Date: 21st October 2007 at 10:41am
Written by:

I did not expect that this, that my second visit to see Villa play at VP in 20 years (the other was three seasons ago), was going to end in tears.

Up the motorway my Man U-supporting son and I travelled, and when Villa took that early lead, there was a look of desolation on his face and when Villa could have scored a second, he was preparing for the worst. But it would not be long before the appearances of our ‘fizzogs’ completely changed around. How our defence just melted away I cannot comprehend… But, I reasoned, MON would make a couple of telling substitutions, and there’d be every chance the second would be a storming half. My dad’s talk of that 1948 extravaganza when Villa came back from 1-4 down to be 4-5 behind (only to lose another late goal) came to mind. It was not to be.

The booking of Reo-Coker the first time was an appalling decision – and the second was not far better. And then Carson.

Even after Tayls saved that penalty, the Villa fans reacted badly. Where we were – up in the gods in the Trinity – they started drifting home. After cheering the save, the Holte seemed to go silent. It was the Man U fans that were splendorously in voice now. But – bless ‘em – it was not long before the Holte recovered its composure and were singing lustily right to the end. A spirit that I had thought had gone from the Holte-enders, and one that indicated firm hope for the future.

I have never seen a match like it. I had never before seen a Villa player sent off, even! Even with 9 players, Villa came within an ace of getting a consolation goal when Maloney was released. And, what is more, the moral ascendancy ended with the Villa, as it was United’s defenders that were showing childish tantrums towards the end – even being 4-1 up against 9 players; Gabby had upset ‘em. Villa, on the other hand, never lost their spirit – but it was a forlorn hope against such a team.

However, there does seem to be a weakness in Villa’s defence. That 4-4 come-back by Spurs a few weeks ago seemed to say something. And now this. But though Reo-Coker was playing manfully in the first half, the midfield also seemed to lack something. Barry was perhaps tired and jaded after his Russian experience, and for me did not do a lot this time, of a constructive nature.

But, as said so often of late, it’s still early days. Yesterday’s opponents may well be the season’s champions. There are many other sides in the Prem that would have wilted under Villa’s rapier-thrusting play in the first 30 minutes. The future is bright.

Up the Villa!