best of a bad bunch. Petrov gets most people’s votes, not just for sentimental reasons but also because he led by example as captain and his goals provided some rare highlights. Far too many players have underperformed though. Shay Given has been solid, and thankfully so, Stephen Ireland picked up the fans award by virtue of winning the most man of the match awards and his quality has been there in patches and if he can show it on a consistent basis next year and have the players around him on a similar wavelength that it can be a huge boost.
What would you change next term if you were the gaffer?
The new man has a huge job ahead of him and there are some big changes to be made. My first task would be trying to resign Carlos Cuellar before knocking on Randy Lerner’s door on a daily basis to beg for money to strengthen. On the training pitch, I would resurrect corner practice which seems to have fallen by the wayside as the team needs to to learn how to take and defend corners. Villa haven’t scored from a corner all year and have conceded from more than any other side.
It’s a huge job to take on and I think whoever takes it on will realise that they have quite a task to keep Villa away from trouble next season
Which player would you like to sign?
It seems we won’t be spending the megabucks this summer but there are still some players out there who would be within budget and could improve us. It may be slightly arrogant to assume we can pinch players from clubs who finished above us, but Villa is still an attractive place to play if we can get back on track. Moussa Dembele from Fulham would add some much needed sparkle but will be in demand from some more desirable clubs than ourselves, Shane Long from our managerless neighbours West Brom would be a useful addition up front but we need someone with the strength and size to make the ball stick as well and provide a foil for Agbonlahor. Martin Petrov would be a handy bargain buy from newly relegated Bolton too, but hopefully would not end up facing another relegation battle, while the vicious rumours of Karl Henry joining from Wolves have hopefully left the building along with Big Eck. And if Man City are feeling generous and fancy lending us back James Milner then he would be most welcome.
Not many to choose from here but Petrov’s stunning 30yd curler against Everton would have graced any game this season.
Is it predictable to say the manager? To be fair, he seems a fairly sound guy on a personal level, even if he started to become slightly deluded about his own ability and past achievements. Probably whoever decided it would be a good idea to appoint a manager who had just overseen his second Premier League relegation in three years deserves this award though.
Best away pub?
The Twelve Pins near Finsbury Park tube was good fun before we threw away a 2-0 half-time lead to lose 3-2 to Arsenal in the FA Cup. Space to spill out onto the pavement, football on the telly, cheap beer and another pub across the road for plenty of sing-offs with fellow away fans. Pre-match drinking has been a prerequisite to be able to get through most Villa matches this year.
It was a case of ‘say it with pies’ for Villa’s catering staff, with the Petrov Pie of chicken, leek and Bulgarian kefta meatballs proving to be a tasty tribute, raising money for leukaemia charities at the same time. There haven’t been many home comforts for us on the pitch this year, but the Villa Park balti pies are still rarely bettered at other grounds.
If Man City are feeling generous and fancy lending us back James Milner then he would be most welcome.
The Villa fans were at their self-deprecating best during the woeful final day defeat to Norwich: “We should have gone down, we should have gone down, we’re lucky b******, we should have gone down.” The chants of “Paul Lambert’s claret and blue army” may also prove to be quite prophetic.
Player’s tweet of the season?
Barry Bannan hasn’t exactly set the world alight this season, but his best moment was reserved for taunting Blues fans over Twitter after they narrowly missed out on the play off final at the expense of his former club Blackpool.
Best laugh you had all season?
When McLeish claimed he wasn’t a ‘negative manager.’ An average of less than a goal a game at two different clubs over two seasons and the worst home record in our 138 year history would suggest otherwise.
How do you plan to get through the summer without football?
Most Villa fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when this dire season ended so I’m quite looking forward to going without the weekly misery that the sport has inflicted during the past nine months. That said, the managerial saga will keep the attention of fans for the time being, then there’s the Euros, the sure-to-be-disappointing transfer window and then the season starts all over again. These past couple of years have drained the enjoyment out of football for large sections of the Villa faithful so it really needs an inspirational appointment to freshen things up and bring some excitement back to the game. Either that or some oil rich billionaires.
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