Look at the result. See how it forms such an unnatural shape, with an added appendage - a fresh digit not normally seen. A 12 in a world of one’s and twos. It’s an abomination, and aberration - something that needs to be spelt out (twelve) as opposed to simply spoken aloud. It’s garish and unwelcome. It makes you feel physically uncomfortable. It’s unnerving. A cosmic horror of a sporting result, in-between the planes of reality. 12-0.
Reading the result alone tells a story in of itself. It’s 12 goals in 90 minutes placed past ten players and a goalkeeper. It’s shocking. How? Why? It can be perfectly packaged a horror show, and a catastrophe - both things which, funnily enough, it wasn’t. With the gift and insight that something as simple as context provides, Aston Villa Ladies 12-0 loss to Manchester United WFC in the first match of a new season of FA Championship football was acceptable. That hasn’t stopped the game being cut up into 90 seconds of action and shipped around the globe in humiliating fashion - as you’d expect it to - but context gives us a lot to digest in regards to this particular result. Taking the 12-0 result at face value is quite like picking up The Road and wondering aloud why the author is writing like a child. Context? It’s key.
Your context for this match? All you need to know, really, is that Manchester United WFC are fully funded and are a full-time professional football club. To our knowledge, they are the only fully funded and full-time professional football club in the league which they inhabit. That means they can spend time on coaching and developing their players. It means that for the most part, the financial worries of each player are taken care of. It means that there is a dedicated coaching network on hand to develop game plans and tune the players up. It means that the full focus of Manchester United WFC can be on Manchester United WFC.
This is not the case for Villa Ladies. Team manager Gemma Davies is the manager of the club on a part-time basis, with a full-time role to pay the bills. While Davies has admittedly gotten used to balancing roles - she’s paid for her development with sacrificing her free time; all of it. On the other side of the coin, Manchester United have been drilled on this game for months and have endured one main worry - fitness. The same concessions are being made by both sides to get fit for games, but only one team is being paid to do so.
Now, this shouldn’t take anything away from Manchester United. They deserved the win, and they surely be a force to be reckoned with. However, the club chose to compete in the second tier of English Women’s football (when it’s likely they could have made the top division with a license application). Bare in mind the congratulatory pats on the back after beating Villa by 12-0. That’s going to happen a lot more this season. The FA have introduced a wrecking ball into a pâtisserie.
The true currency that Aston Villa Ladies need is time, and that’s only something that can be bought with money, in this instance. No other Ladies team can afford the time concessions given to Manchester United WFC as a full-time professional club. However, the opportunity is clearly there for the clubs in the FA Championship to be funded. Villa Ladies brought a crowd of over 1,000 to their home opener (far beyond the seating capacity of the stadium) - and the support is vocal and ready. It’s just a true shame that the players have to commit, and sacrifice, a lot just to pull on the shirt.
Of course, the press missed this as an opportunity to assess the state of the FA Championship. They marvelled at Manchester United WFC doing exactly what they should do, as they blew apart a team that I could bankroll a few times over. Some Villa fans were no better, launching odd attacks at a team they have never watched, expecting Villa Ladies to mirror their well-paid male counterparts. Arguments made with poor knowledge and in bad faith ruled the day, as Villa Ladies were oddly compared with Aston Villa FC (and their 8-0 loss to Chelsea a number of years ago was far worse than this). That’s completely unfair, Villa Ladies are situated far away from the monotonous victory cycle of the Men’s game, which screams ‘more!’ after each win. No, Villa Ladies are situated within a purer form of the sport, and that’s not being taken into account at all. The fact that we are comparing dedicated amateurs to professionals is incredibly disingenuous and any claims of equality are in poor taste and made in bad faith without any serious critical thought.
There’s a lot to take on here, personally. I have failed. This site has failed Aston Villa Ladies. If there are Aston Villa fans out there who can find it in themselves to mock and not question, then I have simply not done a good enough job of A - reporting on Aston Villa Ladies or B - finding someone who will. That’s completely and utterly unacceptable and I’m going to have to carry that. I have let down the mandate given to me by my forebear in this role and it’s now on me, and this site, to perform that task. No, we alone are not responsible - but there must be more than one site reporting (shout out to The Claret and View) on Aston Villa Ladies consistently - because the club deserves to be reported about. If the context is not clear - that’s on us, really. Fan blogs can do that, and they should do that, because so much context and story is lost on larger newspapers who just write things. I feel awful at the fact that Villa fans are looking at their Ladies team in a bad light, this should not be the case, because despite the result - Villa Ladies are something to be proud of.
Just reflect on that performance one more time. Villa couldn’t do anything. They were outmatched and outgunned. United’s high press confined the ball to Villa’s half. Waged layers of international quality were matched up with those paying to play for the club. Villa Ladies play for the pride of wearing the Aston Villa badge, and that shows. At 9 goals down they still gave it everything - with crunching tackles and searching passes. Credit must go to Sian Rogers in goal, who did everything she could to avoid mirroring an exasperated Brad Guzan, flapping his arms in frustration. Villa Ladies try, despite it all. 12-0 doesn’t take that away. The fans sung and raised hell until the end, and they’ll do the same again, as Villa Ladies play for the Lion Rampant on their shirt.