Villa prove away days can be experiences to forget
12:21 11 November 2011
There are a number of annoyances involved in following your team away from home. These start with finding a place to park and somewhere suitable for a safe pre-match drink and end with the long trip home. Exactly how you end up feeling about your day will, of course, ultimately be coloured by what happens in the course of the match itself.
Having arrived in the post industrial wasteland in which Villa Park is situated and found a pub which was open to away fans, we felt that we had achieved our first objective. However, the discovery that we were to be charged £2 each for the privilege of crossing the threshold of a place where fresh sawdust on the floor would have constituted a significant makeover introduced the first sour note to proceedings, and this was exacerbated when we got into the ground. While the view was superb, the provision of tiny toilet areas for 3,000 fans made for lots of queuing and rising tempers. Oh for the wide-open concourses of Carrow Road.
Of course, City’s rousing start and Anthony Pilkington’s superb free-kick raised our spirits, only for them to be dampened again by a second goal which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a slapstick comedy sketch, and long periods of Villa control.
Inevitably City kept battling, but while Morison’s goal gave us hope, I don’t think that too many of us really believed that we could pull two goals back for a second consecutive game.
Worryingly, we have started to leak goals, and not necessarily brilliantly worked ones. On Saturday the change of formation meant that the wide players had to tuck in, leaving the full-backs more exposed, something which the impressive Gabriel Agbonlahor took full advantage of, and we struggled all day to defend balls across the six-yard box, the source of two Villa goals. I think that Bradley Johnson’s concussion also made a point about how central to our success he has become.
While it’s true that several City players were some way from their best, it’s sad to see one or two individuals being castigated on some of the forums and phone-ins, with calls for them to carry the can by losing their places. Singling out players for personal vilification is harsh and, while in most cases it’s simply borne out of frustration because the result could have been so different, it serves no positive purpose. It may be stating the obvious, but no player walks onto the pitch with the intention of playing poorly, and surely no one can question the commitment of the City players. This week’s villain could just as easily be next week’s hero.
We mustn’t forget that despite our encouraging start we’re still punching above our weight with an inexperienced squad. That’s not intended as an excuse, just recognition of how tough it is to survive, let alone prosper, in the Premiership, and let’s not lose sight of the fact that anything over and above survival is a bonus this year. Ambition is healthy, but we need to keep expectations realistic. We know that we need to get to 40 or so points, but patience is needed, both on and off the pitch. Let’s get there first, then worry about top-half finishes.
There are going to be bad days, and we now have a really tough run of fixtures, but we win and lose as a team. We’ve achieved so much over the last two years by not having stars when we win or scapegoats when we lose. Standing together is the Norwich City way, and it works.