The Villa Underground often ponders on these pages about the drawbacks & effects of following Aston Villa. The experience is bad enough until you imagine having to follow a team like Newcastle United.
For all of Villa’s woe’s, self inflicted disintegration and even our stuttering start to life in The Championship, at least as a club we have had actual success to reflect upon.
Imagine desperately grappling at the notion that Faustino Asprilla was world class? Or waking up to discover your owner sweating profusely in front of the select committee, at a loss to explain “appalling practices”.
We don’t harbour delusions of grandeur.
We can crack a smile at our misfortune.
And despite having the silverware and heritage that many a plastic side crave, we don’t take ourselves too seriously either.
Indeed, the faux media drivel of the Geordie “nation” has long since worn thin for many a football fan. A fallacy. One which was later replicated to create the modern Manchester City myth, and which when you consider that West Ham suddenly get fifty thousand to turn up, has now moved to suck another target dry.
But my, haven’t Newcastle have suffered Villa repeatedly in recent seasons. Talk about a recurring nightmare. To be relegated by us is something that clearly they may never recover, but to also manage to come down alongside us last year; quite a feat.
In our record breaking relegation 2015/16 season, the Geordie’s were the only side unable to beat us? These things are clearly written in the stars.
It has therefore forged an embittered, recurring clash for two sets of fans that have been consistently let down by woeful leadership, hapless managers and the ineptitude of an endless stream of over-hyped, over-paid players. However painful, both clubs can at least claim to have something in common.
But joyful baiting aside.
This is a fixture that both sides, it goes without saying, will want to win.
Villa’s early season was upset by the ongoing recruitment process. The squad has changed significantly since the opening day defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. It cannot be held as an excuse, we should have recruited earlier, but, it has played a part.
Since then, we have endured injuries, seen some dubious tactics but mostly have been our own worst enemy. The optimists will point to the fact that we would be top had we held on the last 5 minutes of 4 games. True, but we didn’t, and we’re not.
Whilst it would be premature to suggest that we aren’t anything more than a work in progress, we are certainly a different prospect to the one that met Newcastle at the back end of last season.
Indeed, much of the social media chatter (albeit banter in most parts), points to our being in as bad shape. It’s wide of the mark. Villa are virtually unrecognisable from the team that went down, but there is much work left to do.
Certainly, we now carry a dangerous goal threat much lacking since Benteke departed and have also sought to address our woeful defensive capabilities. Notably, Ciaran Clark’s sale was for most a surprise and a welcome move. Many were fond of Clark’s personality, but his costly repeated errors make £5 million look like daylight robbery.
Newcastle come into the game off the back of a poor home defeat to Wolves, but with the leagues best form currently. Form, in a division where everyone beats one another is hard to decipher. But 5 wins from 6 is a statement of intent. However, offset this against the fact that they have lost the same amount of games as ourselves (3) and it paints a different picture.
Another suitable example at this early stage of the season is that 5 draws from 6 tells little of our story and places us 21st on form alone. The best way to respond to the doubters of course is to win football matches, as points will only dictate our season ultimately.
Di Matteo is now out of the honeymoon period and is subject to increasing scrutiny from the fans and concerningly (from his perspective) the new owner. The Italian needs only to ensure our strikers are clinical and defence switched on for the whole 90 minutes.
Established in 2011 - The Villa Underground is an independent Aston Villa social-blog & website. Featuring pre-match discussion, post match reaction, opinion, satire, a podcast, news & social media comment on all matters affecting AVFC.