Another game, another seismic shift in Villa supporters mood. The 3-1 defeat against League One Peterborough United in the FA Cup third round predictably produced the usual barrage of abuse for Steve Bruce, the players, and worryingly, fellow supporters.
Thankfully, over the last couple of days there has also seems to have been a realisation that the fans at the very least have to stand together more than we are doing. Ultimately we all want the same thing. We just have wildly varying ideas about the best way to get there.
The cup defeat polarised us once more. From those that couldn’t care less to those who were outraged at being dumped out at the first hurdle.
As with most things, the true reflection probably lies somewhere in between. The F.A Cup is not a priority for this club this season. Which is hard to admit as just dismissing a cup in that manner goes against how things should be. But, as a second-tier side, as we are, we’re obviously unlikely to win it.
That said, the team that Bruce put out should’ve had enough to progress at home against lower league opposition. The fact that we didn’t just lose, but got completely outplayed can’t just be irrelevant and glossed over. The performance should absolutely be questioned.
Bruce made ten changes for the visit of Posh. And whilst the personnel chosen may not have been an issue, trying to fit round pegs into square holes certainly comes into it. James Bree isn’t a centreback. Josh Onomah isn’t a wide player. So Bruce may bemoan that his fringe players let him down, but he didn’t really help some of them be at their best.
Similarly, whilst it was great to see John Terry and Andre Green back in action, both will be lacking match fitness at this stage. All in all, whilst the team was fairly strong, there were circumstances around several of them which explains a below-par performance.
We can lambast Bruce for this and a certain amount of flak should be taken upon his shoulders. But in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?
After the match inquest has taken place, we have to take the positive side of it and that means no more distractions from our most important aim of gaining promotion. No extra fixtures to take its toll on the players. No excuses.
However, I’ve always loved the F.A Cup. Yet there are arguably now four generations of supporters that have never seen us lift that famous trophy. It will now be at least over 61 years until we win it again. That is exceptionally poor for a club the size of Villa. For all of those seasons being in the top tier and being unable to muster a win since 1957 is, quite frankly, shocking.
So, personally, I hate the feeling of knowing that this is another year gone where we can’t right that wrong. Whilst I would never have expected us to win it this season, there is still something sad about knowing for certain, so early on, that we definitely won’t be winning it. There is a magic of the cup still, and being involved in the draws still, bring about a certain excitement.
Like so many things to do with the club, we have a proud history of the competition. We are long overdue starting to make history again and add to our still respectable total of seven triumphs. But to really do that, we need to be a stronger team than we are now. We need to be a Premier League team.
This premature exit isn’t nice and the performance cannot simply be swept under the carpet but ultimately, the harsh reality is that it may end up to be a silver lining. We HAVE to gain promotion this season and now we have no excuses for distractions or extra games to contend with.
It is disappointing. The performance was dreadful. If Saturday’s showing irons out a few flaws and contributes to some of the returning players gaining some match fitness, then in that regard, the game will have served some purpose at least.
If we manage to wrap up a return to the big league come May, then I’m sure that will more than make up for the poor F.A Cup showing this season.