There has been a lot of furore at Villa Park over the summer, regarding a number of things. Some people felt that Gerard Houllier was harshly treated in his departure, some hated the way that we seemed to list lazily from one manager to the next, a lot were shocked at Alex McLeish`s appointment, and many have gone on to question just what Randy Lerner`s plans for the club are after a slowing down of spending, myself included.
But last week, it was time for the talking to stop as Aston Villa started the 2011-12 campaign with a credible draw at Craven Cottage. It wasn`t the most fantastic performance that most of the Villa fans in the away stand that day will have seen, but it got the job done. It at least meant that McLeish didn`t lose in his first game in charge, so a bit of leeway was immediately gained.
So onto today then, and his reception overall seemed decent, with one or two boos apart, but that is to be expected following such a controversial appointment. It says so much about the importance of the club to so many people that we as a whole are willing to put aside connections to rivals in order to the and make something work for the club.
If there was one negative today, and I`ll get it out of the way now, it was that the attendance was quite low, even forgiving the fact that a few fans will still be on holiday and, of course, the state of the economy meaning every last penny needs to be watched, but I couldn`t help thinking that a minority, however small, just didn`t want to turn up because of McLeish. If that is the case, then as controversial as this may sound, I think it is best that they stay away from the club. No one man is bigger than the club, so if they stay away just because they hate the manager, how can we possibly try to get a united support base pushing Villa forward?
In the game itself, I think it would be extremely harsh to single out one individual as a poor performer. The whole team played well, and the lack of negative performers was pleasantly subsided by a small number who were performing better than the others. Gabby`s performance was a great surprise until he had to go off injured, and Fabian Delph`s was good too, although the latter`s was less of a surprise, admittedly. James Collins was great as well; I can`t remember him being beaten in the air today and he looks back to the Collins of the 09-10 season.
Blackburn have looked poor in both of their opening games now, and unless Steve Kean is given some money to spend before the transfer deadline, Rovers do unfortunately look like they could be one of the teams fighting against the drop. With hindsight, this was the perfect game for the new Villa manager to start with in front of his own supporters.
Things got off to a brilliant start with Gabby Agbonlahor`s 12th minute piledriver from just inside the penalty area. The pacey frontman-cum-winger twisted back and forth through two Rovers defenders before lashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner of Paul Robinson`s goal. It was a fantastic way to open up his account for the season, I just hope that he can get a run of games and continue it now!
t wasn`t long until Villa had their lead doubled by ex England international Emile Heskey. The six foot frontman found an opportunity to shoot from the edge of the area and his low shot was well placed to ensure that Robinson had no chance of saving it, despite the fact that it wasn`t very powerful.
That capped a fairly pleasing first half from a Villa point of view, although Gabby had to be replaced at the interval with young winger Marc Albrighton. The second half hadn`t long kicked off when Villa conceded a slightly sloppy goal after claret and blue nemesis Morten Gamst Pedersen headed in a cross and then almost knocked himself out on the opposite post.
Marc went close soon after the goal with a long range shot that just whistled past the far post which caused Robinson a moment of discomfort, and Blackburn looked like they were starting to haul themselves back into in to it.
The panic wouldn`t last long however, as after Stan tried a shot that was deflected off young Scotsman Grant Hanley, who scored an own goal the last time he played against Villa, Darren Bent collected the ball and finished clinically to make the game 3-1 and confirm the 3 points for Villa.
I think everyone could have walked out of the stadium fairly happy with today. McLeish and Villa because they`ve got their first win, us because we can see Villa at the top of the table, (even if it is just for one night!) and our forwards because all of the ones that played scored!
That wraps up my first match report of the season then, and I`ll speak to you all on Wednesday afternoon after the Hereford game.
Shay Given 6
Didn’t have a great deal to do, to the defence’s credit. That groin is starting to worry me though (oo-er!)
Luke Young 6
Not really sure why he went off, didn’t think he was that bad.
Stephen Warnock 5
Not great – he’s fortunate there’s not really anyone else that can play there!
Richard Dunne 8
Looked like he was back to his old self, and that’s good for everyone.
James Collins 9
Ditto Dunne. Immense.
Charles N’Zogbia 7
Still needs to get a bit fitter, but this was an improvement on Fulham.
Gabby Agbonlahor 8
Pleasing goal and was a thorn in the side of the Blackburn defence all game.
Stan Petrov 7
Can’t really fault him, looked fit for the whole 90 today too.
Fabian Delph 7
Hassled and harried for everything, but needs to watch those two footed tackles.
Emile Heskey 7
Admire his workrate, got a good gaol today too.
Darren Bent 7
One chance, one goal, that’s all you need.
Marc Albrighton 6
Made a good impact. gave us a bit more width.
Ciaran Clark 6
Didn’t really do anything wrong. Solid and comfortable.
Our midfield looks more composed with this lad in it. He needs more gametime.