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Dave’s Villa Blog

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22-03-2010

Dave Woodhall was at Villa Park on Saturday to watch the unedifying draw with Wolves. He wasn’t happy with Villa’s performance and wonders whether Martin O’Neill isn’t expecting a bit too much.

Apparently Villa were well on top for the first 15 minutes of the game with Wolves. I wouldn’t know; some urgent running around meant I didn’t get into the game until then, so all I saw was a frustrating, at times downright poor, and ultimately disappointing afternoon’s football.

I’ll be honest – Wolves were at times the better team. That isn’t saying much, because it was a scrappy game neither side deserved to win.

But one of these sides has reached a cup final, is in the semis of the other cup and has designs on a place in the top four. Playing at home they should be turning over a team who are battling relegation. That’s not arrogance, it’s common sense.

Instead we got a disjointed performance even after the benefit of going a goal ahead. That should have been the start of a comfortable afternoon’s work, but instead Villa went backwards, seeming unimaginative and lacking in urgency. In the end we needed a touch of fortune with a second borderline-offside goal from John Carew to scrape a point.

Maybe the effects of a long season are taking their toll, which makes Martin’s reluctance to rotate the squad and give fringe players such as Fabian Delph and Luke Young a chance even more mystifying.

Which leads me onto my main point.

Before the game Martin O’Neill talked about “fair-weather, Johnny come lately” fans. Afterwards he commented about the booing at half-time. There was also a suspicion that he changed his mind about a couple of substitutions due to the crowd giving a loud reception to Young and Nathan Delfouneso as they warned up. Martin would no doubt deny that, and it does appear a bit far-fetched. But the suspicion remains – Saturday wasn’t the first time he has criticised, either directly or indirectly, Villa supporters.

Martin remains massively popular amongst the fans; I can’t recall any manager whose popularity has stayed so solid for such a long period. But he, like everyone else in any job, can’t expect 100% support all of the time. When the team are playing poorly there’s bound to be some dissent, particularly as ticket prices are creeping up again. Things have been going well this season, and Martin has quite rightly taken a lot of the credit. That being the case, he should be prepared to accept that he will, on occasion, have to shoulder an equal amount of the blame.

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