Here we are, moment of truth, more than simple silverware on the line. Apart from whichever match ultimately sealed our relegation, this is the most important game Villa have played since at least the European Cup Final. And perhaps the most important match for years to come. For those of us who are down at Wembley…well, obviously I hope it’s one of the best days of your lives. Likewise for those of us watching at home.

Hyperbole? Perhaps. But it is big. We all know the stakes. And while I can look back and say I’ve enjoyed being competitive in a competitive league, Villa’s place is in the top flight. Simple as. And with the financial implications, it may well be the case that Villa need to be in the top flight.

So. Fulham. While Slavisa Jokanovic might not really have meant to imply out loud that Villa are old and tired, given the full transcript of his comments, it’s still probably the case he thinks we are. And, yes, we are an older side. More experienced, more time in pressure situations, but not as quick and probably not quite as full of running. Fulham will do what they do: press hard and look to have around 55-60% possession. They’ll want to knock it about and tire us out.

Steve Bruce even touched on the topic, granting that the Saturday-Tuesday rotations throughout the season could’ve been handled better. It’s one thing for me to say, “Keep the winning lineup intact,” but there are simple facts.

With 12 days to rest and prepare, however, we’ll have the best legs possible and just one game to worry about selling out for. We’ll also have a little bulletin-board material I imagine the likes of John Terry will be taking personally. The man doesn’t like losing and I’m sure he doesn’t like being told he’s old and tired. He also doesn’t want to end his career on a down note. He’ll give it all he’s got and likely with a good-size chip on his shoulder. We’ll want that to carry through to the rest of the team.

As we all know, big games are often scrappy and cagey affairs, and it’s Villa who will have to make it scrappy. Neither side will feel good about conceding first, though Fulham might be a bit less worried. So I’m imagining that job one is not giving anything up early. Which is pretty much job one in any game.

The best way to do that is for Villa to get stuck in, contest every ball, disrupt Fulham’s rhythm, and don’t just cede control—which is what Lewis Grabban seems to have been saying would be the idea. We’ve seen that starting off that way often carries throughout the game for the side and we play better as a result. Our bad showings have largely been about energy/lethargy.

If the energy is there like I expect it to be, I’d like to see us move it quickly in attack, of course. But I also don’t want to see everyone rushing forward pell mell and then turning it over. Being a little more methodical in their half, if we have the chance, has the benefit of helping us keep our shape and limiting breaks. But when there’s space, you have to be quick to exploit it. A fine balance. Box smart, as Bruce likes to say. And if we’re up into them at the start, it may well be that the openings are there early. So let’s hope players are ready to be clinical. Don’t overthink it. Make the pass. Take the shot.

Given Fulham’s ball-winning possession approach, I think Jack Grealish likely will be pivotal to the outcome. We’ve got to look for him early and often. He’s got to be able to take possession in tricky areas and carry the ball to open things up. I also think that Bjarnason would be helpful here because he has shown an ability and willingness to carry the ball from deep, as well as doggedness, tenacity, and the ability to run all day.

Now, Bruce has disagreed with me at times when it comes to Jedinak versus Bjarnason. And he was right about Jedi in the semifinals. I’ve a tendency to believe he’d wish he could stick with that side, and it would seem hard on Jedi not to be in there. But if we’re looking for energy, disruption, and recovery speed, I’d be looking to Bjarnason. Because although Villa might be older, on average, Albert, Jack, Conor, and Birkir are quick enough. Snodgrass is a bit slower, but obviously will fight and run til he drops. Point is, we can attack and move about the midfield with a fair degree of pace.

It’s at the back that we’re a bit creaky, and Bjarnason stands a much better chance of being involved box to box so that we can get forward without leaving a huge gap to exploit. He’d also help us keep contesting the midfield throughout, and the higher up the better. We saw once Pulis moved Traore into the middle, Villa had a very difficult time containing him. Fortunately, Pulis only clocked onto that late in the game and out of desperation. Jokanovic will have seen that. On the other hand, Jedinak is a pressure-tested player.

If Bruce starts with Jedinak and it’s going well, then great. If we find ourselves under the cosh, though, I hope he’s open to making changes like bringing Bjarnason in sooner rather than later. It’s not a day for being stubborn or being worried about hurting someone’s feelings. This sort of decision is where I’d like to think Bruce’s experience and feeling for the side wins through.

Coming in favorites and without the same levels of experience, I’d imagine Fulham will perhaps be feeling the pressure of the moment more than Villa, at least at the outset. However, sometimes youthful exuberance and even naiveté are antidotes to nerves. As the game wears on, if Villa aren’t in front, the pressure obviously will move squarely onto our shoulders. But this year we’ve played better as underdogs and played better when we get after it from the first whistle.

Villa will be feeling pressure at the outset, too, but of a different sort: the weight of expectations and a greater downside for the club with a loss. What will probably determine the course of this game is whether Villa channel that pressure into greater determination and will, and even a certain freedom in the single-mindedness of the task. The upside to experience is players like Jack looking to Terry in the dressing room to find that steel and shine on the day, rather than shrink.

As I often say, it’s the team who wants it more that usually walks away with it. All of the above? Well, it’s really about whether Villa have the mentality to go out and seize it—simply refuse to lose. I’d like to think we do.

So come on you Villa boys. One game. Ninety minutes (please). Give it everything you’ve got and make yourselves proud. At the end of the day, it’s another game of football, and you’ve played and won a lot of those in your careers. Now that’s it here, I’m ready to go. I have a feeling you are, too.

Over to you.

Comments 229

  1. r0bb0, to your point on the previous post…

    You’d think being younger is an advantage on a hot day, big pitch. Now, Villa are used to a big pitch, so they know how to play on it.

    Experience will be key in pacing themselves. I want them to get up into Fulham, but not run themselves out early. This is a large part of why I want Bjarnason in there. He’s got more legs than Jedi, and he’s been on the World Cup stage, has the sense of occasion (but not necessarily much expectation), and acquitted himself well as an underdog who had to run things down all day.

    But I don’t know how the team’s mentality is with Jedi in versus Bjarnason.

  2. Thanks Jc- here we go only change is Elmo, I think Grealish and Albert axis will cause them problems because their rb likes to push up. Sessignon is the problem vs Elmo and Snodders


  3. Well written, JC.
    Here we go with what we’ve been looking forward to for a while. Fulham will try to run the legs off our Dad’s Army but hopefully Villa will stick some cold steel up em.

  4. Well, Terry won’t come off…

    Only change I can see is Thor for Jedi, at the moment. Need more in middle. Not that Jedi is playing badly, just need more energy and pace, imo.

  5. Villa’s lack of pace is frightening. Apart from Grealish and Jedinak, this has been a woeful half.
    Bruce needs to change the 4141 utter nonsense

  6. Well, we’ll see. He’s got throw everything at it, and by that I don’t mean three strikers.

    Might even bring on Onomah in addition to Birkir. Maybe Hourihane makes way for Josh. Need more strength and pace.

  7. He thought we’d hold them at bay, and we did by and large, if only just. Just the one moment, and Cairney was clinical.

    Trouble is, hard to see where the goal is coming from.

  8. Jc can’t take jedinak off he’s the only other cb and better than jt atm. Can’t keep your mate on he’s to slow. Fulham’s tactics working keep the ball and kick Grealish, we however are scared to run 10 yards out of position, mainly down to jt imo.

  9. Paul,

    Yeah, we’ve got to give them something completely different to look at. Save Kodjia for 60-70 mins if it’s still 0-1, but in the meantime, need more thrust in midfield.

    I just don’t think we can get lighter in numbers in midfield. If Hourihane comes off, I don’t think there’s enough bodies in the way.

  10. The stream was down with the original bad foul on Grealish, but after seeing the replay, the linesman is an absolute disgrace, & the ref is shyte.
    Half the fouls by fulham given have been on Grealish, & too many others have been ignored

  11. Mark
    To be fair it was a good goal, but they should be down to 10 men & several others be on yellow cards.
    The ref is living up to his mo

  12. So why did Bruce wait until the second half to show some intent. He could control the terrible defending for the goal but he can control the tactics which surrender possession

  13. Onamah did well there
    I’ve not been a fan of his but he’s finally shown what he’s capable of in the last few games

  14. Shower of shit Tony Xia…how did Cardiff get automatic promotion spending nothing…fuck you and the useless twat Bruce.
    Fully deserved by Fulham

  15. Fuck that’s it, as the last few games have shown we have lost that attacking intent and finishing, not enough of them turned up on the day, snodgrass poor and jack kicked to death and starved of the ball for 45. Onwards into the unknown, say goodbye to this team it will be gone I think, have as good a night as you can folks it’s beer time 🙁

  16. Could be a long walk in the wilderness. We’ll see how Villa Jack is now. Wouldn’t blame him if he goes. But he might give it one more season.

  17. If we’d started like that JC then maybe we wouldn’t have been able to finish like it
    Fulham are the better ‘footballing’ side and went into their shells in the second half, to some extent ‘allowing’ us to dominate the second half

  18. Shame we started negative and had to chase the game.Never mind lads,what next?Lets not fall out about it eh?.JC and Ian in Canada thanks for your leaders over the seasom.Have a great summer break from the footie,good luck.

  19. Mark, you’re right about. It enough turning up.
    Jack was amazing and I thought Adomah was better than he has been recently but struggling to think who else stood out

  20. Fair point, r0bb0…

    But I was afraid we’d set up like we did, and the changes probably should’ve been made at halftime. I don’t know why Bruce persists with Jedi. He did come off, but too late. We had to attack, attack, attack from the start.

  21. Be interesting to see what happens next. Feel sorry for SB but it’s a failed season. Oh well, life goes on.
    That said, if Dr X loses interest, life for Villa will be long spent in the Championship.

  22. PW – Shower of s**t Tony Xia…how did Cardiff get automatic promotion spending nothing…f**k you and the useless twat Bruce.
    Fully deserved by Fulham

    Fooooking go and support Fulham then you whinging twat. If you were in front of me now I’d take your head off. As would any true Villa fan ……………….

    oldvilla wanting to destroy any whingers …..

  23. Rogermuffin. Interesting comment about the youth players . . . . can’t see any alternative to playing them to cut costs . . . now we’ll find out if they really are good enough, and ready for it

  24. PW
    No it wasn’t fully deserved by Fulham, they should have been down to 9 men & a penalty should have been given.
    They got away with murder due to a an absolute biased ref & linemen [unless the premiership refs are now seriously incompetent].
    At least the players gave their all
    Anyway all change, which at least is a relief as it can’t keep the same.

  25. John, youbsay the changes should have been made at half time, but in fairness we were dominating even before the substitutions . . . I don’t know if it was because of a change in our attitude or a change in theirs

  26. OV…

    I have to say. This was Bruce’s caution undone. Forest mate of mine watching and texting “He played to not lose not win.”

    And I think it’s fair. I like Bruce as a man. And he got us this far. Fair play. But like I said above, the statement of intent starting Jedi was a bad omen. Might seem small, or petty even, but we needed more.

    In a one-off game for everything, changes should’ve been made at halftime.

    All water under the bridge. Not a time for falling out. But I do think it was caution one time too many. Fulham aren’t Boro or Derby. And I’ve been saying for weeks I didn’t want Fulham in the final. For exactly these reasons.

  27. Fulham played a bit better overall. Congrats to them.
    Thanks JC and Ian, just reiterating B6B’s sentiments.
    OV-enjoy the coming Swiss summer.

  28. Whoever said something about Xia losing interest, I don’t believe he will . . . he feels like an owner who genuinely cares (hope I’m not being naive there)
    One other big disappointment is that I would have loved to see what his plans were for Villa Park

  29. r0bb0…

    I just think you have to make a statement. Kodjia, still a shadow of himself, dunno why Bruce still thinks he’ll change a game after what we’ve seen previous weeks. And if you are going to make changes, players have to have a chance to grow into the game. That’s why, in a one-off for everything, I’d have made changes earlier.

    Would it have made any difference? Who knows.

  30. Hi jc and robbo.

    Yeah, youth and an passing manager, should be Dean Smith as he’s a villa man and plays the right way

    I never really went away. Still check in most day, Just being trying to wean myself off footy, so i wouldn’t get depressed when they inevitable happened after the wolves game, we threw the season away then.

  31. JC, I think we were all cheering on Derby in the semis for the same reason. Fulham had too many options for us to keep them out for a whole game.

  32. Oh, and r0bb0…

    Yes, there was a change in attitude. I just don’t know why we didn’t start that way. Honestly, don’t know. Players or Bruce, I just don’t know.

    But like I said in the leader, I really thought more pace and energy was called for on the day. Jedi didn’t play badly. He just faded. And I think should’ve come off earlier. Give Fulham something different to figure out.

  33. Fair play, rogermuffin…Roller coaster doesn’t being to describe it.

    Anyway, hope you’re well. And don’t be a stranger. Will be a rather interesting summer and season ahead. Time for a change, obviously, both because of finances and an approach that didn’t work.

    We’ll have to see more of the kids. If we can offload some of the high earners. My big concern is Grealish.

  34. JC. . . . Maybe I’m giving Fulham too much credit. I felt that on a hot day on a big pitch, if we’d chased everything from the start they would have the skill to make us run around and we’d have crumpled in the second half
    But as you say . . . . we’ll never know

  35. Indeed, r0bb0…

    It was a 2-1 game if Villa were going to win, and Villa just didn’t have two goals in them. But, tbf, I guess we did have just one conceded in us.

  36. What a time for terry and Chester to have a brain fade! These matches come down to a bit of luck and Fulham had it, with the goal and referee and our chances. God,supporting the Villa isn’t for the faint hearted, but anybody here going to walk away?

  37. There will be big offers for Grealish for sure . . . . maybe his decision will depend on whether Terry and/or Bruce stay.

  38. JC I agree that we didn’t have 2 goals in us in 90 minutes, but I don’t know about you, but I felt if we could get just one . . . . that we’d be very strong favourites to get the second in extra time

  39. r0bb0…

    My thinking was to put the most high-energy side on the pitch to start. Try to wrest ‘control’. It was always going to be three subs with the weather, and they were always going to have more possession. Just the way the teams are set up.

    It wasn’t as if Fulham were all over us. More the case that we weren’t giving ourselves enough of a chance. They’re good, yes. But…It required more not to fall behind. We’re terrible at chasing things.

  40. “Whoever said something about Xia losing interest, I don’t believe he will . . . ”
    I hope you’re right Robbo. We’ll have to wait and see now. I think, he’ll stay because he’ll want to finish the job and realise his goals.

  41. Villalore,

    No, not walking away by any means. Claret and blue, through and through.

    What I hated about the goal was Hourihane’s missed challenge. He didn’t do much wrong, but would’ve been better, probably, if he’d kept his feet. He nicks it, no goal. But…

  42. Iana…

    Hope you’re right. I think he’ll dig in. And if Fulham and others are any example, we need to learn from them, go young, tireless, etc. In the end, experience didn’t save us.

    Time for a new era at Villa.

  43. Yep big decisions coming up over the next week, really is two seasons down for SB, I am not convinced he is the man to get the best from our youth considering he excluded them this season on the whole. Dean smith not the worst choice. Whomever it is he will have as big a change in staff as we have seen in the last 3 seasons maybe worse. We go again it seems.

  44. JC – what I hated more was that it proved the Fulham manager right about being old and tired comment. Just didn’t react fast enough. Can’t say that in the second half.
    Well with sessegnon and jokanovic both likely to leave, we’ll probably see them back in two years.

  45. We will most likely lose all loan players leaving us with no option of playing youth. Hoping Bruce wont be in charge, even if we would of got promoted. Fulham proved pass and move possession football way to go and Bruce has no idea.

  46. Jc, Hopefully jg gives us season.

    Players to will be all the loan players snoddy,onamah,grabban, Johnson.
    Players with contacts up, terry,jedi,hutton,gabby

    With those gone the wages will be lower.

    Hopefully thats it

  47. Must admit I’m torn now.
    The thought of someone like Dean Smith building with a young side has its attractions but we shouldn’t get too carried away . . . that may be a longer rebuild process than we’d like.
    We’ve seen enough complete rebuilds over recent years to know that the honeymoon periods tend to be short and that they don’t always (ever) work out quite the way we’d hoped
    If we are somehow able to keep the core of the current team intact then I would bet on Bruce to take us up with them.
    One of the big criticisms of him was that he took too long to settle on his best team . . . . we should hit the ground running next time rather than having to play catch up for most of the season.

  48. In English this time.

    Jc, Hopefully jg gives us another season.

    Players to leave will be all the loan players snoddy,onamah,grabban, Johnson.
    Players with contacts up, terry,jedi,hutton,gabby

    With those gone the wages will be lower.

    Hopefully thats it!

  49. Hopefully, yes, roger…It’s the likes of McCormack and Hogan that worry me.

    Please, JG, show you’re Villa through and through. One more year. Though I wouldn’t begrudge him if he did leave now.

  50. Hi, Steve…

    Yes, Bruce’s philosophy came up short. Not saying the tactics, necessarily, but in counting on older players to see us through. Understand the proclivity, but you look around, no one else is going that way in the Championship.

  51. r0bb0,

    I hear you. Question is how much core is left? If Jack goes, we’ve no one like him…very few do. Not saying you can’t play another way, or pull a Wolves. But that path seems to require new thinking.

    Could be wrong. Just seems like a complete overhaul has to be on the way. But I have no idea whether we can clear enough dead weight from the books to make a good run at it again next year.

  52. And Steve…

    I should add, that yes, it’s time for us to enter the modern era. You’re right about the football, now that I’ve had another drink. 😉

  53. JC. Just taken a look at the average age of championship squads and yes we have the third oldest, but I can’t see any correlation between age and outcomes. Derby had the oldest squad and Cardiff the 6th oldest whilst relegated Barnsley had the youngest.

  54. r0bb0…

    May not be about age, there are pros and cons. Maybe it’s just the players at the positions and the tactics Bruce embraced. Which is to say, maybe the tactics were past their sell-by date.

    Again, dunno. But Fulham weren’t cowed, and for all our experience, it took 45 minutes, a goal conceded and a halftime talk to get going.

    And I don’t think we’ll have any choice, financially, but to go with youth and a new manager with a more progressive philosophy.

  55. Adding on to that, I’m just tired of thinking about Villa trying to compensate for not being able to pressure, win the ball back, etc.

    Just a touch more impetus in the first half, I think we’d have won. Don’t know that it comes down to something as simple as Jedi vs. Thor, but..

    And of course, injuries/luck did play a part in our downfall. Kodjia might as well not have appeared at all this season, Grealish and others out at critical times. He and Albert went out just before we lost to Fulham, a six-pointer that mattered in the end…Only a matter of a couple more wins and we would’ve avoided today’s showdown.

    We’ll have Green, Davis, etc., to work with going forward, and these kids seem to have less fear.

  56. jc
    why do you let one poster come on and threaten others,mind you this is a poster who never writes anything apart from slagging of other posters or trying to lick up others

  57. Hi JC, I’m joining you with a drink and drowning my sorrows ☺.

    Just think you need a bit of luck hiring a decent manager or signing a decen player… sadly, don’t think we had either.

  58. Ahh JC . . . the old six pointer again. . . if we’d won both of our ‘6 pointer’ games against Fulham, Cardiff would have still been promoted but we’d have been third and Fulham 4th. . . . . and we’d still have had to play the same play off game today.

  59. Yep, Whatever our views throughout the season we’re all joined in misery tonight.
    The wife’s just told me to get another beer from the fridge . . . “and don’t forget the razor blades”

  60. JC – “Pay no mind…He’s upset, we’re all upset. Just ignore.”
    i have passion for my team which is why I am upset and cannot tolerate the shocking comments that one or two posters put up.

    JG – you are the most monotonous poster saying the same things over and over again. If you bothered to read my posts you will see that I DO put forward reasoned thoughts on both the good and the bad of following the Villa this season. I’ll try and use easier language in future if that helps …..


  61. r0bb0
    Too right, my Liverpool supporting mates are sick.

    If anyone saw The Doc’s face as we got to extra time, I wouldn’t bet on Bruce being here much longer.
    Personally I’m bored to death with him, & the sooner he’s gone the better.
    He had a go & royally screwed it up, along with not bringing the kids through & stymying their progress & growth.
    A new adventure would go a long way to easing the numbness advocated by the Geordie spud head.

  62. The board will have plan B in place to cope, I just hope we aren’t going to have more of the same.
    The Chinese are not renowned for mercy after failure, thankfully, & he’s no idiot, & will have to act at some point to save face.
    But we will look around for the quality of management available before pulling the plug on our somnambulant, as his model will not work now in one year, so we will need some quality to replace him.
    If they wait until November when he’s condemned us to lose another chance….. there may be insurrection.

  63. If we’d gone up. I’d have given him a chance, until January if doing badly then charge him then. But not if staying down. Desn smith, oscar garcia,david silva. All progressive coaches. What we need. They’d help the youth come through.

  64. r0bb0,

    No, you’re right. The six-pointer was not the only reason we found ourselves here. QPR and Bolton come to mind. Just thinking about the overall accumulation. It does take both (easy and hard opponents). What grates about the loss to Fulham is that we were on a run, lost two of our key players the week before the game. And Fulham never looked back.

    Beat QPR, Bolton and Fulham, earlier…Well, probably all different, I’d think. But. It was the way it was.

  65. Robbo- average age and correlation? You can have a team of 11 29 tear olds or a team with a lot of 30+ players and the odd 19-25 and it comes out at 30 average thats why it matteres and why cardiff fared better at average 28.

    Some of the six pointers were at crucial times in the season and not solely about the points, it’s just a phrase.

    Looking at the docs face at the end genuinely worried about the club

  66. rogermuffin
    Yes I would have given him a chance as most of us would have done.
    But in some ways it’s a relief that that scenario has gone, but unfortunately promotion went with it.
    In some ways it may be a blessing for the club in that it is an opportunity to grow a definitive identity that takes us well away from the Lerner years, as so far we’ve been doing damage limitation under Bruce.
    Time to stop the safe approach & really go for it.

  67. Too right, Clive.
    The next week will be interesting. I hope that somehow Grealish and Chester stay on.
    It’s only a couple of months until the next season starts and there’ll need to be some decent players left to build a new team around. I have faith in O’Hare and those that got a few runs this year.

  68. Good morning each
    Beaten by the better team yesterday. What next, stick or twist with SB. The loads return to their parent clubs and we clear the decks of the Lansburys, Hogans, Taylers, etc.
    Tough call for next season, new manager with a team of kids? big gamble. SB took a punt with a team full of old sweats which almost worked, I’m not sure if we can go again with the same squad.

  69. Clive, I actually take heart from that article.

    This isn’t just me putting a positive gloss on things, I would have expected the odds to be worse.

    When you consider that the best 3 teams are promoted each year then the next three ‘also rans’ in 4th to 6th have almost always struggled to make the last 3 play off places and will almost certainly have been dipping in and out of the play off zone during the season. Think of clubs like Sheffield United, Bristol City and Leeds, who all at one time or another last season felt almost like certainties for the play offs or even automatic promotion but then dropped out of contention.

    In such a competitive league, an almost 50:50 chance of making it to the final stages again next season is really encouraging.

    We actually weren’t ‘also rans’ this season. Despite our poor start, we were firmly entrenched in the top 6 with some weeks to go so I’d say our chances of being there again next year are above 50%. Right now, I genuinely take heart from that.

  70. The big imponderable right now is what our team will look like next year. Will it retain a core from which we can build or will it be ripped apart and started again from scratch.

    If it’s the former, I’ll say now that I predict a top 4 place. If it’s the latter, I predict 5th to 10th.

    Even if I was right with those relative odds, some on here would opt for the latter and accept a lower chance of promotion in order to rebuild the team in a new way. It wouldn’t be my choice to go that route but I can understand why some would.

  71. I feel for Dr Xia today.

    He had far more riding on this than any Villa fan, and the decision of which way to go now lies with him

    He must feel, not just his own personal business risk, but also the weight of responsibility for the hopes and dreams of hundreds of thousands of passionate fans.

    He will have to make the call on which way to jump.

    It would be easy if the options were black and white, but they are not, they’re every shade of grey.

    He must envy the certainty felt by those who ‘know’ what is right or wrong for this club. He has the unenviable job of actually picking a route for the club over the next twelve months and being judged by us all on that decision.

    If he continues to stick with us, then I for one will stick with him, whichever way he chooses to go.

  72. Robbo- I don’t think we have a choice, certainly keeping the team together looks impossible financially, we are very much in the mire. We only have two saleable players in Chester and Grealish, the team doesn’t really exist without either in my opinion. Not rebuilding when we had the power to control spending and blood the youth has dropped us in the crap, to me it was the only route considering we managed to acquire two managers that don’t have massive rebuilds on their CV to go with the clubs equally poor record in that department. We chased the quick return and ballsed it up leaving us with no real base, I do think that it really could of been done when we dropped but it would of taken a much better manager than we’ve had to produce an instant team. Its been a massive gamble thats failed and now we have to go back to where we probably should have two seasons ago.

    This article says it all for me

  73. An accurate summary Mark,what will happen now is what should have happened when Xia took over.Can SB improve us develop younger players,nick bargain buys,and become an astute tactician between now and August?
    We weren’t good enough yesterday,nor were we good enough over 46 games.
    The most frustrating thing for me is SB’s tactics and set up.One up front,contain the opposition and when we go behinfd throw on strikers.There is no change in how we play,just who we play.He has done his very best for us ,but we need a manager that can adapt the shape and method of the team without throwing money at our problems,money we no longer have.I’m not writing anyrhing new,I have said this before on here.Yesterday simply magnified our and sB’s limitations.

  74. Can’t remember the Fulham keeper having to make a save. Spud’s older players/defensive model hasn’t worked. So he’s not the man to push us forward.

    We need a much more youthful approach based on fearless attacking intent. For the happy clappers who think that scoring goals is not a problem for us, take a look at the landscape after removing the few games where we scored 4 or more. We’ve scored 2 goals in our last 5 games.

    Thought I might feel better about it in the cold light of the following day. But I see us in this division for several years yet so we need to start with the kids and build a team for a promotion push. Needs time and a new manager/approach.

  75. Brasil- we need a clever manager that knows the lower leagues home and abroad to find those gems while blooding our own at last. and develop a style that is not just endless crosses to the non existent no9

    team/squad for next season as it stands, its young but we would hopefully add some free’s to beef it up.

    RB’s Bree/elmo/delaet…..

    CB’s Elphick/ chester/Jedinak/ suliman………..

    LB’s Hutton/clark/borg

    Midfield…. Thor, lyden, Doyle hayes, Grealish , ohare, Taylor, Abdo,
    hourihane, Clarke.

    Strikers/wingers…. Hepburn murphy, Hogan, Davis, Mckirdy, Albert,Green

    there is obviously Kodjia, RMC and a few others but I’m looking at those unlikely to be sold bar Grealish and Chester.

  76. Some interesting comments on here.
    But at the end of the day, it all rests with the good Dr as to which route we take for next season. Do we completely overhaul the management team – if SB goes then I guess all his backroom go as well? How will that affect the players who seem to have some sort of bond with SB and his team?
    Maybe we will be surprised and Jack, JT and others will stay with us.
    Or maybe there will be a complete overhaul of players as well?

    So many options that may or may not happen. As was said in an earlier post – I don’t envy the decision makers who have so much resting on which road they take us down.

    And what has happened to Brian Little? Is he still part of the background team as an advisor? Don’t seem to have seen much of him recently.

    The next few weeks may be interesting for us all and having the World Cup won’t help as so many will be tied up with that.

    Completely different tack – shouldnt Ramos be banned for targetting Salah last night and nearly breaking his arm …………….. plus that blatant and pathetic play acting when he went down holding his face but no-one had touched him. What a tosser …….

    Right, off out for another wedding anniversary meal….

  77. Plug. No need for ‘happy clapper’ insult to be trotted out again for people who have a different but equally valid opinion to your own.
    fact is that only two teams scored more goals than us and ours came from all over the pitch. A huge improvement on all recent seasons.
    If we’re honest then we all recognise that in the second half of the season Fulham were the best team in the division, and if they turned up on the day we were going to find it difficult
    They did turn up, and we did find it difficult.

    Oh, and although their keeper didn’t have much to do, he did make a good save from Jack’s mazy run into the box. Johnson was hardly tested either by the way

  78. Mark, that squad has enough players with promise to give some sort of confidence for next season
    You’d have to hope for some decent loan players coming in too

  79. Dear Villans (and Villanesses!),

    Well, it’s been quite a finish hasn’t it?

    The following is my view as written on my own blog (some of these issues tally with points already raised):

    Let’s Not Forget That Defeat Can Be Turned Into Something Better

    Perhaps it’s all a blessing in disguise. No promotion, of course, but I think the club now has the big opportunity to re-assess what it’s about, confirm what’s good and reject the bad.

    We must not forget, for example, that a massive attempt has been made to turn the old club around since Dr. Xia’s arrival. Clearly, attitudes in the dressing room were far from ideal, and the Doc’s first managerial appointment didn’t seem to have an idea on how to deal with it. Hence the arrival of Bruce with a lot of experience and achievement at this level, though a trifle fixed in his ways. But, no matter how we might criticise his approach, I believe that it was mainly down to pressure from above as the Doc wanted promotion as of this day. We came close, and – it could be argued – that we lost it, not that Fulham won it. Lost it because we had our fair share of chances but our attempts were weak and out of sorts.

    And before Fulham scored, if Snodgrass had been more aware he would have made better attempts at putting Albert through. Three times, not just once. And, sad to say, Snodgrass was profligate throughout the match apart from one free kick that was nicely fed to Jack. Snodgrass is a wholehearted trier, but of late his actual achievements on the pitch seem to have been lacking to my eyes.

    And now – surely – we will have seen the last of Snodgrass, Johnstone, Grabban and Onomah. And Hogan, I’d hope. I’m not deterred by those departures as I feel that Jack Steer can do the job in goal and, as for the outfield players, surely we will now see more of the younger men. Even if we lose Hutton then I think we have a good supply at full-back, and with Davis and Green already well tried, we have (Albert and Kodjia still being here I’d hope) a good supply in the striker and wing departments. We should still have Hourihane, though I’m not mightily convinced by him, but – with the addition of Jack (who will surely stay) – other midfield places should start to be made available to the young ones.

    The main concern just now must be with the centre back spots. Will Chester and Terry stay? I’d hope at least Chester will.

    Frustrating though it might be that we’re not now back in the top-flight, I feel as though it will be third time lucky this coming season. I believe that Bruce and all did everything they could, but it was just not achievable: the time seems not to have been ripe. That is all: in my opinion the current situation is a measure of how the character of the club had slipped before the Doc took over. The last missing chinks can now be plugged in.

    So, there endeth my contributions to AVL, such as they have been.

    As with anything we do not really know what the future will bring, but I feel strangely opti about the Villa.

    I wish you all the very best and hope that you will enjoy next season – as surely you will!

    John’s website:

  80. well at least the idea of bruce been a good manager is burried,
    imagine been beaten 2 seasons running by warnock [shameful] who had pennies to spend compared to riches bruce had,
    one picture from yesterday villa defending a corner with fulham down to 10 men we had all 11 players inside our own box , bruces idea of change was put albert back to left back comedy at its best if it wasnt so serious for our once great club

    by the way good luck john lerwil in your retirement enjoyed reading your post for most of my time on here

  81. JG,

    Josh Onomah is quoted as saying (about Bruce): “”He’s an experienced man, as a manager and a player. For him to give me information you know what he’s saying and you just have to take it on board, just learn from him as much as possible.”

    So when anyone says that Bruce is not a good manager I say, let the players tell you whether he is good or not. Once the players get on the pitch it’s not too much in the manager’s hands – Villa could have won that yesterday. They didn’t and we have to accept that.

    Did we- as supporters – approve of everything Bruce did? No, of course not. Even Ron Saunders was harangued by supporters. So was Joe Mercer – badly so. But because we haven’t achieved promotion that’s not to say that Bruce is not a good manager. The players have a say in what happens.

  82. JL
    I thought retiring hastens letting go of this realm.
    I hope you pop up occasionally, & stay busy.
    I think mostly the same things are being said in different ways, & agree that it may be a blessing in disguise, as we were not ready for the premiership & were too fragmented & lacking in strength & depth of direction, & not involving the kids enough was symptomatic of that, which was odds on to end up in coming straight down.

    The question remains whether the manager’s conservatism will be detrimental next season.
    This season his strengths were appropriate for repairing the underlying problems, but not so much for going forward in a less conservative & more youthful energetic way, which I think is required.
    The back room will keep the continuity of what has been achieved in the heart of the club, & would protect us from an all or nothing scenario, so we are half way towards a more permanent rebuild strategy.

    We haven’t the money to throw at it, & have too many lame ducks on expensive contracts, where there is little return possible, & it would cost too much to get rid of them.
    So we have little choice but to try for good loan players [Bruce may be useful in attracting those], & promoting the best of the U23s & trying to unearth some gems for little outlay [not Bruce’s strength].

    Manchester City used the loans of cash & sponsorship from the owner’s company route, but I’m unclear as to whether this is possible in the EFL.
    We really need a super Steve Stride figure for the commercial dept.

  83. John L. As I was driving along this morning I thought . . . I wonder what’s happened to JL. Nice to see you’re still around and writing.

    You’re right of course that Bruce is without question a ‘good’ manager if not a great one. The real question is whether he is right for Villa.
    The balance of online opinion seems to be ‘no’ although it’s a moot point whether ‘offline’ fans would feel the same. I also suspect that the media ‘experts’ would advise us to stick with Bruce but I’m not convinced that they know as much about the details of individual clubs as the fans do.

  84. JL
    We could always go for the foreign manager route who has shares in top agent’s companies, & connections with major European clubs.

  85. An amusing quote from the Guardian about Grealish:
    “Rarely can a player have been fouled as much and this was like watching George Best up against a whole team of Chopper Harrises”.

  86. Good summary of the current situation IanG
    It’s been clear for weeks that the management team have been considering various possible outcomes so if there are going to be big changes I suspect we’ll hear about them pretty soon. . . . the decisions will have already been made, so why wait?

  87. r0bb0,

    Yes, I’m pretty well agreed with your comment, although on the issue of whether he’s right for Villa let’s not forget that there’s now a team in place to direct Villa’s playing fortunes – it’s not all down to Bruce.

    On balance I’d say Bruce has not done that much wrong and that we should stick with Bruce for the sake of continuity. For one more season at least. With losing Jack for a few months and not really seeing much of Codger either (nor Green!), I think Villa have been unlucky (because of those injuries to vital players).

  88. Mark, just read those trickles you gave links for. The second one is a great summary of some of the options open to us. They are each, genuine options and the management team will have to chose (probably have already chosen) which is their preferred route.
    The big inponderable is whether Grealish and Chester in particular want to go along with the management’s plans!

  89. As MK’s links show, there’s plenty of speculation about what could happen next at VP. I’ve never been one to listen to what the powers that be say. Instead I’ll be watching what they do. That will tell us everything. My gut feeling is all change but we’ll know for sure soon enough.

  90. Fulham played 3 at the back with both FB’s deployed as wingers. We didn’t have the pace down the flanks to push them back.

    I think 3 at the back is very attacking as it loads the midfield and gets control of a game. The requisite being that the back 3 need pace. It’s why we can’t play that formation.

    I also noted that each Fulham player was comfortable on the ball, didn’t panic and executed telling passes (until the last 10 mins when they just hoofed it forward). Jack’s about the only player we have that is equally as comfortable on the ball. All in MHO.

  91. Robbo- Can’t imagine Grealish not buying into another tilt with some of the U23’s with him personally, especially with his family ties to Villa and being a home bird. I don’t think he’s ready to go to a top club, might be wrong.

    Chester might well cash in and I don’t blame him after losing the captaincy while being the clear standout other than Jack in quality. That said we will need to raise funds and they are it. I really do hope we don’t become forced to cash in on the youth for pittances . Chester could easily become what JT was brought in to be and rally the team.

    I take heart in the performances of the U23’s in the cups and how they gelled with Elmo and Hogan particularly and even Albert. They will grow quickly if given the chance.

    The only problem I see is if Bruce is here and wants them to play his way, I know he bemoans that we didn’t play well enough first half yesterday which is apparently out of his control? but miraculously we came out second half and attacked so I’m not buying it, we played to much like the semis and several games after losing Grealish and Adomah for it to be anything but instruction, he has a voice on the side line, use it, didn’t see much urging them forward going on. Its going to take a massive shift in his thinking for Bruce to get the best from whats left, we saw glimpses of it at times, he has to lose his own fear of losing.

    My hope is Chester, Hourihane, thor, jedinak, Albert, Hogan will be enough to anchor the side coupled with the youth, some like Hourihane may step out of the shadows and be the captains they were at their former clubs.

  92. Plug
    In my piece that I wrote, it was a deliberately balanced view based on what has been reportedly said.
    Like you my initial gut reaction [especially after seeing footage of the Doc towards the end of the match where I saw the anger in his face], is that there will be change coming.
    Also being a fan is a gut process not based on a civilised intellectual conjecture on what we would like to see.
    I also have my own view on what I would like to see happen, which hasn’t changed in the last few months, just quietened a little where support has been more important than distractions.

  93. Plug
    England playing 3 at the back recently with Walker on the right of the three is something that may be interesting in the world cup.
    He has pace to burn.
    Yes we have been limited in our tactics by such things as Bruce commented, but that’s his fault.

  94. Plug- fortunately the U23’s are taught to like the ball and move it quickly whilst moving themselves, can’t believe how little movement we had 1st half. With the likes of Ohare , RHM and Blackett Taylor teams will have more than Jack to kick off the park giving jack much more room and options, especially if Doyle Hayes can run the midfield with Thor. I’m praying Lyden can get and stay fit a vastly underrated player would instantly make us more mobile.

  95. JL. . . . if we’d had just Grealish for the whole season (never mind Green and Kodjia too) I think we’d have been automatically promoted.

    Sadly, it’s water under the bridge now and we’ll never know how the ‘might have beens’ would have worked out.

    I do think that Bruce deserves credit for not only recognising Jack’s innate talent, but also building the team around him and giving him the confidence and guidance to allow him finally to thrive.

    He tried with Davis too but then found it was a little bit too soon for him. Like most others on here, I would have liked to see him do even more with the youth players but given the brief to try and get promotion this year you can understand why he went for experience . . . . and it so nearly paid off!

  96. Mark
    I don’t think that Bruce being here or not will be crucial in his decision, for the reasons you state.
    Other than that, as you say, we have most of a spine as it stands, & with the U23s & a few intelligent additions we may be able to go on to the next stage, especially as the players concerned have already gelled with the spine that is left.
    I have no problem with Davis, Hogan & Codger [if he’s still here]as the main forwards leading the line, especially with Grealish.
    Another manager also may well get something out of RMC.
    I don’t think we are in such bad shape as all that, but for me Bruce is the potential problem with inbuilt excuses already expressed.

  97. r0bb0
    I seem to remember that Sherwood also did the same as Bruce in putting Grealish at the focal point of the team, but Jack hadn’t grown or toughened up in that season or the last, which is why Garde didn’t seem to include him so much, as there was a relegation pressure.
    Bruce dealt wisely with him, which helped, but mostly it’s been down to Jack sorting his attitude & knuckling down, & the support of the group has been invaluable, with Onomah quoted as saying how close they all were.
    Yes we can thank Bruce for being a major part in changing the culture, but if he’s still here next season it will be more of the same with decisions based on fear as he can’t help it, which has undone his good work, resulting in us being still in the EFL.

  98. mark, my guy says that Jack will give it another season and that we’ll see other youth players break through
    I do hope so!

  99. Robbo- I don’t think Grealish would of made the same impact, his Injury and the work done in the Gym transformed him physically allowing him to be quicker and more robust but Crucially he had Time to get stronger, Can’t do that while playing two games a week but you can maintain it. Before injury I’d never seen him sprint or tackle, Knowing the lad that trained Grealish in his injured period and the whole story behind it, I feel this is true.

    Davis dug Bruce out of a hole and ran himself into the ground, it was unfair on him and its Bruces tactics that eventually wore him out. He was Virtually Covering half a pitch on his own at times, something Hogan was forced to do and eventually Grabban to his detriment also imo.

  100. R0bBo,

    If that happens then great.

    But if Spud is still the manager……….then not so great. The Championship has changed since his successes in it. It now attracts better foreign coaches, 4 at the back with a holding midfielder is old school and formations and player types have changed.

  101. Ian G. . . . yes you’re right about the fear/lack of self confidence holding us back.

    Against wolves and Cardiff it seemed that Bruce felt we had nothing to lose and so ‘went for it’.

    The players showed that they had it in them to prevail under those circumstances.

    Would we have won if we’d gone for it from the start against Fulham as JC wanted . . . . maybe.

    We know now that we the alternative didn’t work!

  102. r0bb0
    If we know the alternative won’t work, then why do people think anything will change with another year of Bruce?

  103. Back home at last from Wembley……

    Will write my full thoughts on this massive game and the effect it will have on our future in the morning, as JT and Bruce depart and all the loanees are returned, including all our own, many who have been forgotten about….!!

  104. PP
    Yes it will be nice to see our diminutive midfielder & the rest of our ghost battalion.
    If we do get a management change, all will start again, but otherwise maybe not.

  105. ian g
    you mentioned grealish getting kicked you have to ask where our midfield enforcer was,i mean bruce only signed 15 players and yet 5 of 11 to start arent bruce signings,jedi was playing too deep to cover our defence shocking lack of pace both in defence and attack

  106. IanG. The alternative didn’t work this year.

    If we could keep this team together I’d be confident we’d go up next year.

    It’s hard to see how we’ll keep this team together though, and if we can’t then a different approach seems inevitable

  107. Amazing really that our jan window was an attempt to fill in the gaps still while Fulham brought in a forward that transformed their seasons down added the final touches. Like it or not we are a patchwork quilt of a team.

  108. JG
    Well he can’t follow jack all over the pitch, so I don’t understand your question.
    Also I’m not sure that your emphasis of how Jedi played holds water, maybe it was when my stream froze.
    Yes I agree that a number of Bruce’s signings didn’t work out very well & cost a lot of money that we can’t recoup, which many of us are not so happy about.

  109. Mark
    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, patchwork we are, with either not much of an apparent long term transfer plan, or one that was not very well executed, or a mixture of both.
    The Team Spirit was relied on more than accessing the right mix of players it seems.
    But that probably brought the club out of 10 years of slowly being poisoned to death, for which I am grateful, but it was never a viable long term solution,

  110. ian g
    what i meant was where is our hardman in midfield, if he was doing to fulham what they where doing to grealish they fulham might not have been so brave in kicking a light 22 year old, houirane looked best when partnered by birr someone with legs,whelan and jedi are to far away from him in general,like grealish getting kicked wasnt first time that happened so why where we not protecting him better

  111. ian g
    team spirit or squad spirit bruce players have nothing but good to say about him ,at least 2 where previous signings but what about 8/9 left out i am pretty sure if you asked gollina delaet bree elphik birr lansbury hogan and youth might be different story, if you cant blood youth in a team with chester terry jedi etc what chance when all these experienced players leave

  112. Admittedly the better team won, although it is through gritted teeth. Where it not for TV money far outstripping ticket sales I would have said that Fulham would be a one season wonder in the Prem and not offer much beyond relegation fodder. Having said that, the style and pace of football played by Fulham alongside that TV money gives them every chance in what is (outside top 6) a very poor premiership.

    More importantly, where does this leave Villa, I note the first lines from JLs blog above opining that the club has a big opportunity to assess what it is about, a few of us were calling for that 2 years ago upon relegation and while time has passed, it still grates me as a missed chance to establish Villa identity.

    If this is to be the time to determine the next phase of Aston Villa, then I’d suggest that one assessment is the player acquisition and more so the use of, in the loan space only Johnston/Snodgrass proved to be successes, we got Bjarneson, Hourihane and Lansbury and only got some degree of effectiveness from Hourihane, I could go on.

    I’ll re-state where I want to see my club albeit without having any influence over it, in that I want a Villa football style not dictated by promotion at all costs, it is what the Huddersfields and Fulhams have achieved over a number of years and we’ve lost two in a mad dash to get back to the Prem. The club from the outset needs a patient approach that will allow youth to develop in a system that is all about pace, power and inventiveness in attack and doggedness in defence. I do believe we have a good spine if Johnston, Chester, Hourihane, Grealish stays and if we figure how to use our strikers to the best of their abilities.

  113. IanG: r0bb0
    The problem is that you said that last year

    I didn’t actually.
    I was one of the few people last year who had the confidence to say that I thought we ‘could’ get promoted with Bruce and stated on here that I thought we’d end the season in 6th to 8th. Even back then (despite what some now claim) I was seen as being optimistic!

    As it turns out . . . ‘Even I’ was being pessimistic about our league position.

    So I am happy to be quoted next year that

    “if we manage to keep this team and manager together we will get automatic promotion next year.”

    I don’t think that we’ll be able to keep it together though which is why I agree that a completely new start may now be needed.

  114. If we change managers then I don’t think we’ll get automatic promotion next year

    And I would be genuinely delighted for you to remember that and rub my nose in it this time next year!

  115. DoR
    Agree with a lot of what you say. You mention ‘getting the most out of our strikers’

    It’s something that Mark touched on earlier.

    It does seem that we’ve invested in strikers without knowing how to use them. This is a justified criticism of Bruce’s style of play.
    It looked as if the introduction of Agnew had dramatically improved things but that then faded.
    We did see goals from throughout the team which was great but we wasted a load of cash on strikers we couldn’t use effectively

  116. DoR
    It occurs to me that there may be one flaw in your argument.
    I can see us hanging onto the spine of the team if we have a realistic proposition of promotion next year.
    It’s much less likely that Grealish or Chester will want to hang around for 2 or 3 seasons while we rebuild

  117. Robbo- I question this idea of consistency in manager, partly because the team is not very likely to be here that he seems to fall back to, even when the Jan period (our best run) showed that by omitting some ever presents and adding some of his lesser favoured we can plan better football.
    Even when we had that Jan team available in later months he never repeated it. Add to that many of the players he promoted over ones we own are likely to be here, clearly he doesn’t rate them if he chose to play a virtually unknown Manure player over Bree and Grabban over Hogan etc, Onamah? can’t see the ship remaining that happy.

    I wouldn’t waste your time predicting outcomes yet I would say its 100% nailed on we won’t have the same team 50/50 on the manager, considering he’s likely to be stripped of his team what chance is it he will produce another to get promotion with no funds and the likely sale of his better players? might as well install a manager that understands the modern game.

  118. Oh and I hate to add the team if kept together would be even older than this season and we know how that went with games coming thick and fast.

  119. Hi Robbo

    I did say if they stay, they all may feel their talents are prem level alongside the pay increase it will bring, there are too many unknowns as MK refers to. I’d hope our youth are the answer along with the way they play football and the spine I refer to sticking around, the club is bigger than any player so if they move on to better things given our status, I won’t begrudge them.

    If part or all of the spine did stay together, it would be a useful base for our youth to progress with.

  120. r0bb0
    It was a little tongue in cheek mate.
    It just seems that you’ve been saying it that long that it seems that it was at the beginning of the season.
    In effect you might has well have been, as it seems even longer than that.

  121. JG
    It seems Fulham were instructed to do an old fashioned nobbling job on Grealish, & to win fair or foul, as they didn’t do the same all round.
    What goes around comes around.
    With Jedi you get his heading ability & defensive strengths, & with the viking you get more forward mobility.
    With a forward thinking manager you get timely substitutions.
    I thought Jedi was breaking up play myself.
    To protect Grealish properly you need 2 or 3 as dangerous as him, which we haven’t got, & a decent ref, which we didn’t get either.
    As you, me & others have been saying for months, the Bruce model if found out will be detrimental, so to ask for more of the same with no money, is a little deluded if you ask me.
    Time for someone new at the helm, as I haven’t got long enough left on the planet to wait for them to fap about any more.

    Seems Real did a nobbling job on Salah

  122. Mark
    Should be interesting to find out what the decision is on the manager scenario.
    As Einstein said, to keep repeating something that doesn’t work is the very definition of insanity, & in this case incompetence.

  123. Robbo- I predicted we would get a play off spot with an outside chance of 2nd so I am officially more positive than Yow 😉

    Anyone got any thoughts on managers? I like Dean Smith, likely to be cheap and clearly plays in a way that could suit us and few of our players/youth. Also knows the lower leagues, I would be surprised if this season is billed as a promotion push I really will but I think saying its not that would give us breathing space. However with the right additions I think we may surprise ourselves and others. Solving no 9 is paramount, we either play to what we have( smith knows Hogans game) or get a mitrovic of our own if possible.

    Other possibles, Silva, Big Sam, Warnock 🙂 money would be the problem for most of them , and my outside bet at the moment as I haven’t really done much digging is Mellberg, recently had two back to back promotions with Brommapojkarna taking them back to the top flight, currently on sabbatical to hone his coaching skills.

    How about a Dean Smith- mellberg Combo? dreaming I know but looks tasty on paper

  124. MK – Think Dean Smith would be the best fit. Though JT might be a risk worth taking. Either way a new man needs time and I think we can forget a promotion push next season. It’s team building time.

    We have some exciting youth players, but they need more time as well as exposure to the Championship. Looks like we’ll have Gill back too. (Not James).

    I do hope Frem and Andrew are OK.

  125. Wembley as I saw it.

    The game was really lost in the first 15 minutes, with Villa set up with a lone striker in Grabban, a pedestrian pace that gave a Fulham side the chance to settle, adjust to the atmosphere, and realise that their manager was right in the way Villa would play.

    Villa were never at the races, and the fact that Jack got fouled a lot was down to the way he played, trying to frustrate Fulham by drawing fouls, holding the ball longer than he needed to, rather than moving it on quickly. Whatever happened to one touch football?

    All Villa’s build ups from defence took so long that Fulham were back in droves to pack their defence, whereas when they broke they were fast, direct and moved the ball on with one touch, which resulted in their goal.

    For all the use Jedinak and Hourihane were, they may as well not have been on the pitch, and Chester could only play at half his game, after his fear from the early booking. Yes, the refereeing was poor, but we know that will always be the case, and just need to get on with the game. Fulham did what they said they were going to do and target Terry, which they did very effectively.

    Villa should have started the second half with Bjarnason, Lansbury and Hepburn-Murphy, (but of course he was not even on the bench) or Kodjia, and the second half onslaught may have been more effective, but 3 substitutes in the 77 minute is not the answer. The game was all but over by this time. Cannot comment on the penalty shouts, as I need to see them again, but agree with the players that should have been red carded and sent off.

    Jack tried to play like a hero and win it on his own, and could have done with more support, if only to lessen the concentration on him. Adomah had some great moments working the ball in the box, but where oh where were the mid field and forwards to run on to the balls. As usual the crosses were a waste of time with no-one to get on the end of them. Free kicks wasted again, except for the one, where if Jack had taken his time, he should have scored off, as he should have done when he broke through and only had to place his shot either side of the keeper, but chose to shoot meekly at him.

    Hogan in the dying minutes in a perfect position to put his head and neck into the ball and direct back where it came from and into the net, chose to just nod it on, making it an easy save for the keeper.

    All in all, another disaster planned and executed by Bruce.

    What a difference listening to Paul Warne from Rotherham yesterday, saying that he plans the team for every match, and the opposition they will face. In other words no matter how good you are, if you do not fit for a particular game you will not play, and he is the first manager this season to beat the team from above in the play offs.

    Terry has already gone and jumped ship, or jumped on someone’s yacht, having lost his £million bonus or more….not a happy man.

    Bruce will stay, but only if Dr Tony wants him…..I think it will be a big red no from China, where failure is not acceptable.

    As I have said, all the loanees will be returned to their respective clubs, as Villa have enough in the squad without them, as well as many youngsters bursting a gut to get into the team. We need also to trim our huge payroll by a significant amount to continue our survival.

    I am not in the Dean Smith camp, or any similar situation. Dr Tony, I am sure has been thinking long and hard about how Villa so nearly made it, and what should he do to make it happen next season.

    For my money, if Bruce is to go, I would be looking at David Wagner, maybe Rapha Benitez, and someone who has the ability to take us forward, maybe Eddie Howe, who given the financial backing, has a very good record.

  126. Would rather take Paul Warne over Dean Smith and some of the others mentioned. He took a relegated Rotherham side and succeeded in bringing them back with good football.

  127. r0bb0: “JL. . . . if we’d had just Grealish for the whole season (never mind Green and Kodjia too) I think we’d have been automatically promoted. Sadly, it’s water under the bridge now and we’ll never know how the ‘might have beens’ would have worked out.”

    Quite right, but I was not expressing the issue as a “might have been” but simply as a statement of fact. To have some important players out for as long as they were (and Hogan being mostly disappointing) is almost certain to have an affect on the end result, meaning automatic promotion. However, Albert scoring so many was a bonus and getting Snodgrass in proved to be a good move, though I think he was over-tired by the last few games. He seemed to lose some coordination in the last few games.

  128. PP- none of those are likely to come here while in prem jobs and frankly we can’t afford to pay to get them, and lets face it financially we can’t back them either.

  129. Paul: “The game was really lost in the first 15 minutes, with Villa set up with a lone striker in Grabban…

    Though clearly Fulham were the best footballing side in that first half at least, Villa (Snodgrass) could have put Albert through 3 times before Fulham scored.

    What I’m saying is that with a bit more vision in those first 15 minutes it could well have been Villa in the lead and probably a very different match would have resulted.

  130. JL,

    I couldn’t agree more, but when the players are told to keep their shape and not stray from the plan, then what happened yesterday is the result. It may have worked against Middlesboro’, but it will never work every time, because other teams work out how to beat it…!!

  131. JL- No doubt we could of done many things but thats says it all for most of this season, to much huff and puff and little Guile, incorrect use of the players we have, Grabban used as a hold up player what a waste, looked no more effective in the end than Hogan.

    As far as injuries go we had our share as did Fulham and Cardiff, The goal scorer yesterday cairney missed 14 games mostly early season when Fulham were struggling. Be nice to have a full squad but that rarely happens.

  132. MK,

    Villa have no problem affording the manager’s wages, but they do have a problem with al the players’ wages they are paying, and I certainly think that Wagner made the right offer would be a great fit for Villa, if Dr Tony still wants to bring European football to Villa Park.

  133. MK,

    Supporters are never happy are they! 😀

    I still think it a miracle that this club has turned around as much as it has after those 6 years of waste.

    I’d suggest that only now is the time to start expectation on the basis that we have a real club to support. Before Bruce arrived (despite any fouibles he might have) it was in a sorry state, but no longer.

    Now we’ve got some pride back is the time to push forward.

  134. JL,

    If we had watched a game similar to the one between Shrewsbury and Rotherham yesterday, then I am sure that the fans would be happy that at least both teams had made a real game of it, realising that you have to score to win.

  135. Jl- never will be 🙂

    playing well and winning can have remarkable restorative effects, unfortunately not having a viable plan in the chance you don’t make it is idiocy of the highest order to me. Basing our clubs happiness level on transient players in the hope something sticks once they are gone? We will see. Also having a manager in situe with players he doesn’t appear to trust and youth players he deems not ready and players he can’t shift? Don’t think I want to see that happen. We will see how much is real and how much is smoke and mirrors very soon. A real team is yet to emerge, I’ve seen a lot of back slapping without a plan to excecute

  136. PP- there good managers but I can’t see how we can afford to be paying their clubs £5m then pay them £2m a year, Bruce is on £1m rolling I think. Bruce may still be here purely because it’s the cheapest option.

  137. Should Dr.T pull the trigger then,

    Giovanni van Bronckhorst is doing great things with Feyeenord and would be my left of centre recommendation before Dr.T, going for a safe bet in the managerial merry-go-round were friends recommend friends and we end up with David Moyes.

    As we are biased Villans we only want the best but I do believe within the football world, there is an understanding that Villa is a big club with great facilities so attracting a good manager shouldn’t be a problem if Dr.T heads that direction.

    We in my opinion need a manager that genuinely trusts youth and prefers to try and win as opposed to avoiding being beaten. I’m far from convinced by Bruce on those aspects alone and we’ve discussed all the situations during the season were this long standing manager had to hold his hand up and admit his costly mistakes.

    The future is bright though, we’ve an owner who cares, a football policy bearing fruit at underage level. What that does need is a manager who buys into that philosophy and that should be the hiring policy and as such Bruce’s tenure has runs its course, not out of malice but the football policy has to take precedence and his way is at odds with this. The reality is that every player should be able to slot into the next level up because they all play the same way so there is no surprises when the next big thing just slots straight in as if he’s been there all his life (which he will have).

    Bruce has been more than adequately supported, multiple midfielders bought at the same time, multiple strikers bought but not one played in the same way that made them successful at their previous clubs and in while we’ve come close for the money spent the experience bought or loaned in we should have achieved 2nd spot given how terrific Wolves were over the season.

  138. Dor- I agree

    We were in a poor state to start but we lurched from trying to produce an overwhelming attacking side to a Overly defensive one over two seasons. The main thought process has appeared to be Buy the best we can or the best available in this league at the time or Buy experienced ex prem players.

    We have not only been shown by Newcastle and Brighton how that should be done but also by Huddersfield, Cardiff, Fulham and wolves how it doesn’t necessarily take Huge experience just a well executed plan and style whatever that may be, I never felt we got anywhere near that, just overwhelming teams on the day with whichever players was up for it that day as our quality of individual was high.

  139. Paul: “If we had watched a game similar to the one between Shrewsbury and Rotherham yesterday, then I am sure that the fans would be happy that at least both teams had made a real game of it, realising that you have to score to win.”

    Here we go again – the same old dissatisfied mantras! Everyone wants instant attainment.

    Firstly, Villa did try to win and should have scored at least one in the first 15 minutes – as already discussed. It is nonsense to say that Villa didn’t try to win it though I agree they did not put themselves enough on the front foot first half.

    Second, maybe Villa were not ready for the Prem yet? Perhaps waiting another season is the right thing to bring the club to the proper levels for a solid start on getting back to the Prem?

    Thirdly, things don’t always work out when you want them to. We should know that as elder statesmen! 😉

    Now, having said three or four times more than I intended since yesterday, I’m going back into blog retirement. Well, three-quarters retirement at least. 🙂

    Cheerio for now, chaps!

  140. Even the manager said we didn’t turn up first half? how can that be dissatisfaction JL? its merely stating a fact, as is we could of had a goal if we’d done this or that but we didn’t, that I am afraid is the story of our season generally. I’m not dissatisfied I am disappointed that our club has poured the Parachute money down the drain when with a better more measured approach we could have had something to show for it and be proud of instead we are in a potential shitstorm again. Nobody can predict the future but we do appear doomed to repeat the same mistakes?

  141. Mark – are you being a bit over the top here?
    “and be proud of instead we are in a potential shitstorm again. Nobody can predict the future but we do appear doomed to repeat the same mistakes?”

    So you aren’t proud of our team?
    “Potential shitstorm” with the operative word being potential ….. we know nothing yet.
    “Doomed to repeat the same mistakes” …. emotive word doomed. And are we really doomed to repeat the same mistakes? You know this? Or do you write for the Sun lol?!

    The good Dr is a businessman. As is Wyness. Do you really think that they don’t have backup plan? Whatever that may be? Or is everyone thinking that there was no planning in place depending upon what the season brought us?
    We do not who will be manager.
    We do not know which players will still be with us.
    We do not know what players will be joining us. Or rejoining us.
    We really know very little except that we were better than the majority of the Championship last season. And we failed at the final hurdle. And that really hurts.

    Lets give the time for things to unfold before we all slash our wrists or go and pledge our support to Sutton Town instead ……..
    Basic conjecture/discussion is good until it all gets emotive to the point of everything is totally sh!te in the Villa world. Which it certainly is not. Yet.

    Yours as the voice of reason, oldvilla

  142. OV- several sources are saying we are in the shit not just me mate, £30,000 average wage in our team and a drop in income of £20m, take a look at the numbers on our books, if we cannot shift we will have to subsidise loans as they are on high wages, we will have to sell and clubs know it and that means cut price sales.

    Do I think wyness and Tony don’t have a plan? I think they hope they have, as I have said it will depend on who they can shift and afford to keep. When the books came out and the losses of £81m were mentioned I think even Xia was shocked, we got that down to £14m this time out with player sales, that isn’t going to change much. Whether I’m proud of the team or not means nothing now and 5-6 are gone for good, we will not be giving JT £50k a week. Very proud of the Youth team though, they are still here.

  143. instead of the man from delmonte we have the man from the land of cuckoo clocks,must be living high up in the hills where the air is a bit thin it affects his brain

  144. Mark – I’m sure that the Dr and Wyness must have put in place plans for all eventualities and we will see what they are very soon.
    And as for the Dr being shocked by the losses – I can’t say that I heard about that but maybe you have inside info? But I would question how good his Due Diligence was for him to be shocked by the numbers.
    I think we all agree that there will be changes to a lesser or greater degree and we can’t keep dealing the way we did last the last couple of years. It just depends who, why, what and where the changes will be …….

    BTW – I asked the question in a previous post as to what has happened to Brian Little? Is he still an advisor at the club? JUst haven’t heard or seen him for quite some time…….

    Night all, oldvilla

  145. OV
    It is what it is yes, but what is it?
    We can only conjecture at the moment, but that is what a blog is for isn’t it?
    I like many on here am not too surprised at the outcome, but very disappointed.
    There has been a certain predictability to events.
    I also am very proud of the u23s, & they led the line for us all.
    For the past 5 years or more we have been crying out for creativity, so maybe we will open up into that direction & we will be surprised.
    But imo Bruce is too limited in that way, but what do we know, we are only the lifelong fans.

  146. JG
    Depressing isn’t it, coming from B’ham I understand the people from the land where it pisses down all the time.
    Especially after the most spectacular storm I’ve seen since I visited the Himalaya.
    Even saw a car attempting to float down the River Cole

  147. “Here we go again – the same old dissatisfied mantras! Everyone wants instant attainment.”
    Are you being serious, JL? What do you mean by “instant attainment.” I understand that success can take time, but Villa has struggled for a fair few years now, and fans can’t be blamed for demanding success happen sooner than later because as Nottingham Forest, LUFC; the Sheffield clubs etc have shown, staying in the Championship can be for a very long time,

  148. Trnity,

    I accept that fans have suffered a long time, but that’s not much to do with Dr. Xia – or Bruce.

    We’ve just taken less than 20 months (since Bruce arrived) to get this far and when Bruce did arrive the dressing room – we’re informed- was in a bad state after the previous years of mis-management.

    So, in the Villa’s new guise – and the first one to make progess in 8 years – this baby is only 20 months old. It’s barely yet learnt to walk! 😀

  149. JL – I agree that Bruce was the man to change the dressing room atmosphere and create a semblance of a team. And I agree that the play off was always going to be a gamble, we failed and thats it. But is he the one to take us forward or has he done his part for Villa? The questions remain on whether he can put a team together that will finish first or second next year with a much reduced budget. My biggest concern is that he has never had a plan B and we will continue to have mixed results.

  150. got laugh bruce saved dressing room ,not his fault we are not promoted.he had no money to spend ,he cut wages [snodgrass terry],he might be a nice man good family man but that does not mean he is cut out to manage our club

  151. Trin,

    We are supposed to have the Villa Engine. Meaning that everyone in the club runs the same way from top to bottom. Except we don’t. The U23’s play progressive attacking football with pace and without fear. The first team is directly the opposite.

    So the question I have concerns the manager. Can he change the first team to the same engine or will he insist that the U23’s start playing in his defensive mode? Because a leopard doesn’t change its spots, I think his time is up and yes, we will be in this division for some time whoever takes over unless the Board can find a miracle appointment. Unfortunately, miracles are not on special offer at Tesco’s.

  152. Plug and all,

    For the life of me I don’t understand all this defeatism. The situation is not at all perfect, of course, but Villa have been through equivalent situations before in its history and (eventually) come out of it smelling roses.

    The right decisions being made is of course vitally important, but to assume that things will stay as they are if Bruce stays is without foundation. There is a posse on top of him and around him that will decide whether he can carry Villa into the Premiership, and if they conclude that he can then – particularly if the Doc signs off on it – we should wait with confidence as to the result.

    Importantly, the answers to Villa’s future don’t lie simply with Bruce.

    One thing I observe is that (if for no other reason than Villa’s financial plight) the youth will be injected this coming season. Not all of ’em, but I’d guess we’d see Bree, Green, Davis, O’Hare, RHM forming the main contingent. If they’re not played then those youngsters will surely get fed up – it’s not in Villa’s interest to let that happen and the Doc will consider that, I’m sure.

  153. JL – I wouldn’t call it defeatism. More a discussion about whether SB is the right man to take us forward from this difficult situation.

    Yep, we’ve had much worse in the past and recovered and we will become a force in the top flight again. I agree dumping SB and choosing the wrong replacement will be catastrophic.

    If my memory is not a train wreck, didn’t you hold the same views this time last year? Weren’t you saying give him another season to get promotion and if he fails then OK it will be time to replace him? Have you changed your mind or am I misrepresenting you?

  154. Such is the life of any football team supporter, having no influence and always searching for the answer to whatever particular woe there is. To my mind only the Wolves 4-1 was the only truly outstanding game where pressure, power, pace and will to win were at their foremost, now while a squad wouldn’t be able to maintain that over a season, it is representative of what the squad was capable of but for Bruce’s tactics another manager with a let’s win as opposed to avoid defeat would have gotten more out of the squad. (If you doubt that we played to avoid defeat, i’ll mention the role of Jedinak and/or Whelan in protecting the back four and reducing the number of forward thinking players game in,game out)

    I see the word stability has reared it’s ugly head on TVB and it won’t be long until it is used as part of maintaining the status quo at manager level but the status quo won’t be maintained at player level and with less to invest you can be sure we’ll be in the bargain basement or searching for loans to supplement the players that will leave, given that turbulence then what is the argument against getting a more progressive manager to see through those player changes.

    Bruce got us to 4th with an experienced set of players, do we really believe he’ll go beyond that on a more restricted budget or less experienced players. We absolutely can’t aim for play-off spots if promotion is the raison d’etre.

    The aim in my opinion has to be the introduction of the Villa way into the first team and I don’t think Bruce believes in our youth or the way they play. I’d assume he considers it too cavalier as there is less consequence and the thought process reverts to a cautious approach that does not risk losing or at least does not risk the overall goal. It got us so far but we’ve new teams to contend with and with better post relegation budgets.

    The clock needs to stop and Villa need to plan for the long term future of the club and not throw all the eggs into ‘it has to be this year’ (again).

    I can and would absolutely buy into a plan if the club said they were going to scour the world for the best U21/U23 talent to form a team that will achieve promotion in two/three years based on a certain football philosophy, I find the current approach a lot greater as a risk both in terms of achieving promotion and securing top flight football. It’s been said above, the current team may not have been ready for promotion and what sort of turmoil would Dr. T inflicted in buying phase 2 players and bonding them as a team to keep us up, regardless of the lack of quality below 7th, at the very least the other teams’ players are familiar with each other and play as a team, we’d have to build that quickly and that is inherently risky.

  155. Darren – yep that Wolves match was our peak, I think, and we peaked too early by the looks of it.

    Plug – I wasn’t that far wrong on my prognostications I think, and I still say that not having Jack nor Kodjia (and Green) for a significant time made a big difference and why we missed out. Yes, Mark, I know other sides had injuries too, but in our case it took awhile to get going because of their non-availability.

    To think we started with “Give ‘Im A Chance” Gabby, and Hogan just hardly ignited. I really thought he didn’t fit in. Blame Bruce for that if you like, but that’s happened at Villa before. Nothing new.

    So why we didn’t make the promotion is as much to do with the availability and form of the players in my view.

  156. JK
    I think it was also down to the inability of the manager to be flexible enough, always seemingly making changes after the event, or unnecessarily, therefore giving the team an extra handicap, which lost us too many points.
    If you analyse the seemingly constant losses to teams near the bottom of the table, you can hardly blame only the players.

  157. IanG,

    I didn’t “blame only the players”! You mis-read me again sir.

    As for the things Bruce did or might have done – yes, well that’s the “foibles” have always referred to. But don’t tell me that any championship manager is more perfect than Bruce – please!

    I’m still to be convinced you could find a better manager for the job at hand from the lower divisions. There might be one, but it’s a risk as every appointment is.

  158. If the FFP boffins are correct (and I’ve seen 2 different sets of calculations from 2 different boffins) then it looks like we need to make savings of 40m – 45m for next season 2018-19. This is because it is based on the last 3 seasons and catches us even if we make a profit next season due to previous losses.

    Assuming we fail to offload RMC and Dick Turpin, it should still be possible to generate about 10m savings by offloading JT, Samba, Gabby, Snoddy, Johnstone, Tuanzebe, Onomah and Grabban from the wage bill. But some players will be returning to the club don’t forget.

    That leaves us looking to raise approx 30m from sales. What’s Hogan worth? Not that figure. Doesn’t look good for us keeping hold of Jack either.

    If we fail to comply with FFP next season then the EFL could apply points deductions presumably from the season 2019-20. Sobering. Depressing. Worrying. Maybe JL can comment and assuage my fears.

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