Let’s face it, if you can’t beat this season’s Aston Villa in two attempts you deserve to join them in the Championship.
Having a Party
Heading into this game, logic would have suggested that a Newcastle side much improved under Benitez had the perfect fixture in store against a team already relegated, and shy of any form this year. Instead, Newcastle showed a shocking lack of intent to win this game and Villa looked more comfortable than in any other game this season. That’s not to suggest that there was actually any good football on display, but there was entertainment elsewhere in the stadium.
While Leicester City have been having a well publicised party from their perch atop the league, Saturday brought a party to the other end of the table.
The singing never stopped, nor did the torrent of inflatables that bounced around the Holte end and even made it pitch side; most of them way before the 74 minute mark that has marked most protests this season. Saturday didn’t feel like a protest though, it was a defiant celebration of what Villa is supposed to be, and what it is at it’s core – fans who love the club, are proud of it, and want to enjoy supporting it.
In between chants aimed at the rival fans, (“You’re just a small town in Scotland”) and those aimed at Joleon Lescott about his new car, fans took great amusement in signing, dancing, and realising that the balloons on the pitch were more fun to watch than the actual match.
If Lescott and Bacuna had any doubts about how the claret and blue faithful felt about them then they must truly have been put to bed with the deafening booing at each touch by the duo.
What Did I Expect?
Before the game, a group of fans in the beer garden of the Aston Tavern, lamented Gabby’s fall from grace and how with the pace and power he once had, he could have been a big player in the Championship for the club. And they weren’t referring to being just a big player on the scales. We agreed that “if he had a brain he could have been dangerous.”
Then agreements were made that the wages being given to this squad would be much better spent on the staff made redundant, or on developing youngsters. Good riddance were wished in advance to the likes of Charles N’Zogbia, Gabby, Lescott, Bacuna, and Richardson.
Seeing that Kevin Toner was featured on the match programme gave me hope there might be a more exciting line-up, but as usual, the hope was short lived. Despite the inclusion of Toner, Erik Black named a predictably bland formation and line up, with five at the back (seemingly including a Centre back at left-back and a right-back at centre-back) as well as a defensive midfielder, Carlos Sanchez! Snore.
Even as the game developed ,and it became clear that Newcastle would cause very little by way of threat, Villa’s youngsters and flair players (by Villa’s standards) remained on the bench. The only positive was the introduction of Rushian Hepburn-Murphy but of course this was far too late in the game to really give us much of a look at the young attacker.
Even on the rare occasions that Villa’s full-backs tried to get forward and create something, the usual lack of accurate delivery combined with Villa’s fear of getting players in the box meant that Newcastle’s Karl Darlow remained a spectator, bar a late chance from Scott Sinclair.
The bright side of it all? Only one more game with Mr. Black in charge.
Lap of Honour?
The decision not to hold a lap of honour after the dismal form and efforts of so much of the team was an understandable and valid decision, as was the cancellation of the end of year awards. That said credit should go to the players who braved the Holte at the end of the game to applaud the support.
There were of course two notable absentees, who stayed nearer the halfway line, I doubt I have to mention who they were, but let’s just say one has a lovely car and the other is Champions League bound. The players applauding the fans is much more justified this term than the other way around.
As Villa Park had it’s last Premier League party for at least another year the feeling on the day was that this is not goodbye, just see you later.
Follow Finn on Twitter – @FinnMongey