Firstly, it would be improper and completely unacceptable to not congratulate Bradford. Getting to a cup final from the fourth tier of English football is no mean feat. Over the course of their run and two semi final legs they deserved it.
However, for a club of Aston Villa’s size to fail to beat Bradford City over two legs is a disgrace. This is not to be confused with an arrogant belief that Villa shouldn’t lose, rather, we are allegedly a Premier League football team.
Paul Lambert’s reign at Villa looks increasingly unlikely to extend beyond the immediate future as a consequence. The reasoning is simple. Villa have gone beyond poor form and results. We are now in the realms of almost constant failure and humiliation. Defeat is part of the game, but such consistently inept performances defy reasonable explanation.
Finger pointing amongst fans and commentators will lambast Villa’s reclusive owner and bizarre internal management structure. This is culpable. But the fact is that the likeable and softly spoken Lambert now appears to have no clue as to how to turn this mess around.
Villa laboured against Bradford. For all of the possession in the first half we were always vulnerable. Indeed, it was clear Bradfords game plan was less adventurous than the first leg. They looked more open, but reminded of their threat with a curling effort causing Given to scramble. Benteke’s goal was well taken, N’Zogbia lively, but the outcome inevitable.
Bradford targeted our well publicised weaknesses after the break to good effect. Lambert was painfully out thought and the absence of a game plan as the clock ticked was plain to see. Bradford duly equalised from a corner, atrociously defended, this time Vlaar the guilty party. And the chase was on.
Only the chase never materialised. Never has a team lacked such urgency when faced with humiliation. Never can I recall such a lack of personal pride or professional passion to want to get the goals. It was as though the fixture was of no importance. One would have been forgiven for not realising Villa were competing for a place at Wembley. This affirms one of two things. These rich young men are either not good enough, or too rich to care any great deal. It’s worth pondering that both may apply.
Lambert showed dire tactical skills when faced with the glaring prospect of defeat. Abandoning what width Villa did possess, a perplexing combination of four forwards found themselves on the pitch. Acting as both creators and strikers it was a hopeless attempt of a reply, that yielded nothing until Wiemann’s winner. Too little too late.
What was stark was our collective will to stifle play. For all Delph’s industry it was without purpose. Ireland was selective through his contributions but achieved nothing. Barry Bannan was hauled off once more after another absolutely appalling showing. It’s difficult to foresee a long term future at the club for any.
Defensively we remain as fragile. Lowton continues to flatter to deceive, Clark looks a broken man and Bennett (his assist aside) is an absolute liability. His substitution was as much a relief for Villa as a disappointment for Bradford.
Ron Vlaar is expected to single handedly lead this wilted band of brothers and stood head in hands at the final whistle. He was notably the only Villa player to acknowledge the fans at the end of the match, which was a noble and thoughtful gesture. Others within the club should take note.
Going forward we suffered for the former. Our shape was lost, creativity limited and the final foursome of Benteke, Bent, Gabby and Wiemann an amateurish attempt to defeat inferior opposition.
There should be no debate over the fact that this is a massive failure. In a season of bar lowering failure, this redefines it. It also completes the clubs decline from Champions League hopefuls of yesteryear to an outfit that even the most loyal of supporter is increasing embarrassed to be associated with. It absolutely pains me to state that. This will take huge changes and progress to rectify.
Villa head to Millwall this Friday in the FA Cup. Personally I would send the youth team. Firstly because the first team couldn’t win a tombola. Secondly the Premiership game with Newcastle next Tuesday will likely reveal how things will pan out for Villa this season, and therefore must take precedence.
One wonders whether Lambert will make it through both fixtures given the fact that both fans and board are firmly making their minds up about his stewardship.
So as the better half of Birmingham are placed on suicide watch; all the best to Bradford. You deserved it.