A new season begins with Villa in a new division. What did Aston Villa fans learn from the build-up and first game in the Championship aka EFL?
The sale of Ciaran Clark was met with an indifferent shrug by most Villa fans. In and out of the team last season, he was thrown into the team initially before he was ready. He then became part of a team that lost repeatedly – he wasn’t always to blame, but he had his fair share of clangers that cost the team goals.
Idrissa Gueye was kind of easy come, easy go. If he was such an influence in the Villa midfield, Villa would not have finished on 17 points last season. After paying an inflated £9million on him, they were never going to recoup that back, although losing around two million pounds on him because of Tom Fox’s infamous release clauses was far from ideal. Roberto Di Matteo was very public in the pre-Sheffield Wednesday press conference letting his feelings be known on such release clauses.
Sinclair was a little more complicated. He looked good in spells but fell out of favour and towards the end of last season, when he was given the chance, he failed to impress while looking like he was working hard. He had all the qualities of a Leicester City signing: a player who had been met with rejection at a higher level and out to prove a point. But in a team that couldn’t get motivated and were prone to struggle after going a goal down, there was only so much he could do by himself. Until he didn’t want to do that anymore, like the rest of them.
Still, the money from those three sales more than covered…
Ross McCormack Had a Farm
The signing of Ross McCormack is potentially as game-changing as that of Darren Bent. A rich history of finding the back of the net, the Scot could turn the dour 1-0 defeats into 1-1 ties and the 1-1 ties into 2-1 wins.
His pedigree in front of goal is something fans haven’t seen since Benteke left. Gestede struggled to maintain the promise he showed at Blackburn and no other striker at the club could manage to play the part of the go-to guy to score 20 goals.
While he couldn’t score on his debut, his chance made by a Gestede flick would have encouraged fans that he’ll do fine once he settles in.
Dr. Tony Xia is nothing if not enthusiastic. A jovial, affable man his twitter account is worth a browse – although he was tricked in giving Jimmy Savile a shout-out and gathers abuse as much as praise for his frank replies.
His latest comments that five more players could be on their way could be a backfire if it doesn’t happen, but his efforts to keep the fans informed are a welcome change from the past owner – and anything is better than silence. Nice to see photos of Tony hanging out with fans popping up on Twitter too.
Wednesday on Sunday
Finally, the season started at Hillsborough (one of the more attractive stadiums, Villa will visit this season) and all the promises of the Championship were met. It was a physical first half with yellow cards the order of the day for both teams. The refereeing was a little suspect, but the Villa fans were still out-singing the home fans – even it did cost them more than 40 quid to do so.
McCormack was taking the set-pieces, which is a bit weird, Elphick ended up doing a Terry-Butcher-for-England impression after clashing heads with Wednesday’s Fletcher, and Gollini did the little he was given to do with confidence – which is another nice change. And Ayew showed more flashes of how he could potentially run riot in this division.
McCormack continued on corner duty in the second half and nearly connected with Elphick’s bandaged forehead on the hour, as Villa started to show a little more going forwards. In the second half, Gollini had to work a little harder and Ayew’s chances were being wasted while Gestede was ineffective. Bloodied hero Elphick dealt with the most dangerous Wednesday attacks and yelled to the fans to “come on” as the game ticked away showing some of that passion the fans felt was lacking in years gone by.
And yes, Hutchinson should have received a second yellow card and conceded a penalty with ten minutes left. And yes, Villa were the better team in the second half.
And… well, we all know how the story ends. A sliced goal kick, a defensive slip by Elphick (who was man-of-the-match until that point) and Wednesday take the win. “Plus ca change…” as the French say. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Follow Adam Keeble on Twitter @keebo00
Follow MOMS on Twitter @oldmansaid