The Aston Villa Away Day Experience at Wycombe Wanders
Aston Villa’s first preseason game of the new season on English soil was the perfect way to celebrate Christian Benteke signing a new Villa contract, 24 hours earlier. Benteke’s U-turn, certainly put an extra spring in Villa supporters’ steps, since they had for weeks been resigned to losing him. If you didn’t happen to have tickets to the Ashes, there was no better place to enjoy a sun-basked Saturday afternoon than a Aston Villa Away Day at Wycombe Wanderer’s Adams Park.
The day hadn’t started well when my mate somehow lost the chip of his bankcard in the cash point at London Marylebone station, meaning MOMS would have to pick up the drinks tab for the day.
Since we were taking advantage of the opportunity to pay on the turnstiles (like in the good old days), we soon realised how impromptu the trip was when arriving into High Wycombe, we realised we hadn’t even bothered looking up where the ground was. Luckily a conversation with some fellow Villans on the train meant plans were hatched to share a taxi to the ground, which was a good three-miles away from the station. Since we were cutting it fine, we decided against sampling the local delights of the town (are there any?).
As you first approach Adams Park, it seems, at first, like you’re entering a soulless trading estate, until at the end, you’re greeted with a fetching tree-lined backdrop to Adams Park. With Wycombe sharing the ground with Rugby Union club London Wasps, there was some fear from Villa supporters that the pitch wouldn’t be up to scratch for Villa’s brand of total football, all they needn’t have worried.
Credit to Wycombe, who played the perfect hosts with a large marquee set up hosting a long bar with the cricket rigged up on a big screen TV. With the sun, a spot of hog roast being served up and a few Villa anthems sporadically blaring out, it was a rather pleasant English summer afternoon.
The game against the League Two outfit, that Paul Lambert, Martin O’Neil and John Gregory had previously managed, was the first outing for the blackcurrant and white quarter Villa away kit. Wycombe had also decided to premiere their new away kit too, a flame orange and yellow number, which must have got its inspiration from Barcelona’s recent away strip. “”Tango Team My lord,” sang Villa fans in judgement.
With Brad Guzan’s bright pink goalkeeper jersey thrown into the mix, it was a colourful affair, akin to watching a South American league clash.
The Villa faithful were certainly there in force, pretty much outnumbering their hosts. Several rousing renditions of “Ohhhhhhh, Christian Benteke’ showed the world what they felt about the Belgian striker staying. As well as plenty of appreciation for Paul Lambert throughout the game by the Villans in the Dreams Stand and a quick chorus of ‘Salifou, Bulletproof’, the favourite song of the day was the repeated renditions of Yacouba Sylla’s song.
The Villa fans who defied repeated calls over the tannoy for them to ‘return to their seats’ to stand directly behind the goal during the whole of the second half, especially enjoyed it, with the odd bit of dancing thrown in to accompany it.
As far as Aston Villa away days goes, with little banter between fans, it was more a pleasant easing back into the routine than the normal action-packed experience, so it’s best to focus on what happened on the pitch.
With three preseason games already under their belt on the German tour, it was maybe a little surprising to see how Villa struggled to get a real foothold in the game throughout the match. Memories of the Bradford City games came flooding back, as Villa failed to boss and dictate proceedings to their lesser League Two opponents. Although, to be fair, Villa were missing the more physical presence of Okore, Agbonlahor and, of course, Benteke.
Of all the missing Villans, perhaps Okore was the player we missed the most, with Vlaar seemingly a little sluggish at the back and second to a couple of headers that should have been his.
Both Villa goals in the 2-2 draw, were astutely taken. Lowton’s smart header from Bacuna’s cross and a great bit of imagination from Westwood for his near-post curled free-kick, that caught the Wanders’ keeper napping. A few more goals from Westwood in the Premier League this season would be greatly welcome.
With goals from midfield still at a premium, it would have been nice to have seen Tonev in action. The Villa midfield’s overall lack of impact on the game is also cause for concern for the new season and begs the question, will Lambert buy a number 10-type midfielder schemer to make things happen? Bacuna played centrally and was nothing more than functional, while Carruthers failed to make an impression on the game in a more forward midfield position, with Wycombe allowing him little time to find his stride.
The big positives from the game was the debut of Jack Grealish, who fared better than his Next Gen captain, with more space out on the left flank, he constantly probed the Wanderer’s defence and looked lively. Also, centre-back Janoi Donacien was steady in his half-hour appearance and certainly looks like he’ll be pressuring Clark and Baker, as one of Villa’s top four centre-backs, sooner rather than later. Jed Steer also pulled off a decent save in the second-half, although was largely untroubled during his time between the sticks.
Further preseason knocks to Weimann and Bowery slightly tainted proceedings , although this Wycombe game almost felt like a pre-pre-season game. The games to come, featuring the likes of Tonev, Okore, Helenius and Benteke,will give Villa supporters a much better indication to the improvement of the team on last season. Hopefully, they’ll be ready for the first real Aston Villa away day – the first game of the season against Arsenal. UTV
For more pictures of the away day click here
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