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Thursday, 24 January 2013

Aston Villa: Can Villa fans still stand up for manager Paul Lambert?

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Never before has a victory tasted so bitter – never before has a game started so brightly and ended in such abject disappointment. 

It is seriously hard to put into words the heartbreak felt by Villa fans who made the journey to Aston in the snow and ice on Tuesday night to see their side capitulate and watch them be totally outplayed by a team three divisions below them in the semi-finals of the League Cup.

 Losing is never the major factor in turning against a team or its manager – the key factor is always the what lays behind those defeats.

Many a time Villa players have been applauded off Villa Park having lost games because the fans have seen a game plan, a flash of talent or even just a bit of fight.

Lambert dejectedAgainst Bradford there was nothing to applaud – absolutely nothing – and it has got to stage now where it’s becoming nearly impossible to keep defending a manager who has shown in recent months he has no idea how to change a game.

Villa have been struggling to score all season – except, surprisingly, in the League Cup – and the midfield has created little, if anything, to help them out. When the huge cracks started to appear in the defence fans knew the team was in major trouble, but even the most disheartened fans could not have believed it would get as bad as it did on Tuesday night.

Again, it’s important to point out it was a game Villa actually won – but it was also a game Villa should have lost by three or four goals. No-one could take anything away from the team that came out in front of a passionate and fired up Villa Park crowd and attacked the lower league side from the off. Getting that all important early goal that should have swung things in Villa’s favour. But we all know what happened next.

Having already looked at ‘what has happened at Aston Villa?’, which delved into the side’s worst ever run of performances over Christmas, there’s no point studying those games again. But without forgetting that run of three defeats and 15 goals conceded in three games, let’s have a look at what happened next.

After conceding a late equaliser away at Swansea – a game the visitors should have been well and truly out of following the first 15 minutes – Villa came back from behind to narrowly beat Championship side Ipswich Town in the FA Cup, lost 3-1 away to Bradford in the first leg of the League Cup semi-finals; lost 1-0 at home to fellow relegations strugglers Southampton; threw away a two-goal lead against West Midland rivals West Bromwich Albion and then were soundly knocked out of the League Cup by Bradford in the return leg.

Ireland dejectedDoes that look like a team that is on the up or has shown any sign of staying in the Premier League?

Throughout the campaign Lambert has been keen to back his young players and to brush aside fears for the club’s safety and, more importantly, it’s long term future.

The fans have stuck behind him for as long as possible, but it’s getting to the stage now where it is impossible to carry on. The clueless nature of his substitutes whereby he throws on four forwards meaning the team completely loses any shape is beyond frustrating.

The fact Villa haven’t been able to keep two players out wide all season when there has been acres of space to attack is one of life’s great mysteries. The way the squad is shuffled about every game without fail, meaning no-one sees any stability in any position or in the formation is clearly benefitting no-one.

Conceding late goals or defending when ahead, even if there’s 50 minutes left to play, is ridiculous – especially because, as already discussed, we simply can’t defend!

VlaarThe way the defence – which includes the whole team – ball watches every time a cross is whipped in before the inevitable goal comes is perhaps the most annoying aspect of all.

And that’s before we even start questioning his transfer policy, which is too long to be discussed in the same article.

Some people may say that's down to the players, but it's the manager who has to stop them from making the same mistakes time and time again.

I’ve been one of Lambert’s biggest backers since he arrived at Villa Park and defended him at every turn when fans from other club have questioned why he is still getting support. After being slumped over in my seat in the Holte End for the entire second half on Tuesday night – in between bouts of sheer rage at what was being dished up in front of me – I’m afraid I can no longer do that.

Lambert said before the game some of the players might not get another chance to play at Wembley – I’m glad some of them haven’t because most don’t deserve it and others are simply not good enough to perform on the biggest stage.

Was it just me or were Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark, Fabian Delph and possibly Shay Given the only players who actually looked bothered about the embarrassment?

I don’t believe Lambert will get sacked, walk out or get abducted by aliens – nor do I necessarily believe he should. Who else is going to take on the poisoned challis that has become the Villa hot seat in recent years?

Maybe there is some way Lambert can keep us in the Premier League, even it’s a deflected goal off a Wigan player's arse on the final day of the season. The sad truth is it’s looking more and more likely the once mighty Villains will finish bottom of the Premiership pile. Whether Lambert is capable of stopping that from happening is, sadly, looking more and more unlikely.

Article by James Fisher

Calling all Villa fans: How do you feel following your Capital One Cup humiliation? What has gone wrong at Villa Park? Is Paul Lambert solely to blame? Can the former Norwich chief turn your fortunes around? How do you think Tuesday's game against Newcastle is going to go? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.


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Colin Illingworth



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