The Villa Influence: From Player Attitudes to Relegation Confirmation

They call the home of Manchester United the Theatre of Dreams, yet there was neither theatre nor dreams associated with the weekend’s game.

The last time I went to Old Trafford, Aston Villa lost 4-0, which ironically started with Ashley Young – just one player in a long list of mistakes the club has made – diving. This time, I witnessed the relegation of Aston Villa.

Sometimes I don’t know why I bother trekking all over the country, especially this season, to watch Aston Villa. Then I remember that they are my Villa, my beloved Aston Villa, and no matter what the outcome I could not think of anywhere else I would like to spend my Saturday afternoon.

There were no tears shed in that away end, just an exuberance of passion and pride, something that the players have been lacking from the moment the season began.

That trend continued as the club fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester United.

Starting XI Verdict:

Eric Black obviously didn’t understand me the first time when I said that I don’t like Kieran Richardson.

If Richardson is the answer, seriously what is the question?

Thankfully, the answer to how long has Richardson got left on his contract is four games (phew).

The only difference from the starting line-up against Bournemouth was the introduction of Alan Hutton, back from suspension, at right back in place of 20-year-old Jordan Lyden. As much as I was disappointed that the young Australian didn’t make the starting 11, I was glad that he didn’t have to feel the emotions of relegation, something which he has not contributed to.

However, now that relegation is confirmed, it is my hope that these young players are blooded in. We have absolutely nothing to lose, so why not integrate them into the squad in order for them to gain valuable first team experience. They deserve it more so than the utterly incompetent footballers we have on the pitch.


Speaking of which, Joleon Lescott and Leandro Bacuna were still present in the team fielded against United which fails to surprise me, yet amazes me that they pass as footballers. I’m sure the cleaners could do a better job. Or maybe that’s being harsh on them.

Black’s Game Management:

Once again, Black stuck to his favoured 4-5-1 formation, in an attempt to defeat the Red Devils, something we haven’t done on their turf in six years (and only once in the past 40 league encounters – home or away).

However, we yet again lacked creativity or attacking threat – bar a few chinking runs from Ayew – in the final third until the formation changed and Gestede was brought on as a second striker.

The Benin striker came on with a point to prove and had a few half attempts before his volley crashed off the post. If there is one player in this team that I would like to keep going into next season, it is Rudy Gestede, which may surprise some people. He isn’t the most elegant of footballers, or the most talented, but he has a proven track record in the Championship and could be essential to us if we are to make an instant return. Of course, I would like Ayew and Gana to stay, but I’m sure they have Premier League aspirations.

Ref Analysis:

I’m forever thankful that I decided not to base my whole column around referees, because nearly every game since I started writing the Villa Influence there has been hardly any questionable decisions.

Kevin Friend had a quiet game, with just a few decisions to make in the game.

In all honesty, the only thing he could have done differently was award United a penalty when Rashford was clipped by Alan Hutton in the second half. Marcus Rashford continued play and so did the referee. However soft, if the young striker had have gone down, Friend may have pointed to the spot.

Rating: 8/10

Villa’s MOTM:

Be prepared for my rant of the day.

Not one player is worthy of gaining the title ‘Man of the Match’ because they have all played a massive part in Aston Villa’s relegation to the Championship for the first time in 29 years.

Yes Randy Lerner is to blame, yes Garde and Sherwood have both contributed, but no matter who is manager, chairman, CEO; there is 11 players on the pitch. 11 men that are paid millions of pounds a year to play football. Those 11 ‘professional footballers’ should look at themselves and ask the question: have I done enough? And I’m sure the 30,000 people who turn up to Villa Park next week will boo them enough to know the answer.

As I was on the way home from Old Trafford I was having a read of the match reports and one of the first images I saw was a picture of Leandro Bacuna laughing. Yes, laughing. And my word it angered me.

Maybe I have expectations that are beyond Aston Villa players; I didn’t expect him to be in tears or anything, far from it, but at least look a little bit gutted.

And then I laughed.

I laughed because it completely dumbfounded me. I chuckled (in anger) because that along with Lescott’s comments told me exactly why we’ve been relegated. From the word go, the majority of the players haven’t shown an ounce of passion or commitment, which is all paying supporters ask for.

Once again, I couldn’t not mention the country’s best fans. When all else fails, the Villa fans step up and regain the pride and respect the team on the pitch lose.

Rating for the players: 2/10. Rating for the fans: 10/10

Manchester United’s MOTM:

Marcus Rashford will be recognised for his goal and also his rise to fame in a Manchester United shirt, however I thought Wayne Rooney on his return had a good game.

Now, I’m not Rooney’s number one fan by any means, however, playing just off Rashford he had the chance to sit in the holes spraying passes. He did well, but for yet another game this season the opposition didn’t have to break sweat and United looked average.

Rooney will go to the Euros no matter what, but I think it is time for Hodgson to break the shackles of his conservative instinct and use his new options first before turning to him.

Rating: 7/10


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  1. Just one more comment, I will leave it at this. Lerner likes to run things down into the ground. Hollis is a liquidation expert. Receivership is imminent. Don’t be surprised.

  2. Was fine to see the same team inc. hatchet hutton. Shop window for the lot of them, as long as they no longer grace the pitch in claret and blue from that final whistle. Would like to know which six went towards the away fans (APPLAUSE for the away fans, heard you through the telly) and who stayed on the halfway line at the end.

  3. I agree unfortunately they get paid their wages and when fans stop going – the wage reduction will be implemented and then hopefully the neanderthal egotistic overpaid mercenaries will leave. There should be only 3 or 4 of this seasons players good enough for the Championship the rest should be resort to their chances in league 2 of the Scottish league. Lescott must have been paid twice , by Villa and by West Brom (to do a hatchet job on the Vila from the inside.) These players would have been fired in any other business. only football shoots itself in the foot in particular Villa. If contracts are not terminated at the end of this season to at least 7 or 8 of these players that have dragged Villa down to its lowest ebb almost in their entire history then they will go down in successive seasons. The current team is not good enough for league 2. If the rumour mill allows us to have respite from reality and allow us to dream then lets hope China steps in and bring the funds required to give us a new lease of life as long as its possible to actually give the club the kiss of life. For now Its stopped breathing, i hope its temporary and resuscitation is possible.

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