Stevenage Syndrome Still Haunts Emery’s Aston Villa, as Club Gets Heckless

The Good Bad and Ugly of Crystal Palace and Legia Warsaw

An exciting week for sure for Villa fans, that is, if they weren’t being kettled into small spaces in Warsaw for a few hours. Maybe that’s the treatment Emery will give some of his squad players before the next European game.

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Villan of the Week – Jhon Durán

At the risk of sounding smug, I’ve long believed that Duran offers something every time he is on the pitch, whether it’s manhandling Arsenal centre-backs, chopping down Newcastle players, or trying to snap the crossbar at the Etihad.

In the Palace and Warsaw games, Duran offered something more, he offered predatory instinct in both, which makes him a genuine option off the bench. We will come to his magnum opus of a half-volley shortly, but against Legia Warsaw, he scored one and was only denied a second by a combination of being hauled down and a wonder save by their keeper.

Comparisons with Christian Benteke are obvious, but another figure who had the same attributes and explosive moments was Mario Balotelli. If Jhon Durán can sit somewhere between them on the madness scale, he will entertain Villa fans for seasons to come.

The Good

Until the Warsaw game, the intention this week was to do a good, bad and Ugly of the Crystal Palace match on its own. But alas, Villa being Villa, they don’t fit in with plans.

Instead, let’s look at the good things that happened this week. Firstly, the reason Villan of the Week came before the ”Good” column is so I can talk about Jhon Durán’s half-volley. It’s simply the best strike since John McGinn’s volley against Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship.

The pace of it made many people wonder if their streams had skipped ahead to the celebration. It was over in the blink of an eye, but on inspection, the thought was always in Duran’s head as soon as he decided to chest the ball down. After that, he unleashed righteous fury to burn through the frustration of the day.

Once Villa had a sniff of blood, they scored twice more with a contentious but ultimately legitimate penalty and a killer breakaway move.

The Crystal Palace game was very much a make-or-break game for Villa’s early season optimism. The result keeps the momentum going, especially at Villa Park where it’s nine wins in a row in the Premier League.

The Bad

Call it sloppiness, passive, carelessness, or whatever word you want, that’s the current weakness of this Aston Villa side.

Against Palace, and especially against Legia Warsaw, there was a creeping in of what could be called ‘Stevenage Syndrome’.

Last season, Emery’s Villa embarrassed themselves against Stevenage in the FA Cup by being careless and it’s still in their system.

Pau Torres gets dispossessed on the half-way line and nobody else reacts quickly enough. Ollie Watkins is presented with a big chance and he casually takes it too early. Fair enough the late determination got Villa out of jail against Palace, but they were schooled in Poland.

Chambers, Digne, Tielemans, and Lenglet didn’t cover themselves in glory, but the rest of the team weren’t much better. They just never got started, lack of intensity caused all three Warsaw goals and it could have been worse as they seemed to just be more ‘awake’ than the Villa side all game.

In the last ten minutes, Villa finally approached the game with the due care and attention it warranted, but even then casual efforts by Diaby, Ramsey and Tielemans at the death, were more than enough to rescue the situation.

Aston Villa fell victim to the same kind of performance that Stevenage took advantage of. This cannot happen again in a competitive Europa Conference League group, where all teams will now fancy their chances.

The Ugly

Like an ill-equipped juggernaut, Aston Villa’s drive towards hospitality continues with the announcement of ‘The Lower Grounds’ or to anyone who used to go to Villa Park will think of it, the Holte Suite with lipstick on it.

Of course in the modern world, anything that is debated or even mentioned on social media divides people down the middle.

Without getting into the different opinions, it’s much better to look at the facts.

The Holte Suite was a benefit to season ticket holders, allowing them a basic place to congregate and have a social drink before and after the game.

By turning it into ‘The Lower Grounds’ and charging £60 for season ticket holders and £120 for anyone else to enter it is removing something which season ticket holders had. Normally this action would be accompanied by a price reduction, not an increase.

If you take your Villa tinted specs off for an online moment and put £120 per person into your hand, what kind of food and drink service would you expect to get in Birmingham City Centre? I can guarantee now that it will be better than any offering in the lower grounds.

Hospitality is a necessary evil in the modern game, but the way this has been sneaked into the Holte Suite is not befitting of a well-run business.

The excuse given of the Holte Suite being under renovation has been shown to be a complete lie as it is now dead, having been euthanised for the Lower Grounds. The club should have been transparent to season ticket holders before they paid up for another season, that the Holte Suite was no more. It’s certainly shady business practice to pull the rug, after they’d taken supporters money.

I’ve already written about the farce that is The Terrace View and this is genuinely even lower than that move was, so perhaps it’s no surprise where the name came from.

Many online opinions on Chris Heck being appointed were positive and overwhelmingly in support without doing any due diligence, but the latest moves were to be expected by anyone who has attended an event in the USA. The ugly truth is that season tickets and memberships aren’t enough any more. The commercial departments of most Premier League Clubs want every penny you have.


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