The new season has barely begun but the pause button has already been pressed. The first international break is upon us. I am as patriotic as the next person, but England games leave me cold.

Too many false dawns, too many coulda/shoulda/woulda moments: I no longer go out of my way to follow the Three Lions. Of course, I wish them well and it is heartening to see Tom Heaton and Tyrone Mings upholding the best traditions of Aston Villa representing the national team. We are now second only to Tottenham (78 v 75) in terms of players who have been selected to play for England, an impressive statistic considering some of the dross we have seen down B6 over the past 20-odd years.

I digress. We are four games into our return to the ‘Promised Land’ but we have an underwhelming three points to show for it. One win, three defeats. Did we expect better? Should we be sitting higher in the nascent table, having spent the thick end of £140m this summer?

I am firmly of the view that to produce (or at least, take much notice of) a League table before at least 10 games have been played is frankly ridiculous, but it’s a sad by-product of the times. The pundits need some frame of reference from which to magic up their guff and for the time being, it means we find ourselves in the bottom three.

The talking heads and naysayers who were convinced that we would “do a Fulham” are sitting there smugly, basking in our stuttering start to life back among the so-called elite. The perceived wisdom is that the table never lies, but surely after only four matches, we can reserve sensationalist judgement and wild over-reactions?

Enough football has already been played to allow us to form an early opinion on where Villa might be heading this season. Dean Smith’s remodelled Villa are beginning to take shape and we now have a much clearer idea of his preferred first-choice players. With this in mind, let’s discuss reasons for hope and, in a later post, some of the more worrying trends which have begun to emerge.

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