By Chris Kemps
… and it was worth the wait. Alongside Clark, Okore was effective, solid, fast, and put in one of the best passes in the game when he hit a Vlaar-esque long ball to switch play to the opposing side… except it was inch-perfect and not a pass/snow-attracting clearance as Concrete Ron’s more often are.
The only real blot on his performance was the booking which was mistimed and while Lambert was quick to say how it was his first game in 14 months (if you don’t count his games with the Villa U-21’s, the Danish U-21’s and Denmark’s senior team) it could have been down to being rusty or just being tired. So, we learned what we had all suspected: he’s ready to go now… even if he might (ahem) not have been before.
WHERE IS EVERYONE?
A new, new low under the Lambert regime, set at PL’s 100th game in charge: just 25,311 fans attended the game against Southampton – the fewest for 15 years. Lambert blamed the cold and the fact the game was on TV. He could also legitimately blame the move from the Saturday was a late switch that might have meant for some fans being unable to be there. But, and this is just speculation, a game against an unfashionable upstart of a team who were on a hot streak with our 4th and 5th choice central defenders playing, no Benteke, no Delph, and only one point from a potential 21 “might” have had some part in it too.
Here’s one example of how things have changed: there was a time under Brian Little (happy birthday, by the way, O Water-Walking One) when Villa filled their away allocation at Peterborough on a Wednesday night in the league cup with a 6-0 lead from the first leg.
The bookies didn’t give us much chance last night, regardless of how the game went in the end (one shot on target, Guzan keeping us in the game, Weimann playing as an extra left back, our midfield ball–winner subbed out for a striker while the team hung on for the win… then the draw). If this trend keeps up, and attendances continue to drop, someone with some power at the club is going to ask “why?” And that will lead to some nasty conversations at a high level.
This was a special game to mark an incredible landmark in the club’s history. A little cold weather, an opposition lacking a really big name star, and the fact the game was on the telly probably wouldn’t have turned off 10,000 fans 20 years ago. Hardly takes a genius to see how more attractive, wining football might have an effect on attendance too.
Villa fans should be rightly proud of what they accomplished this week – and also take heed that they are being listened to. The campaigns for the applause in the 21st minute of the Southampton game was probably going to go ahead regardless of official club sanction or not thanks to the power of social media. But the fact the club, who were dithering in the face of public attention to the idea of remembering those lost in the pub bombings, eventually conceded to an idea created by fans is good news for everyone.
The same can be said for the very classy lamp monument remembering the creation of our club 140 years ago. It’s been said elsewhere on MOMS and in the face of Sky thinking they invented football in the 90’s that the time to start planning for the club’s 150th “birthday” in 2024 is now – and the erection of this lamp, plus the parade of all-star players that will be coming out for the game moved on a whim to Monday night by the string-pullers at Sky are signs that even in this darkest run of form that Villa’s proud history cannot be taken away from us, the fans.
COULDA SHOULDA WOULDA
Southampton’s Serbian midfielder Dusan Tadic could have been a Villa player, according to Paul Lambert. Lambert said he tried to sign the player, one of the biggest talents in Koeman’s revolution in his new look Southampton, but there were “loads of factors that meant we couldn’t get it done”… Though it seems the main one was FC Twente “wanted a right few quid” for him. How close negotiations were, who knows? But it sounds like a fee couldn’t be agreed, let alone any discussions over player wages or personal terms. So, fans have learned we can’t compete for high-priced quality players – but Southampton, flush with cash from selling their best and brightest homegrown talents, could. And that’s pretty miserable reading.
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