A Saint Valentine’s Day massacre saw the Villans succumb to their heaviest home defeat for eighty-one years at the hands of Liverpool. Although 0-6 was a complete demolition job, we were lucky the Reds didn’t go into overdrive and completely kill us off. With nineteen minutes still to go, after a decidedly porky looking Kolo Toure simply let the ball bounce off his head into the net for the sixth, we could easily have conceded two or three more had Liverpool not taken some mercy on us and eased off.
After a fairly resilient few weeks where we seemed to have become more organised and resolute in defence, an embarrassing drubbing was the last thing I expected heading into this game. I actually had that old emotion of looking forward to a Villa game and I doubt I was alone in feeling that the Reds were in for a long overdue defeat at Villa Park. A trifecta of conditions were cause for optimism – their generally poor recent form, coupled with having played one hundred and twenty minutes mid-week (and suffering a last minute exit to West Ham in the FA Cup), plus an important upcoming Europa League clash this week. These factors all pointed to a Liverpool side that may be easily rolled over.
As it turned out, we were the ones who were not so much easily rolled over as completely steam-rollered. The most striking thing was just how easy it was.
However, the post-match Twitter scandal may (or may not), in some way at least, go towards explaining the complete deficiency of effort on the pitch and worryingly highlights exactly what Rémi Garde means with comments about fielding only players who want to fight for the club.
A couple of hours after the defeat, Joleon Lescott tweeted a picture of an expensive sports car. While even just writing this makes it sound petty, the context of it cannot be underestimated and has provoked immense reactions. I have to admit, it’s hard to not to be wound up by it, especially by the excuse which followed.
After the initial storm came more anger, which was outweighed by the ridicule that came Lescott’s way – after an apology for the performance then came a half-baked explanation that the picture of the car was tweeted by accident caused by his phone being in his pocket whilst driving.
There is so much that is wrong with this situation that I just don’t know where to begin. To me, it is a perfect summary of all that is wrong at the club right now.
First of all, let’s be absolutely clear about all this – the defence that Lescott’s phone was in his pocket is absolutely laughable. While I can’t outright call it a lie, I will call it the most far-fetched and preposterous thing I’ve ever heard. Whilst my mother still struggles with tweeting (bless her), Lescott’s outer thigh seemingly has more technological know-how and manages it the first chance it gets, adding in a picture just for good measure. Any ridicule towards him is absolutely deserved. Frankly, the fact that he thinks he take fans for fools in such a way is deplorable.
The initial reaction must be put in context: many people (mostly fans of different clubs) were of the opinion that he can do what he wants and wondered what difference it makes if he puts up a picture of a car. However, to tweet such a thing so soon after such a heavy and humiliating loss is incredibly insensitive to the fans. There is already an overwhelming sense of the players not caring anywhere near enough and this completely epitomised it. After being walloped 0-6 at home, putting up a picture of an expensive Mercedes sports car worth thousands of pounds is absolutely beyond belief and despite how poor we have been this season, a bet with Bet Bind would have probably seen you quids in at full time.
After that game, Lescott should be feeling ashamed of himself and his performance. Sadly, it wasn’t just him – the whole team were pathetic. This isn’t an attack to single out his own performance (although it was dismal) but as fans we want to know that bad results, shambolic results in this instance, mean something to the players and affect them at least in some part. For the supporters, the evening, weekend and return to work on a Monday morning were once again laden with a gloom caused by our beloved team losing yet again. The image created by this tweet is of Lescott simply coming into the dressing room, having his shower, getting changed and popping off home for a nice relaxing Sunday evening, pondering what to spend this week’s astronomical wage on whilst oblivious to the horrendous display of football he has been a big part of.
Even if we are giving him the benefit of the doubt and accepting his excuse that his phone was rubbing so vigorously against his leg whilst shifting gears that it can open Twitter, select a picture and tweet it, then once this has been realised, take the picture off Twitter, for God’s sake! The lack of sense and understanding is truly staggering.
I have a real problem with the whole episode. To me, it is obvious he has been prompted by club officials to try to placate supporters after the initial outrage following the tweet. Nevertheless, the wording and tone of the part regarding the initial picture tweet is just so apathetic, uninterested and unapologetic: ‘I would like to add that the tweet sent out from my account involving a picture of a car was totally accidental it happened whilst driving and my phone was in my pocket.’ It’s completely ludicrous. All he needed to say was something along the lines of ‘I apologise for the tweet. I understand the insensitivity of this so soon after such a humiliating loss and will remove it immediately’. Whilst damage would still have occurred and the lack of understanding would still be a major problem and still make me feel like these players have no idea what the fans are feeling, I certainly would have respected him for fronting up honestly and trying to make amends.
As I say, I believe the tweet was prompted from people within the club looking to limit damage. The first part of his message certainly suggests so: ‘I’m not one for tweeting after games whether good, bad or indifferent…‘ You don’t say. So, of course, I have to doubt he would have tweeted had the picture of the car not been posted by him/his leg in the first place. So why do so on this occasion? He continues with ‘Liverpool are and were better than us today but that doesn’t excuse mine or the teams (sic) lack of commitment for 90 minutes.’ A lack of commitment for ninety minutes? If he admitting a lack of commitment, he should be offering more than just an apology to fans, especially the poor souls sat outside on a freezing February afternoon who had the commitment to watch hin, despite the players checking out after fifteen minutes.
The words ‘a lack of commitment’ absolutely rile me. An admission of such a thing is not acceptable in any way. The only things these players can get away with lacking is talent. Everything else should be there – fitness, endeavour, work rate, teamwork, effort, a will to never give up and, most of all, commitment.
It limply carries on ‘Again apologies to all the fans.’ There is as much passion, fight and sincerity in those words as there is on the pitch. What about the promises to fight till the end? What will be done to ensure that this doesn’t happen again? It may not be believed, and Lescott would still come in for stick, but at least there would be a sense of real recognition and some pride within it all.
All this came from a boyhood Villa fan. If we can’t get one of our own to care enough and give everything he’s got, then what chance is there of getting anyone else to? He should be leading by example, especially as a senior player. What chance have the younger, more impressionable players got with this sort of bad influence around?
We honestly don’t ask for much as fans. Commitment and effort are the least we expect – and deserve. The whole episode highlights just how far removed the modern footballer can be from the man on the terrace. The money involved in football is not the players’ fault and I’m sure you would take the thousands of pounds on offer each week should you ever be lucky enough to be offered it. However, it’s a completely sad state of affairs when the connection between a player and the fans, especially of a club he supported as a boy, grows to such an abyss that the player can’t even see it or be honest enough to admit his insensitivity to those fans once it is pointed out to him.
If Garde does stay, he has one hell of a job in ridding Aston Villa of this total stench of indifference that has swept through the club and continues to make a mockery of us on and off the pitch. It’s endemic and has seeped so far into the fabric of the club that it’s going to take a culling of mass proportion to even make a start on the infestation.
At least Lescott is motoring off the pitch.