Well, what a week-end, and what a match that was. I’ve already put it up on my website as one of the best matches seen at Villa Park, and I believe it was, as a spectacle and not just for the outcome of it. When I last posted an article a couple of weeks ago, I said: “it would be good to replicate those thrilling promotion seasons of 1938 (though I wasn’t around then!), 1960, 1972 and 1975 and finish in some style.” Well, since then we’ve had that win at Sunderland, which was followed by the victory over Wolves. And over the last three games 11 goals have been scored by Villa, 7 away from home and 4 at home against the league leaders. I do believe the 2018 half of the season has indeed evolved into being another promotion thriller.

But while Saturday’s result keeps us firmly in contention (and must cause a worry or two at Cardiff), the season is still far from finished. From now on in it’s going to be a series of pitched battles, and battles in which we cannot afford to have any wounded, walking or otherwise. It is difficult to imagine what might happen if any of Grealish, Adomah or Snodgrass were to be out for any of those matches, but particularly those versus Cardiff and Derby.

We have ten games to go and, only three days since the last, yet another match is upon us at Villa Park. Will Bruce play the successful Saturday team against QPR, or will he rest one or two as we have another game coming up on Saturday? The Mail thinks that Birkir will come in for the Jedi, and I would agree with that option against QPR. To me it makes sense, and Birkir made it skilfully clear on Saturday that he wants to be part of the action. But what other changes might be a good idea? Perhaps Snodgrass is due a rest? Putting Hourihane into Snoddy’s position might make sense perhaps, as he has some of Snoddy’s left-foot skills, and that would give a chance for Lansbury to start. Though that’s probably not part of Bruce’s vision, in my view some care has to be taken: the old ‘uns should not play too much.

While waiting for the QPR match to start, we can still derive nectar from the Wolves’ match. For me, that match put us firmly back to the old state of pride that we had nearly ten years ago. Then we were hoping for Champions League football but instead had to settle for the Championship! Similar titles, but a world apart in status. But what is crucial now is that we can see a Villa side that is not short of determination to succeed. It may have some fallibilities, but they look like a team and a team to contend with. With the results we have picked up, our forthcoming opponents may well be a little nervous. However, so long as we don’t get over-confident then the future does – at last – look bright! Who knows, though it is a bit unlikely, the top two promotion teams could be Villa and Cardiff – the same pair as in season 1959-60.

As for Steve Bruce himself, then his record at Villa Park should speak volumes. Do you remember that before he came we were usually losing our matches at home? Well, I am told that since he has been at Villa, the record reads: Played 36, won 22, drawn 10, lost 4.



Comments 48

  1. Thanks for the article JL. Regarding team selection this evening, we’ll have to wait for SB’s presser to find out if there are any new injuries. Assuming there are none, then I think SB will have one eye on Sat’s game against the Trotters.

    Midweek fixtures take the heaviet toll on the midfield. So if players are going to be rested, it is usually this area that is affected. For QPR he could play O’Hare for 45 minutes and Onomah for the same and rest Jack (as he’s just back from injury), keeping him on the bench just in case. The obvious move is to rest Jedi and put in the viking. But that still leaves Snoddy, Adomah and Hourihane without a break. Decisions, decisions.

    The tougher game is likely to be at Bolton given the home support will help significantly tonight. But tonight is our game in hand on Fulham so failure to win will be damaging to our cause.

  2. Plug,

    Yes, adrenalin can work wonders, can’t it?

    Trouble is it tends to burn out at some stage, and when it comes to playing clubs like QPR and Bolton perhaps it’s an opportunity to play those who’ve not seen too much time on the pitch? I dunno … maybe you’re right.

  3. Jl
    Thanks for the leader John

    Damned if we do & damned if we don’t
    But we certainly need to win the game in front of us without too many changes.

  4. Well,

    Have eventually arrived home after seeing the worst Villa display since the days of Paul Lambert.

    No desire, no interest, and overrun by a makeshift bunch of Holloway’s youngsters, who ran rings round a lethargic defence. Jedinak must have been the worst player on the pitch.

    Perhaps Mr Bruce should have rested some of his poor tired players after the hard match against Wolves. This team will not make the play -offs on tonight’s performance, where the fans walked out en masse after the third goal went in. Jedinak left back or left centre back……nooooo!!!

  5. Welcome to following the Villa, the rollercoaster is back!
    Even though it was the same team that dismantled Wolves, they looked completely different and not just the older players. Every one of them looked lethargic, couldn’t seem to pass the ball or support each other. Jack Grealish had his poorest game since his rebirth, Adama couldn’t cross the ball and I thought the full backs were dire. The only player to put on half a display was Snodders.

    And of course the Villa blog world is full of woe and Bruce Out and we won’t even make the play-offs ……… We still have to play Cardiff and they have to play Wolves and there are 9 games left – so all hope is not yet lost. We are still in a decent position and apart from last night, are on one of out best runs for years.

    The key will be how do we respond in our next game? Every game was already a ‘must win’ before last night so maybe every game is now a must must win …….. and Cardiff must drop some points soon surely? Please.

    And the atmosphere was so flat from the off at VP last night – were both fans and players suffering from over-confidence or some sort of burn out?
    So we will hopefully find that last night was a blip, albeit a major blip, but we will get back on track again on Saturday ….. here’s hoping 🙂


  6. PP: “Perhaps Mr Bruce should have rested some of his poor tired players after the hard match against Wolves. “

    That I certainly agree with. This is one of the foibles of Bruce we have to contend with, isn’t it, that when a bit of canny wisdom is needed he doesn’t seem to. There was no need to pick the same team against QPR – resting some would have been the wise choice i.m.o. Players like Birkir would have been fully charged for last night.

    Well, I didn’t think we’d go through the season without losing any more, but this one came as a shock. We can’t probably afford to lose any more if we are to have any chance for the auto-promotion slot.

  7. Extremely disappointed. Gutted. We made QPR look like world beaters. SB’s after match comments suggest he toyed with making 5 or 6 changes before the game. But he didn’t. Three days after the effort against Wolves. We discussed the same thing above.

    Going back to his own yardstick of 2 points per game, we are currently -5. To reach zero we need to win 7 and draw 2 of the remaining 9 games. Even that may not be enough given the form of Cardiff and Fulham.

    No point having a squad if it isn’t going to be used during fixture pile ups. There’s a reasonable bet that he won’t make more than 1 or 2 changes to the team that faced Wolves for our next game at Bolton. Must win r0bb0? We may have already blown it.

  8. Well that was a kick in the gilhooleys, timely would have been 3 months ago, we don’t need to be losing games in the run in.

    Flirting with 2nd spot has masked what we would have accepted at the start of the season and that is a play-off spot which we retain, plenty to play for and another chance to right the wrongs of last night.

    Catch 22, change a winning formula or rest players and cause disruption, subs probably should have been introduced earlier in the second half.

    I move on

  9. To me JL, it beggars belief that Bruce admits that he was toying with changing up to 5 players, in other words, he did not approach the game with a proper plan to defeat a young QPR side.
    He did not have a constructive discussion with his coaches and the team captain, he just toyed with ideas. How can that be a manager that is totally determined and committed to the cause.
    I think Bruce keeps relying on what he has done in the past, believing it will work again, but has no real plan of how to approach each game, and what he needs to do to beat that particular team.

    Pleased to see that we are in agreement..!!!

  10. D O’R – absolutely, plenty still to play for, move on now and look at the next game.

    PP – I didn’t hear SB’s post match chat …………….. he actually admitted that he hadn’t had a constructive discussion with his coaches or Captain? Blimey thats not good then.

    And I guess he was toying with changes based on how players felt and looked in training. And based on that, the ‘plan’ would be known as the players will have been briefed with this match in mind surely?


  11. In Steve’s own words

    “That was always my fear. With the euphoria of Saturday and my experience in it, I toyed and toyed and toyed with changing it and in hindsight I should have done.
    I blame myself because I thought long and hard about really freshening us up and making four or five, six changes. In hindsight we should have done it.”

  12. “Neil Taylor had a very, very s ore groin at half time “, again in his own words, then why was he not substituted immediately it happened, with James Bree, and the whole picture could have looked different. Why carry on playing with a passenger after half time for a further 12 minutes. It shows a total lack of trust in his squad, and yet on Saturday, the players he did bring on, Lansbury and Bjarnason did not let him down.

    I get the impression that Bruce is perhaps, a bit of a ditherer, and that is why he makes bad decisions at crucial moments.

  13. Strange actually,

    there have been such good reports lately on the attitude and fitness of Gabby and Micah Richards, for one moment, I had thought that Bruce might have freshened up the team, and as a reward, as well as for back-up, put them both on the bench, and after last night’s display, I am sure that they could have added something. When we have players busting a gut to try to get in the team, we should at least think of including them in the squad.

    More sad news: Jim Bowen from Bullseye has joined Ken Dodd with the entertainers in the sky…!!!

  14. Thanks for that PP, as I say I didn’t see/hear the post match stuff as I usually don’t bother with it.

    Hadn’t seen about Jim Bowen either.
    A story about me and Ken Dodd. I had an IT company and an exhibition we did every year was in Harrogate. There was always a dinner followed by an entertainer – and one year it was Ken Dodd. My lovely employees set me up and had a word with Doddy about me being his stooge on stage. So I was called up on stage by Doddy, made to wear that huge coat he usually came on stage wearing and generally was made to look like the village idiot for 20 minutes or so. But it was great fun and I spent time with Doddy after the show (which went on 5 hours!!) and found him quite shy in a way, very humble and a lovely man. His shows just went on and on with him telling non-stop gags – and the whole audience loved every minute of it.
    Very old school chap, probably the last of the great old entertainers. Respect to him, he will be missed.


  15. Paul,

    I have to say that I agree with most of what you say. But despite the fact I’m broadly happy with him I’ve always said he has foibles, and I’ve been conscious that he doesn’t change his spots, even when something’s crying out for it.

    All we can hope for now is that this QPR match has been such a shock that it will cause a big re-awakening of the whole squad – manager, coaches and players – and that any over-confidence will be quickly sat on.

    And, yes, we’re not out of the race for the second spot yet. These 9 games can produce all kinds of funny outcomes.

  16. Thanks JL,

    I am sure we are now somewhere near on the same wavelength.
    Also closer on the differences over Gerry Hitchens. Did eventually find some confirmation over his National Service, but he was mainly deployed on doing sports, playing for the army combined X1 on several occasions, including one against a Rangers team where he scored, but the army lost 2-1.

  17. Paul,

    Yes, my point about Hitchens was that although he must have been fit, he did miss an awful lot of training time with the team …. and extra travelling and suchlike. After the Army he soon showed what he could do … Those 10 goals in three matches will always be something I’ll remember.

    BTW, nearly 10 years ago I met his widow Muriel and her children at VP. I didn’t know it then but she was a terminal cancer sufferer and she died later that year. A lovely person though,

  18. OV,

    I meant to say I enjoyed that bit about Ken Dodd. 🙂

    You were in IT I see. I was in software development from 1966 and was fortunate to implement a lot of systems on greenfield sites. All now taken over by SAP and suchlike I suppose.

  19. Lewis Grabban talking…

    Speaking when he first signed, Grabban said the reason he’s played for so many clubs – Villa is his 12th – is because he’s not content with sitting on the sidelines waiting for game-time.

    “I will complain if I don’t play. I just have a hunger to compete,” he said.

    “I don’t want to be training on a Saturday, that’s what it is.

    “It is why I have taken loans and not sat around doing nothing during my career.”

    Grabban cut a loan spell at Sunderland short as the Cherries wanted to sell him amid concrete interest from Wolves.

    When the interest died, Villa moved to sign him on loan and so far he’s repaid their faith with impressive displays.

    So what about the future?

    “Hopefully I can get scoring and help the team winning games. Then we’ll see what the future holds.”

    There is no option in place for Villa to sign him permanently but if he impresses, there’s every chance a deal could be agreed.

    Right now it’s all about scoring goals again and winning promotion.

    He did it with Norwich City and helped Reading to the play-off final last season.

    And he reckons this group of players are as strong as any he’s worked with at Championship level.

    “There’s a lot of experience and know-how in the squad so hopefully that will see us through,” he said.

    Grabban is a take-your-chance-when-you-can type of guy.

    He’s not one for sitting around and picking up his money. He wants to be playing every week which is why he’s had so many loan moves in his short career.

    It was during a spell at Rotherham United in League Two where he really started to focus, though.

    The 2011/12 season where he scored 21 goals for the Millers was a defining point in his career.

    “I had started to take football for granted,” he admitted.

    “I knew my career could go either way.

    “I wouldn’t say I had a tough period but I maybe took things for granted when I was younger.

    “Consequently I found myself moving down the leagues.

    “I left Crystal Palace, moved to Millwall, then Rotherham. That was a wake-up call.

    “From that season where I scored 21 goals, I started moving back up the leagues.

    “Since then things have been good.”


  20. OV,

    When I was a kid, they used to call me “lergy” (as in “the dreaded lergy”) 😀

    Doubtless there are those that feel that I’ve sent them a dose (of the ‘lergy’).

    I just can’t win whatever I do. When I got the wrongful dismissal at Villa I tried still to treat the perpetrators with tolerance but to this day (8 years later) I’m regarded with disdain. Probably the fact I won my tribunal case and that the club received a ticking off sticks in their throats. It’s interesting that all but one of my main antagonists and high-level managers at Villa have left and gone to other pastures outside of football.

    I still support the Villa but have been through the hoop of fire at the club. Perhaps it’s caused me to be a touch too touchy, but I still wish the best for Villa and its fans, and maybe I’m a touch touchy because the result of my very deep research into the club convinces me that it has a remarkable history, the best traditions of which are worth preserving.

    Until recent times this blog has provided one of the best discussion pages on the Villa. I invite all who have taken a holiday to return to help this blog to return to that level.

  21. JL

    Lifers are probably still smarting from Tuesday’s performance. I know I am. But there is a game coming up tomorrow and if the players feel like me then Bolton are in for a hiding. If though, they are knackered then SB needs to make the necessary changes.

    Since Tues I’ve been able to watch a recording of Cardiff’s win at Brentford. A mainly young team who never stopped running for each other. They went a goal down but were in front by half time. Brentford who were silky against Villa were reduced to a train crash. Cardiff are a big team with tall players which make them dangerous at set pieces. It’s a tough ask making up 7 points on them.

  22. Plug,

    Yes, Tuesday has doubtless made some of us go dumb, but, strangely, it’s when the Villa have a reversal that you usually find more people posting – perhaps in frustration or anger.

    Yes, Cardiff have done very well. Apart from their blip in December they’ve been up there pretty well all through the season. But if they have such young players, will the final lap of the season get to their nerves more easily? – Especially if Villa get back to winning ways to keep the pressure on and (of course) beat ’em at VP. And Cardiff face Wolves the previous week as well.

    These last 9 games could be very interesting…

  23. Said it above briefly but it is very disappointing from an experienced manager that he chose not to rest some players and make them impact subs against QPR, hindsight is great but foresight is greater.

    We need Bruce and the team (coaches and all) to meticulously plan for each game in terms of winning and that includes prepping for all play-off options in terms of who we may get if automatic promotion is beyond us.

    Hoping for a Paddy’s day battering of England (thanks to Eddie Jones for writing Joe Schmidt’s team talk nevermind the achievement of a grand slam) and similar battering of Bolton, I expect to be drunk and the only one in the pub looking for a tv screen in a corner to watch the Villa.


  24. According to SB’s presser it looks like Bree will be playing LB tomorrow. A square peg in a round hole again. Feel sorry for Bree, the last time he featured was as a centre back against Peterborough. His position is RB.

    Obviously too much to expect that SB might have selected a LB like Borg or Bedeau. The U23’s are playing tonight so I doubt he’ll pull anymore players from that game. Which in turn points to not much change for Bolton.

  25. JL,

    I am sorry, but I do have to agree with you have become far too touchy, and it comes with you not letting go of the Villa Park situation, which is necessary. For goodness sake man! You won the tribunal….you proved them wrong. Celebrate the fact that you won, move on…it is their loss. The other factor is our age…..we are now not only grumpy old men, but sensitive too.

    This is part of what is wrong with AVL. It has become to sensitive, and people are afraid of letting go.

    We have lost that wonderful humour from Gary, where he slatted everything and everybody, and then the banter started, and it was a fun blog…Come on guys let’s start some good humoured slagging again…!!!

    Bruce needs another brain , as his old one has gone missing..!!

  26. PP: “I am sorry, but I do have to agree with you have become far too touchy, and it comes with you not letting go of the Villa Park situation”

    Not quite, Paul. In reality *I* have left it behind. But I’m afraid certain things – when they crop up –
    bring out the tetchy side of me and the VP matter comes back into my mind.

    “Winning” against the Villa brought me no happiness at all – I was just appalled I had to go that far. Appalled also that I offered my free help to Villa a few months ago and the offer was rejected and my expertise ignore.

    This accumulated situation and the general nature of blogs (the slagging is not often good-humoured) are the main reasons (regrettably in some ways) why I’ve already stated I’m dropping off all Villa blogs at the end of the season, except my own.

  27. Paul,

    In fact it was some nasty wrongly-directed slagging against me on another blog that started my troubles with Villa, so blogs and I are not really happy partners.

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