What a disaster hey? Everyone’s pre-season fears regarding McLeish have materialised. The football has been dour, the home form has been pathetic and the good days have been too few and far between. There’s no denying we’re in a relegation scrap – five points above the drop zone with eight fixtures remaining is a long way short of safety.
But let’s start with the positives. Firstly, our goal difference is considerably better than our rivals, effectively giving us a current 6 point cushion. Secondly, the number of teams between us and the drop is reassuring. If we can pick up 5 points in the next 8 games, then three of the teams below us would need to pick up 10 points to drop us firmly in the doo doo.
I can see one or two of the teams achieving that many points, but 3 of them? Doubtful. These are teams that have achieved less than a point per game throughout the season; I see no reason why three of them would suddenly achieve ten points in seven games.
That said, the recent form of QPR, Wigan and Bolton really isn’t ideal. Bolton decide to win three games in a row in the first time in the club’s history (or something along those lines). QPR manage back to back home wins against Liverpool and Arsenal. And Wigan have now only lost one in eight.
Picking up form at the right time
Whilst it’s alarming to see these teams picking up form at the right time, we have to assume the form will drop off sooner rather than later, especially considering the upcoming fixtures for these clubs. Wigan and QPR in particular both have very tough run-ins.
Further good news is that the first relegation spot seems to have been grabbed with both hands by near-neighbours Wolves. I felt at the time ditching McCarthy without an experienced replacement lined-up smacked of a club preparing for the Championship, now it seems that barring a miracle, their fate is firmly sealed.
So the issue for Villa is simple - where are the points coming from? I’ve written off hope of picking up points against Liverpool, Man Utd and Spurs. But am cautiously optimistic we might pick up points away to WBA or Norwich. Meanwhile the home matches to Stoke, Bolton and Sunderland look huge. They clearly represent the best chance of finding that much-needed win.
But I suspect it’s going to be a torturous ride, especially whilst we wait for that one win we need so badly. How big does the home win to Fulham seem right now?
Dark days for Aston Villa
These are dark times for the club. No doubt about that. Banging on about McLeish at this stage feels counter-productive. We all knew he was shite before he arrived. His CV said so much. We didn’t realise he was unlucky too. The injury list has been horrific. The core of the team has been devastated – losing the likes of Given, Dunne, Cuellar, Hutton, Delph, Clark, N’Zogbia, Jenas, Bent and now Petrov, for extended periods would seriously hurt any team, let alone one already struggling for squad depth.
But we are where we are. Getting on at the players, manager and chairman at this stage isn’t going to help our cause. For the past two seasons this club has been sleep-walking towards mediocrity. It’s now slipped beyond that. We’ve been outright woeful the last two seasons.
Now isn’t the time to feel sorry for ourselves though. Bolton have rallied wonderfully following Muamba’s situation, using their stricken team-mate’s condition to inspire them to two consecutive Premier League wins. Last week we learned the captain of this great football club has a life-threatening illness. I was there on Saturday, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck bristle. The warmth inside Villa Park for our captain was genuinely moving.
Time to pray
How we could use Stan right now - his leadership, drive and determination. But he needs to put those qualities to a far more important task. And we need every single person associated with this club to pull in the same direction. That trap door is wide-open and we’re very much drifting towards it. So for the love of this football club, can we forget about criticism for the next eight games and concentrate solely on achieving the points we need to stay in this division?
Once the dust has settled, then we can pick through the bones of this mess. But as fans we need to get behind the team immediately. No one wants to be planning trips to Millwall, Peterborough and Burnley next season.