Words cannot describe how incredible Villa Park was today. With that atmosphere you would have thought it was the title decider, not the last home game of our 26-year stay in the Premier League. What a day.
Even if the football let us down, there was no chance us fans were going to let the side down.
For me, there has been such a mix of emotions. Today was my last game as a season ticket holder because next year I’m off to university; I’ll be a poor student who can’t get to every game and I’m so sad about it. Of course, I will get to as many games as I possibly can, and I’m hoping that Derby remain in the Championship, so I can also get to see my beloved Villa play my new local team. But what a way to bow out of the Premier League. I am so proud to be a Villa fan.
It is so easy to get on players’ backs (which we can all own up to) and give up, yet we went out with style. Even if the football let us down, there was no chance us fans were going to let the side down. It was just an unbelievable party.
Starting XI Verdict:
If there’s one way to ruin your mood, it is most likely going to be Eric Black’s team sheet. It’s a good job the graphic on the club’s Twitter page had Bacuna at full back, because believe me, if I’d have known before kick-off that the Dutchman was playing in the back three, there would have been a riot. You would have thought that the manager would have learnt his lesson. But no, not Eric Black.
The man played for a draw. A draw. What on earth was he thinking? We have nothing to lose, nothing at all. Yes, Rudy Gestede was injured so it was always going to be hard to be as attacking as last week. However, a 4-5-1 formation would have sufficed. There was just so much space for Newcastle’s wide players and it drove me mad. Admittedly, Kevin Toner did extremely well to handle Andros Townsend, making the Englishman look very mediocre. But we were so defensive, and often just looked to play on the counter attack. When we had the ball, we could never do anything with it because there were just so many men behind the ball.
That begs the question of why Carlos Sanchez was on the pitch. He calls himself La Roca, but Sanchez is much more like La Pebble, or La Sieve. I’m not a fan. Why when you have five defenders on the pitch, but a flipping central defensive midfielder on the pitch? I just don’t get it. For such long periods in the game, the Columbian was just walking around the middle of the pitch with no one to mark. It would have been a hell of a lot more beneficial to have Adama or Grealish on the pitch providing some width.
Black’s Game Management:
At least this week he didn’t make any stupid substitutions; I’ll give him that.
He actually made a good substitution. With the game almost over, Black brought on Rushian Hepburn-Murphy. The player handed his Premier League debut by Tim Sherwood. The 17-year-old received a warm welcome by the fans on his home debut, having impressed with U-21s following his recent injury set back.
The striker, although short in height, is not short in ability and has been widely praised for his abilities in front of goal. Pacey and mobile, Hepburn-Murphy provides Aston Villa with hope for the future, along with the other products of the academy. The most important thing for Aston Villa is getting the best out of these players. They all have potential, which is exciting, however a manager is needed who will recognise this. They should not be ignored and most importantly shouldn’t be shipped out on loan without any consideration.
Robert Madley had a predictably uneventful afternoon, with very few decisions to make. The only thing he had to do was stop the play to usher the balloons and beach balls off the hallowed turf at Villa Park.
The ref had my heart in my mouth though when he blew his whistle during the six minutes of added time for a Newcastle free kick. Townsend stepped up. I must admit I prayed to the big fella up there – both Paul McGrath and God – that it would not result in a Newcastle goal. Thankfully, my prayer was answered.
Ciaran Clark looked a proper defender today and long may that continue. It is hard to believe that this is the same player that was slated under Alex McLeish. In Clark, we have a leader and a man prepared to put his body on the line. The Irishman could be an integral part of Aston Villa’s Championship side and an important part of the dressing room in our bid to bounce back into the Premier League.
You cannot question Clark’s desire to succeed, once again he pulled out a couple of crunching tackles and blow-to-the-face blocks proving just why Villa should not think twice about putting his name on the team sheet. After his goal at Watford, the centre half was brimming in confidence and put in a man of the match performance, worthy of a clean sheet.
It would be unfair to not give Kevin Toner the appreciation he deserves. After a shaky first half, which could only be down to where Black decided to play him, the 19-year-old grew in statue in the second half. Not only did he stop Andros Townsend whipping in crosses, but he also prevented the winger cutting back onto his dangerous preferred side.
It is probably the first time that a team has come to Villa Park and I haven’t really been impressed, or been able to at least find someone that I could class as their man of the match. Maybe that was because I was too caught up in the atmosphere and the football was all a bit of a blur, or maybe it was because Newcastle were just not that good.
Let’s be honest, if you can’t beat this Aston Villa side, you deserve to be coming down with us.
Sob on the Tyne again 😉
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