Aston Villa performed superbly on Saturday, matching (or bettering) the Premier League's clear-best side for 80 minutes following an iffy opening patch. The goal drought was broken by Jores Okore, Carles Gil played superbly, Ciaran Clark continued to improve and best player on the pitch-goal or not-was Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
After 97 hard-fought minutes the final whistle blew. Villa, despite battling firmly against a far, far, far superior foe, had lost 2-1. Villa Park erupted into a chorus of boos once again.
It's been a grim season, but the mood surrounding club, created by the fans, isn't helping. Paying ticket holders have every right to voice their concerns after an abject showing-of which there have been plenty in 2014-15-but not after that. That was a good performance against an excellent team. Why "reward" the players for their stellar effort with a short, sharp, vocal condemnation they frankly didn't deserve?
"It's not about this single game. It's about the two-and-a-half dreadful years under Paul Lambert. It's about not accepting mediocrity at a great club. Over 10 hours scoreless, without a win in nine, drifting toward the relegation zone."
I get it. I absolutely hear you. And every month of Lambert's tenure, bar perhaps the key period in his first season where the team bucked up and saved itself from relegation, has been underwhelming to say the very, very least.
I was at the Fulham draw, and I was at the gut-wrenching 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers that season. I thought we were gone; I was petrified we were going down, and I'm scared we might drop this season too.
But you don't have to be miserable all the time. It's not a requirement to feel the cumulative weight of a rough season and allow it to overshadow everything you do, say and feel after a match. I said as much on Twitter post-game and, in short summary, got told to "f**k off" by a number of angry fans.
But here are the simple truths:
- It's been another s**t season, and there is no defending Lambert and his performance this year. (This is most certainly not a defence of him-please do not mistake it for one.)
- He's not going anywhere. Despite continued failure, Randy Lerner's has opted not to sack him due to the costs involved in doing so. He got a new deal less than six months ago!
- We're powerless. If I thought there was a chance of Lambert going, I'd bay for improvement and strive to make my point heard, but we all know he is, perplexingly and inexplicably, safe.
It sucks. But it is what it is.
Many football fans' weekends are ruined when their team loses, and when your team loses a lot, that's one hell of a recipe for disaster. You have the choice to talk about the positives, though, and try to improve the feeling around the club as we head into what is certain to be an excruciating three months.
Gil was great, Clark keeps improving, Okore scored. We lost narrowly to the best team in England (by a stretch) after putting in a committed, fearless performance.
Villa's fate will not be decided by the matches against Arsenal and Chelsea, but the ones against those at the bottom of the table. Help turn this performance into the building block it could be ahead of a nerve-wracking trip to Hull City midweek. If Villa play like that at the KC Stadium, they'll go back to B6 with three points in the bag and in a much-improved position.
I can't control it, change it, or make it better, and neither can you. But I can take the positives, revel in the improvements made and appropriately appreciate a performance that deserved a hell of a lot more than the chorus of boos it received.
And so can you.