It is tempting to draw a veil over the whole sorry night. As Jimmy Montgomery put it, in 40th anniversary-themed conversation with Monsieur Salut, what was remarkable was that so many players chose to have such catastrophically poor games. And Bob Chapman was left to ponder – even more painfully than most of us – the wisdom of trailing around the country in support of Sunderland ….
In the absence of Pete Sixsmith this is the sixth report that I have written this season. My record is poor!
Four defeats, one draw and a solitary win at Southampton. It’s a simple task when you have won, not onerous when you have drawn, but nigh on impossible when you are defeated. Hats off to all those who have a carried out a similar task for fan sites covering the likes of Bristol City, Wolves, Portsmouth or Hartlepool this season.
I always enjoy going to Aston Villa. Villa Park is a modern stadium that has still retained some of its old world charm. The steps leading up to the rear of the Holte End give you a reminder of the large terrace that used to exist there. I remember standing on it the day Villa won promotion at our expense back in 1975.
It was in the old Division 2. Man Utd were top, Villa second and us third. Arriving late with my Dad and two brothers, with rumours that gates were being shut, we got in the first queue and just squeezed in with minutes to spare.
The ground was absolutely full with 57,000 inside with at least 10,000 Sunderland fans in the open terrace that was the Witton End. The noise was deafening at times and unfortunately Villa won the match 2-0. Those were great, great days when away fans could attend in huge numbers and at a cheap price!
Pre-match on Monday, suffering from gout which means am off the beer at the moment, I decided to take a gentle, rather painful walk around the ground. All I could see was tension and worry in the faces of the Villa fans. I felt rather sorry for them as I believed that we would at least draw or get a win at their expense.
Having forgotten to record the Newcastle game I made sure I didn’t make the same mistake, so that I could watch the match immediately on my return. With the wife safely tucked up in bed I can watch without ridicule. She doesn’t realise that this is a perfectly normal activity for your average football fan. What else is there to watch at that time of night anyway?
Once the game had started I thought everything was going to plan. Villa looked nervous and apart from an Agbonlahor chance, when he should have scored against the run of play, I thought we were marginally the better side.
Villa opened the scoring however when Ron Vlaar surged forward and shot from 30 yards. It goes down as a great goal but it was a poor defensive mistake as he should have been closed down earlier. Good sides defend from the front.
Anyway their lead didn’t last long. Danny Rose exchanged passes with both Gardner and Graham to slot home a well worked goal. This was just reward for our play up to that point and especially for Rose himself. Without a doubt he has been our best outfield player all season and one can only hope that he realises he will probably have better opportunities if he remains with us next season.
However, the game turned in my opinion in the 38th minute. Craig Gardner who was having a decent game attempted a 40 yard cross field, instead of a simple pass. Was he trying to quieten the Villa boo boys and show them what they let go? Who knows? His pass was intercepted, the ball delivered quickly to Lowton who crossed for Weimann to score. Villa Park erupted and from then on there was only going to be one winner and it was downhill all the way. It may have been a different story if Gardner’s goal had been allowed to stand and we could have gone in at half time at 2-2.
Our second half can only be described as inept. Villa came out and dominated proceedings. Benteke’s hat-trick illustrated why he will be the player in demand this summer. He is powerful, quick with an excellent touch and in combination with Agbonlahor proved far too much for our back four.
Once 3-1 was achieved Villa didn’t sit back and urged on by the crowd continued to press for goals. They kept coming. Villa finished with just the six. Although I witnessed both 8-0 defeats and have seen plenty of fives I can’t remember a six.
Having suffered such humiliation and having remained to the end my first thought was to find a pub before the journey home. How the mood had changed for the Villa fans compared to before the game. I had just the one as I was driving but knew it wasn’t a wise move with gout.
On arriving back home I didn’t bother with the TV but went straight to bed. Needless to say I was woken at 4am with dreadful pain in my big toe. Unable to sleep the only thing to do was to get up and watch the whole dreadful saga over again! Is this normal for your average middle aged football fan or should I choose alternative viewing in the small hours?