Aston Villa’s High Performance Future and the Need to Take a Leaf Out of the [Red] Devil’s Playbook

Good Bad Ugly

With Aston Villa’s fortunes more good and less ugly nowadays, MOMS podcast contributor Phil Shaw resurrects ‘The Good, Bad & Ugly’, an old favourite MOMS column that started over eight years ago on the site…

By Phil Shaw

I have to write about a game against Manchester United again, don’t I? Let’s get stuck into the Good, Bad and Ugly.

Why do people continually direct their anger at the conned and not the conman?

The Good

Most people have known about Aston Villa’s new training facility at Bodymore Heath, or ‘High-Performance Centre’, to give it the full title, but it was nice to see a media package showing how impressive it is for the official opening, by Villa fanboy, The Duke of Cambridge.

Looking at this in the context of the last few weeks, the future is bright. With Gary Neville complaining about how the Glazers have allowed Old Trafford to fall apart, Villa’s owners, investing large sums in the training facilities and foundations are important building blocks in moving forward.

While Villa aren’t backed by a sovereign wealth like Manchester City, you can see the similarities in how they improved everything about City. They did have the advantage of the Commonwealth Games Stadium, but in terms of the rest of the infrastructure, NSEW, are following a similar path.

Villans of the Week — The Villa Women’s Team

Like the men’s team last season, Villa’s women’s season could be viewed as underachieving or disappointing, when viewed as a whole. 

When it gets down to the business end, however, you need to do whatever it takes to get over the line, and no matter how boring the football, or how many late equalisers you concede, being above that trapdoor in the final league table is all that mattered at the end.

In fact, with a battling display against Arsenal, they didn’t only finish above the relegation zone but also above the Blues. 

With the Interim Manager Marcus Bignot, Head Coach Gemma Davies and Assistant Manager Jenny Sugarman all departing, it will be a very different coaching team next season when the Women’s Super League takes a step-up for the new broadcast deal. 

The Bad

I had to look at the previous GBU for the game at Old Trafford and make sure I wasn’t repeating myself, but that could have been the case on everything I’ve ever written about Manchester United.

At the moment, the repetitive United Syndrome is: Villa take the lead, United ‘win’ a penalty, then a deflated Villa allow United to win the game.

Credit to United though, they always have a way to win; it used to be Fergie Time, now it’s orchestrating penalty decisions when needed.

It is going to take another generation for the United mindset to die out, if it ever does because that’s what wins them games like this.

Don’t get me wrong, they have exceptional players, but they make mistakes. Harry Maguire, is a showreel of them on his own and all their past players misplaced passes or missed chances.

The extra 10% needed to win, is in their mindset and mastery of influencing officials.

To take one of the controversial incidents in the match, the Mason Greenwood handball as an example, what would United players have done in the same scenario?

They wouldn’t have recycled the ball and played on like Villa did for minutes, they would have kicked the ball out and surrounded the referee, forcing them and VAR to have a proper look at it, before play continued.

The United players, managers, ex-players and associated pundits must laugh at teams like Villa, who don’t put the same pressure on officials at every chance they get, and it shows in their coverage of games.

The Ollie Watkins second yellow is the same scenario. Pogba, just knows how to act with the officials, to remove any doubt in their minds, he gets one touch from Luiz, but waits for the definitive one. Watkins, gets to the ball first but is on his way down before contact is made. 

He gets up and there’s no conviction in his appeal or real protest. He gives the referee the easy way out and United players, fans and media personalities laugh all the way to another three points unchallenged.

Fans may say, they don’t want Villa to win in this way. But you have to have a reality check. Are there any winning teams who are holier than thou? 

Leicester City, are held up as the great story in the Premier League. Does everyone forget how Vardy played? 

Fighting for everything, falling over when required and getting away with murder, they played the big boys at their game and won.

The PGMOL aren’t respected by teams like United because they are so easily manipulated. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may be limited as a manager, but as part of the United furniture, he knows how the game works.

If Villa or any team want to break into the very top reaches of the game, they are going to have to act like every decision is their entitlement. 

Aston Villa Home Shirt Discount 70%

The Ugly

Douglas Luiz, has now been conned twice by Paul Pogba twice in one season. So, who are some Villa fans angry at? 

The person who has been naive and over eager in his efforts to help the team, or the conman, who despite his muscular frame has fallen over at the slightest contact?

We know the answer.

Why do people continually direct their anger at the conned and not the conman?

Replying to a post Luiz puts up about his birthday with comments like ‘Thanks for costing us the game’ or ‘Cheers for that penalty’ or anything worse, isn’t just predictable and boring, it’s counterproductive.

Is Luiz going to put the same effort into the next game for Villa, if he’s trolled online? Or is he going to respond like he did on social media?

He will already know himself, he was naive, the coaching staff will have told him, his teammates have probably told him as well, and his friends, family, pundits, and the rest. 

Luiz doesn’t need reminding on social media, people are trained and paid to do that. 

Next time you want to vent at a player, direct it at the conman, or better still, keep it to yourself and let the people paid to do the job, do the coaching and save your energy for being back at Villa Park.


Follow Phil on Twitter here – @PRSGAME

Check out the latest MOMS podcast show (featuring Phil)


  1. Steve Hughes & how much critical would you have been if he had stepped aside & allowed a shot on goal @ close range ?

  2. Luiz should have learned his lesson against Southampton which cost us a goal and he should have had it pointed out. This was one too many times and I feel we are within our right to criticise. You already pointed out Utd claim for everything, he’s paid a lot of money to be professional and controlled. So for me there’s no excuse.

  3. Only thing I might question is whether a proper VAR scruitiny of the Pogba “foul ” would have shown any contact before he went down ! As for Watkins perhaps he should have risked an injury rather than go down too easy as either way he is out of the next game !

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