Preseason Games Progress
Aston Villa were back in action for the first time on home soil in the 2016/17 preseason, so MOMS went along to the first game against AFC Telford United. Afterwards, while we were having a post-match Telford Pizza, Roberto Di Matteo and co hit the road to get to a game featuring the other half of the Villa squad against Worcester City. Both games produced comeback Villa wins, while the following midweek friendly game at Bristol Rovers ended in a 1-1 draw.
All in, nothing to get excited about when considering the opposition. The main concern though is the Villa squad looks worryingly like the one that let Villa supporters down last season. Getting more players in and out earlier, certainly would have been more reassuring.
Maybe things will pick up in the next couple of weeks and will see a better style of play in the remaining Villa preseason games? Certainly, it’s hoped that Di Matteo can forge a dynamic enough first XI to get a decent start to the campaign and then slot in the final pieces before the end of August.
In the meantime, here’s five seasons to be cheerful as Aston Villa fans…
Two comeback wins in a day
A team that could only gain three league wins in a whole season managed to rack up two friendly wins in the space of a few hours.
One of the most tiresome lines about preseason often offered up on social media is the old “it’s all about fitness” line. It’s used by football fans to pretend they know what they’re talking about to cover any current deficiencies in the team. Why don’t players just stick to the gym, if it’s all about fitness? Preseason games are about getting a team ready to win games when they matter – tactics, formations, understanding, chemistry, ideas, etc, etc.
There was little evidence of much progress in those departments in the first half at the Telford game. When half-time came, the traveling Villa fans understandably greeted the whistle with boos. It wasn’t just about the 1-0 to Telford score. There was little evidence of progress on the pitch from last season.
Yes, of course, its early days, but Gueye, Gestede and Sinclair, in particular, were certainly guilty of producing disappointing performances.
But, while Di Matteo is putting the pieces together and finding his team, if winning can become a habit, then it’s a start.
Aston Villa were going nowhere fast against Telford, who had taken the lead in the opening minutes. As well as deficiencies in their build-up play and finishing, Villa were also thwarted by Telford keeper James Montgomery, who was in inspired form (“You’re not Neuer anymore”, sang some Villa fans when he finally conceded in the 81st minute).
When Villa U21 player Hepburn-Murphy came on though, he suddenly added more purpose and cutting edge to Villa’s game going forward. The 17-year-old youth product was positive in his attitude and took Telford defenders on, every time he received the ball.
Despite Hepburn-Murphy being small in statue, the fact former Villa boss Tim Sherwood made him the fourth youngest player ever to play in the Premier League, when he came on aged 16 years and 176 days (in a 4-0 win at Sunderland), proves how highly rated Hepburn-Murphy seems to be considered.
He impressed again in Villa’s game against Worcester, chipping in with a goal and an assist. Expect to see him be on the fringes of the first team squad next season.
Di Matteo Under No Illusions
It seems that Villa boss Roberto Di Matteo is fully aware of the task at hand at Villa Park. During his press duties in Beijing at the weekend, the Villa boss admitted that Villa were “a house that needed to be knocked down.”
Preseason naturally brings optimism for fans, regardless of signings and the state of the club, mainly because the slate has been wiped clean. Only the most naive won’t be worried at the moment about the upcoming season.
While the owner can talk about winning the Champion’s League in five years and being like Barcelona and Real Madrid, Di Matteo knows at the moment this is not the reality of the situation.
There is but one goal – promotion. Di Matteo knows there is a lot of work to be done to be in with a shout of it.
Aston Villa were the first Premier League team (when they were in it) to publicly support safe standing. Since then, things have gone a bit quiet, as English football as a whole sat back to watch the outcome of the Hillsborough trial.
In regards to Hillsborough though, it is important not to cloud the issue, as safe standing has nothing to do with what happened in Sheffield. That was down to poor policing, organisation and fences. No fences = no deaths. Simple.
Safe standing is called ‘safe’ standing for a reason, and standing behind rail seats is safer than supporters standing in front of their normal seats.
MOMS is currently up in Edinburgh on a break and on Wednesday night, took an impromptu trip to Glasgow to Celtic Park to check out the first usage of a safe standing section in a competitive game in the UK.
Celtic were playing Lincoln Red Imps (from Gibraltar) in a Champions League qualifier.
The section was pretty impressive, it has to be said. The fans were singing, bouncing and flying flags for most of the 90 minutes. It was the cornerstone for a great atmosphere at the game, at a fixture that would have been potentially dead at most stadiums.
It’s taken Celtic about 10 years to get to this stage, and there are signs Villa might not have to wait much longer, with Premier League chief Richard Scudamore seemingly more positive on the idea than ever in a recent meeting with Premier League fan reps. A change in attitudes to it in England maybe about to happen.
It would be great to see scenes like those above in claret and blue every fortnight.
Villa owner Dr Tony Xia has recently has joined Twitter. While any communication after the closed shop of the Lerner regime is always welcome, it’s potentially not the wisest channel of communication and has already come back to bite Xia with his ‘Uncle Jimmy’ tweets. Although, that was no worse than the resulting swarm of desperadoes crawling up to him since setting the account up.
While it gives the Birmingham Mail another source of tweets to lazily turn into stories, Xia has given some useful indications of the club’s intent. For example, he clearly stated that both Jordan Amavi and Jordan Ayew would be ‘definitely staying’.
Considering some of the naive comments Xia has been making since coming to the club (making us ‘top three in the world’ etc) and how situations change so quickly in football (Fabian Delph, anyone?), take the news with a grain of salt until the transfer window swings shut at the end of August.
While I’m non-fussed with any of the current Villa squad leaving, Amavi and Ayew would potentially be two of Villa’s better players in the Championship, so it must be considered a good sign at this stage.
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