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This is the end

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Ron Vlaar killed the comeback before it could even begin
Ron Vlaar killed the comeback before it could even begin
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

It has been 79 days since we last saw Aston Villa win a league match. This isn't one of my columns where I break down what we could have done in that time, but I feel as if it's important to get that out there. As of right now, the Premier League season is 192 days old. That means we've spent 41% of the season waiting for the club's sixth win.

And it honestly feels as if we might never see it. I know that, rationally, Villa will get another win. Heck, I still think there is a better than 50% chance that this team is part of the Premier League next year. But for some reason this feels like the lowest low this season. A nadir that is more akin to sinking into the Marianas Trench than it is to hitting the ground at a high velocity. We go silently into the dark, nothing and no one to save us.

I think this weekend's loss to Stoke is worse than all of the others because it deflated our last hope. Tim Sherwood came along at the right time, it seemed. We were into the quarterfinals of the FA Cup (thanks, possibly, to the new manager's halftime talk) and things were looking up. Scott Sinclair scored in the 20th minute on a goal that was, believe it or not, created. By persistence. By attacking intent. By all of those things we haven't seen all season.

And then Stoke equalized in the 45th minute. The second half began and while it was clear that Villa hadn't crumbled like they are wont to do, they also weren't the same club we'd seen for the 90 minutes that encompassed the second half against Leicester and the first against Stoke. The most encouraging 90 minutes of football we've seen all season.

Somewhere in the second half I realized that a draw wouldn't cut it and it got even more galling that the players weren't driving for the win. But, as happens so often as a football fan, my mood swung back pretty quickly and I thought that a draw would be an okay, if largely unhelpful, building block for the Tim Sherwood era at Villa. And then, in the 92nd minute, Ron Vlaar put in one of the stupidest tackles I've ever seen. There is a very real chance that Aston Villa get relegated this year, and I think there will be a chance that you can point to that tackle as the moment when it all slipped past our reach.

Two weeks ago, when Villa lost to Hull and Paul Lambert was still in charge, I had resigned myself to trying to figure out how to follow a Championship club from across an ocean. Now I'm back in the same spot, and it feels twice as bad. It's all because we had it within our grasp. The win over the weekend could have been the first step in building a comeback for the ages. It could have been Tim Sherwood's "eff you" moment to the rest of the world. It could have been the start of an amazing story.

But it never happened, and now the club look doomed. Again, logic dictates that another win will come and there's still a hope that Villa survive. But eventually it becomes impossible to keep lying to yourself and building hope where none exists. Look at that schedule and tell me where the points come from. Do so honestly. Soberly.

I don't think they're there. I want to think they are. I want to believe they are. But I don't think they are. This is the end of hope. Now it's time for grim reality.