Villa took a raucous, 4800+ strong away following to Cardiff on Saturday, only to suffer a humiliating mauling at the hands of Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City.
But then you know that already, having had a couple of days to digest a sobering loss.
You’d also be forgiven for thinking that this was a Villa side still shackled by a Randy Lerner-esque transfer embargo. Quite the opposite, in-fact.
Steve Bruce continue’s to struggle with an expensively assembled group which continues to show little of the verve or flair upon which a promotion push might be mounted.
Some called for his head, when looking across stagnant progress since his appointment at the turn of the year.
Other’s point the blame at erratic recruitment over at least three transfer windows.
The Villa Underground calls for calm; but immediate improvement with it.
We are now in the unenvious position of being a chop and change club for managers. To pull the trigger would be premature. Equally, to pretend that our preparations and performances place us in contention for promotion; deluded.
Our problems are well documented, but largely remain much closer to home.
We’ve spent an awful lot of money on football players who on the face of it, should only improve Aston Villa. Yet it’s simply not happening.
Do they know what it is to play for Aston Villa?
It’s one thing churning out the same old PR spiel upon signing about the “big club, the history”, etc, but do they understand that they are charged with putting us back on a path towards achievement in the future?
How does that translate for some of our most recent acquisitions? Indeed, some of those whom are the ashes from failed regimes?
Honestly, few players [over countless seasons] have realistically stepped up to the plate. Even fewer have been held to account for their lack of doing so. What they have in common, is that they continue to pillage the club for wages with no discernible return.
Hourihane has been a phantom of his Barnsley self.
Hogan, starved of service, but has struggled to reproduce anything resembling his Brentford form.
Henri Lansbury is also growing to become a frustratingly irrelevant figure, contributing little other than his own self-importance. To date, richly rewarded from the coffers of Villa Park for maintaining an inane Instagram persona alongside a stupid haircut.
These are the uncomfortable truths, amongst many others you can no doubt consider.
The indifferent pre-season, a predictable opening day draw and a scrappy win against League 2 opposition in the Cup was the backdrop.
Bruce has the CV to suggest he knows how to get out the league. However, many remain unconvinced that he knows how to do it with a group which he’s had a major influence in assembling.
Villa’s creativity is shackled, restrained and awfully reminiscent of a brand of survival football honed at Sunderland & Blues. We had no response to Cardiff’s single-mindedness.
More perplexingly is a perseverance with players who have consistently failed the football club and been central to its decline.
Bruce inexplicably keep placing our faith in figures who’ve rarely suggested their capacity to improve us.
Hutton, a heart on sleeve brand of player, is an obvious weak-link who costs us goals and points. To deny Bree, a promising and competent alternative, is utterly baffling.
Agbonlahor, who has neither the personal or professional competence to lead the line; features prominently as an embarrassing inclusion on the team-sheet. The owner, CEO and manager have vehemently stated an intent for promotion. With Gabby? Pull the other one.
Then the inclusion of Bacuna, a perennial failure, picked over and above new signings. To compound the confusion, he is then sold to Reading.
It can lead one only to conclude that Bruce simply doesn’t know his best 11.
Cardiff is a shot across the bows.
We were out-thought, out-gunned and mentally beaten long before the final whistle.
Our shape was chronic, our invention limited and upon conceding, we resigned the fixture.
We are just 180 league minutes into our season, but lines must be drawn promptly.
Newcastle lost their first 2 games of the 2016/17 campaign, addressed their issues and then went on a 10+ game unbeaten, winning run.
The key word is winning. We have to start winning football games, not in isolation, not fortuitously, but week in week out.
Bruce needs to find a winning formula soon, as for all of the premature circling of social media vultures, the silence of a ruthless owner should forewarn him that failure cannot be tolerated.
When we are up against it away from home we haven’t got enough and the one thing I have had in all of my teams over the years – that’s why we have been successful – is a team that has a bit of resilience, is a bit up and at you and puts their boots on.
Unfortunately today I have to be brutally honest that just doesn’t happen.
I have been here six months and a pre-season now and I still can’t get the balance right – that we can roll our sleeves up and we are prepared for what the Championship is.
As soon as we go a goal behind we go under and that for me is the most disappointing thing I can level at the team.
But we have to be honest with each other and, collectively and individually, we are nowhere near it.