I didn't expect to spend the first 4 minutes of the match inside the ticket office.
My heart sank when my season card wasn't in its usual place. Having transformed into a panicked whirlwind of destruction inside my house, I enjoyed an empty-handed lift to Villa Park. Sitting in glum silence whilst my own mother took the piss out of me was certainly an experience.
Walking to the ticket office, I got to see the less savoury type of football fans lurk outside the ground on both sides, drawing battle lines in the tarmac. I watched a West Brom supporter headbutt an officer whilst being held against a police transport van. When I returned, I got to see the conclusion as he stared forlornly from behind the van’s tinted windows as it pulled away from Aston with the first of its captured miscreants.
The actual match from start to finish was a tepid affair - with neither side leaving their mark on the game. It was enough to effectively nullify the home support; the Holte End became pretty quiet and only spoke to vent frustration towards the end. The quality of play harkened back to the Lambert days, and even then we could pass a pretty ball even if we couldn't score a goal.
Walking back from the match was also an event unto itself. With my phone out and recording, I couldn't resist the chance to capture any instance of crowd trouble, should it arise. This led me to to being slightly grouped, by a sturdy police line, in with a ring of Albion fans singing about the downfall of Aston Villa. I made my escape into a supermarket, but my bitterness remained. I'd practically paid £40 to watch paint dry and then be hassled afterward. This was on top of the fact I'd bloody well forgotten to leave my PS4 on so it could download the new new Destiny expansion pack. It was a day of losses, you can't help but laugh at it all sometimes and as the sun set over Aston, that's pretty much what I did all the way home.
It's a shame the first of our two derbies this week was a disappointment in all factors, I'm more upset with the lack of atmosphere and it seems to be returning to the quiet days of the Lambert snoozefests that took place at Villa Park.
Watching a Villa team consistently perform to a lower level than the sum of the starting team would suggest is enraging. In 3 matches at home I've watched us toss away a win, score 2 goals and walk away with 1 entire point. Simply put, it's not good enough from both Sherwood and the team who seem to sleepwalk through games and hold their head in their hands when they get punished. Every single person watching the game can identify a problem with Sherwood's Villa, but they line up the same and play the same - the definition of insanity is repeating the exact same action expecting different results. How can anyone expect positivity from a failing gameplan that is used time and time again with exactly the same results? Points thrown away against Leicester, Palace, Sunderland and Albion.
Sherwood's honesty and charisma had previously won over Villa fans, but his reluctance to tinker and experiment (I would prefer the Sherwood at Spurs who played Walker as a winger, than Villa's Sherwood who won't touch the team) will cost him, the team has setup exactly the same way in our previous matches and Villa have pretty much lost them all. Sherwood is very lucky to not have had the fans turn on him yet.
3 games down, 15 to go and my experience in the stands of Villa Park seems more lacklustre each time following a promising opening against Manchester United. Desperation is showing through the cracks of a clearly rattled manager, the captain of this ship is starting to seem as lost as Ahab, doomed to surge forward in a pointless quest to save his faltering reputation as his own Pequod, our Aston Villa slowly shows signs of sinking: chasing after the white whale of success. There will be mutiny on the high-seas before too long if our destination isn't changed. The question is, will it be the fans or the players who force a change? After a lukewarm reception to the previously popular manager, my money is on the fans.