This may not be the most popular opinion, but what the game hammered home for me personally is that the club’s apparent acceptance of relegation to the Championship is perhaps prudent rather than neglectful. Yes, Villa’s relegation rivals have all spent big money in January, but the crux of the issue there is that ‘relegation rivals’ is a misnomer – Newcastle, Sunderland et al are not competing with us to avoid relegation; rather, they are competing not to be one of the two teams to be relegated alongside us.
We are doomed, and in reality we’ve been doomed we failed to get any kind of necessary points return from the Christmas fixtures against the likes of Norwich City and Sunderland. The reason those sorts of teams spent so much last month is because they are all attempting to get ahead of the rest of the pack in the race to stay up.
For us, it would have been more irresponsible to throw money around that it was to not do so. I’m sorry, but the time has come to accept that we must start planning for life in the Championship from this point on, and the club must do anything it can to soften the blow.
There is nothing we could have done in the January window that would have saved us, and though we could have brought in players in preparation for a first second-tier season since 1987-88, we will get better value in the summer than we would have done in the madness of the inflated, panicky winter market.
Four months of pain and humiliation await us now, until our relegation is mathematically confirmed (ok then, maybe only three months) and we can strip back and rebuild.
The image I am left with in my mind is that of a Coventry fan on the final day of the 2000-01 season, when Juan Pablo Angel’s equaliser and Paul Merson’s stunning late winner relegated the Sky Blues, ending a 34-year spell in the top flight. That fan held up a sign on which the defiant words “we’ll be back” were written. 15 years later and not only have they not even nearly been back, they have been in the third tier since 2012.
15 years later, here we are. We can only pray that from next summer, some things start to go right.
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