2012 – Villa’s annus horribilis, enough said, but what did we learn?
1. Robbie Keane has still got it
Hard to believe that was a year ago now, but the Irishman finally got his hands on a Villa shirt and did his fair share in ensuring survival. A similar move this season has been mooted, and I wouldn’t say no.
2. Beware false dawns
Beating Chelsea comfortably on New Years Eve 2011 brought rumblings of change with it. No longer would we play ugly, ultra defensive football. However, the following game saw us lose 2-0 to Swansea, and than manage just two more victories for the remainder of the season. Many thought the same after the Liverpool result a fortnight ago, but since then it couldn’t have gone more wrong.
3. Alex McLeish isn’t a classy guy
After being dismissed from a job he clearly wasn’t cut out for, we thought the least he could do was bow his head, admit his shortcomings, and move on in silent grace. Instead, he used to press’ skewed take on the fans reaction to his appointment to play the victim. Thankfully, the nationals are starting to realise what was really going on, but by giving so many interviews McLeish burned his last friends at the club.
4. No one likes us we don’t care
One of the more annoying aspects of being involved in a relegation battle is how often the fans of other sides chime in with their two cents worth. I’m not talking about bluenoses or baggie’s fans, but everyone else. Just this past week I’ve been arguing with a Spurs fan hell bent on gloating at our current predicament. Fans love seeing a bigger club struggle; we were the same when Newcastle went down a few years ago (they still can’t let that go, by the way,) so we can expect little sympathy. Not that we’d want any. Ignore and continue to support vehemently.
5. Youth is good, but so is experience
The project Paul Lambert is trying to undertake here is admirable, and certainly bodes well for the future, but they can’t do it all alone. The last week in December has proved this more than any, as a team of mentally fatigued boys struggled (to say the least) with no senior guidance. Even the older members of the squad that faced Chelsea, Spurs, and Wigan don’t have a great deal of Premier League know how.
6. We have literally no idea what’s going on
Are we broke? Is Randy just tightening the purse strings in light of the new FIFA fair play rules? Is he selling up? Are we done with paying over the odds for non-performers? Those are just some of the questions we can’t answer because the board still doesn’t communicate with us. Lambert will have money to spend in January, but how much is a mystery. It’s well known he didn’t use his entire budget during the summer, and many believe that the sale of Darren Bent will bring in our only means of acquiring new personnel. For six years now we’ve been kept in the dark over the decisions at Villa Park, and they don’t appear to be getting any clearer.
19. We love Stan
This year we’ve had to learn the hard way just what this man means to us. Not only on the pitch, but on a personal level too. It’s not unfair to say that Stan is one of football’s genuine nice guys, and what he’s had to face puts this game we love so much into perspective. Most (we know who the others are) fans of other sides have shown their class in joining us on the 19th minute, showing just how far a skilled pair of feet and a consummate attitude can go.
8. We can forget about 3 points when Phil Dowd is around
Check the stats, there is always some sort of controversy when this guy is around. Starting in 2010 at the League Cup final, Dowd has gone a long way since to ensuring that he will be one of the most vilified figures our fan base can think of. His sending off of Joe Bennett against Norwich turned the game against us, and he was all to eager to give a penalty to Chelsea. It seems every week there is some sort of gripe from somewhere in the country about his performances, and what’s most annoying is that nobody at the F.A is looking into it. Some people literally aren’t fit to referee.
9. Injuries will ruin us
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Charles N’Zogbia, Ron Vlaar, Richard Dunne, Darren Bent, Gary Gardner, Stiliyan Petrov.
That’s our current injury table, and that’s not even counting all of the ins and outs we’ve had recently too. The likes of Nathan Baker and Andi Weimann have missed their fair share of games too. There’s no accounting for a list like that, and even if we were to spend heavily, the missing numbers would take their toll. Injury hit us hard last season too, but luckily the youngsters had just enough about them to stay up. It was a tough education that doesn’t look to be ending, and it’s caused heads to drop.
10. 2012 has been a terrible year
Just five league wins in a calendar year isn’t good enough for a club like Villa, and it’s been heartbreaking to watch. Sure, we’re still in a transitional phase, but to go from one to another in such a short space of time isn’t healthy as there has been no time to settle.
Unsettled squad + injuries + edgy home crowd = panic stations.
Steven Green is one of the hosts of the AVFC Review podcast and writer for Shoot Magazine and a fellow Real Oviedo shareholder.
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