Symmetry is all around us in football. For example, the first year that the Bluenoses managed promotion to the Premiership they scored (cumulatively) five goals against us. You could not walk down the street without one of them holding up both of their dirty webbed hands to count to five, in an attempt to wind us up. This was only laid to rest when we stuck five past them in a single match a couple of seasons back.
And also a couple of seasons ago Newcastle travelled to Villa Park needing to win in order to retain 16 years of Premiership status. In comical fashion, they capitulated, and were mocked not only by everyone in the ground but pretty much the media at large. The travelling northern circus had well and truly left town. This time around it is Villa that need the points, and whilst relegation is not at stake from this single fixture – great concern will likely sweep the stands if anything other than three points is secured.
Things haven’t changed much for Newcastle. They managed promotion with relative (expected) ease and promptly sacked the man who competently did a job that no other seemed capable. Chris Hughton had instilled, for the first time in modern football, a sense of realism at Newcastle United. He called it correctly when he outlined a plan for survival. No delusions of European football or even mid table mediocrity: survival. However, this evidently did not match the outlook of Newcastle’s owners and he was promptly dismissed.
And this is the reality check that we as Aston Villa fans have had this season. For the first time in half a decade we have genuinely struggled to put points on the board. A team that had been on the cusp of breaking into the top four lost its way, be it through age, injury, motivation or man management. Whatever the reasons, our end of season objectives have shifted massively in under 12 months.
Each fixture is now getting the “massive” billing in most quarters amongst the Villa faithful, but as the remaining fixtures lesson and our points tally stalls, these games are genuinely starting to have the feeling of now or never.
We go into game on the back of a decent away showing at Everton. Defensively we were as fragile as ever but going forward we were utterly devastating and took our chances. If we can keep it together at the back it is unlikely that Newcastle could deal with our offensive threat. The idea of keeping a clean sheet would be as welcome as anything else.
The match will also hopefully see the fruits of some pretty active work on the ground by Villa fans to play our part in this fight. Be it the singing on the Holte End, encouraging fans to sell out or the drive to wear scarves for the game etc. It’s activity, it shows we care and that it matters deeply to us. It’s now well and truly down to the players to deliver on the pitch.
Three points are a must. An absolute must.