"Cold and wet and not much for those supporters to enjoy." In the 54th minute, the announcer summed up this match and this season with absolute perfection.
The opening half of their match against Bournemouth was some of the most tepid, boring, and unwatchable football that we've seen all season long, and that's saying an awful lot. The match had all of the urgency of a pre-season affair, and only half the skill. Jordan Lyden got a first start as a holding midfielder and that was literally the best thing to happen to Villa in the half. He played decently well, and showed plenty of energy. Nothing amazing, but at this point that's fine. He's one of the young players around whom this club will have to build, so a solid starting debut is perfectly fine.
And the first half almost ended scoreless, the sort of boring reward that we deserved. With Norwich unable to get anything off of Crystal Palace in their first half, maybe the dimmest, tiniest flicker of hope could still be there. But no. Bournemouth got a corner and took it literally seconds shy of the whistle blowing in stoppage time. They took it short, did this weird thing called passing, and absolutely BAFFLED the Villa defense to slot it in for a 0-1 lead at the whistle.
The second half was just a formality. The football was a bit more exciting (at one point Kieran Richardson missed a goal that he could have made by literally simply standing there and allowing the ball to deflect off of him) but that was neither here nor there. When Bournemouth scored in the 74th minute on a Ciaran-Clark-imitates-Brad-Guzan pass that went awry, it was done. With relegation staring us in the face, I expected a sense of relief. I expected the weight to finally be lifted from our shoulders.
Instead I just got heartbreak. I wanted to cry. I felt as if I'd been punched in the gut. I wrote a story about relegation being official and got it set to publish and hated it and myself. Then the Holte End started singing. And not just singing, but singing as loudly as we've heard them all season. It was everything I could do not to just sob here on the couch watching from an ocean away.
But there's a bit of hope there, too. This club is relegated, it's not dead. Despite a season (or five, depending on how you want to count it) in which the club have actively antagonized fans, we're still here. We're still singing and we're going to keep doing so forever.
I didn't have to publish that piece on relegation. It's not done yet, but it will be soon. And when it happens it will be absolutely miserable. We'll survive, though. No matter what happens to this club, the fans will be there. There's a certain comfort in that.