Aston Villa’s third straight Championship season kicked off on Monday evening with a much needed 3-1 win against Hull City at the KCOM Stadium.
The result was the most important thing on the night but the Villans didn’t have it all their own way and didn’t look overly convincing for large parts of the match. There were certainly positives to take from the match, but perhaps also a few questions to be answered. In the aftermath of the game, these are some of the main points for me.
1 – We’ve given ourselves a platform for once
The last couple of seasons have been massively hampered by poor and slow starts. For a team seeking promotion, we’ve always been playing catch up and left ourselves too much to do. It’s only one game, but at least we’re up and running from the off for once. Our remaining August fixtures seemingly give us good opportunities to build on this also; three of our next four fixtures (Wigan, Brentford and Reading) are at Villa Park.
2 – Hull may be one of the worst teams we face
Let’s be honest, the Tigers looked poor. Despite taking the lead early on, they struggled to pose too much of a threat all evening and were there for the taking. We’ll face much tougher opponents, and I expect Hull to face a season battling relegation. As much as I was bouncing up and down for his goal, any team that lets Alan Hutton dance past their defence and score a goal like that is in serious trouble. We can only beat what’s in front of us, but I imagine this will be one of the most straightforward victories that we’ll earn all season. Even the review of matchbook has Hull as a side who will struggle this season.
3 – We didn’t crumble
Despite Hull being poor, the result could so easily have been very different after going a goal down so early on. There is a fear that with the likes of John Terry and Robert Snodgrass departing that we’ve lost some character and leaders in the team. Obviously getting back into the game so quickly was a big help, but it was good to see that our heads didn’t drop in the face of adversity. Long may it continue.
4 – We will miss Terry’s tenacity
I have mixed emotions about Terry’s departure. He was clearly a cut above last season and probably would be again this year. But there were signs of age beginning to tell at times and relying on a soon to be 38 years old perhaps isn’t ideal. That said, if he had been in Tommy Elphick’s position on the line for Hull’s opener, you can bet your life he would’ve clattered into that post in attempting to clear that ball away. I was surprised by Elphick’s lack of fight to really attack the ball as we have seen him put his head on the line for us previously. Maybe it is a harsh judgment, and maybe he did all he could do. But I hope we haven’t lost any of the blood and thunder spirit forged by Terry’s presence last season.
5 – Kodjia needs games
Jonathan Kodjia will get a lot of stick from some supporters for his performance, but we have to remember that he is a proven 20 goal a season striker. He hasn’t been the same since his ongoing ankle injury, but for me, we absolutely need to stick with him and give him a run of games and the minutes on the pitch to get properly match fit. This wasn’t a good showing for the Ivorian hitman, but let’s not write him off just yet.
6 – We’re in trouble if Grealish leaves
It’s unbearable right now to think that may have been Jack’s last game. He picked right up where he left off last season. Gliding through the midfield, skill absolutely oozing out of him. Oh, and an assist for good measure with a superb delivery for Elphick’s goal. To be absolutely frank, no Grealish equals no promotion hopes. He is that important to us. Selling him now this late in the day for any amount of money is pointless. The potential rewards for keeping him are monumental, however. Let’s hope having filthy stinking rich owners allows us to knock back the inevitable last-minute Daniel Levy offer.
7 – Bruce isn’t going to change
As perhaps no one will be surprised, Steve Bruce set the team up in a cautious manner which pretty much stank the place out for 70 minutes of the game. You can’t argue with it if it brings results like this, of course. But it isn’t pretty to watch. And more importantly, it isn’t going to change anytime soon. Away from home especially, we can forget any ideas of expansive, open football. We know how it is, the owners have backed him. Let’s see where it takes us.
8 – Andre Green can be a big player for us this season
Part of the frustration with Bruce is that seemingly everyone could see that Andre Green needed to get onto the pitch pronto. Whilst it was still overdue, at least it wasn’t left as late as it might have been compared to Bruce’s other substitutions last season. It appears to be a shootout between Green and Albert Adomah for a starting place on the left wing and it would be a difficult decision leaving the Ghana international out of the side as his work rate especially is top notch and a huge plus. Yet Green’s dynamism changed the game for me. He’s certainly knocking at the door.
9 – Our supporters are magnificent
A brief point this, but taking nearly 2,500 supporters up to Hull on a Monday night when the game is on Sky is fantastic. A huge well done to each and every one of you who made the journey.
10 – That Alan Hutton goal
And those supporters were not just rewarded with a win, but can boast that they were there when Alan Hutton scored THAT goal. Ok, so whilst I do think that letting Hutton slalom through your defence like that is criminal, I was absolutely over the moon for him. Let’s be honest, Hutton is a cult figure amongst the fans for a reason; he gives everything to this club but at the end of the day, he isn’t the most gifted of players. The limbs in the crowd when he grabbed his first goal since 2014 shows how much he is loved though. And he has totally earned that from us. And like me, even if you weren’t at the game, I bet you’ll always remember where you were when the Scottish Cafu scored THAT goal.