Writer: J P Fear
Date:Thursday August 24 2006
Attendance: 37 329
So, Martin O'Neill rolls into town, and despite the best efforts of Reading, the party could not be spoilt. Reading took an early lead but Villa were not going to capitulate at Villa Park - not this season!
What a difference a manager makes, sure the squad is still the same squad, very thin on the ground and in great need of re-enforcements, but last night, for the first time in a long time, they looked like a team. Even the players on the bench looked interested as they were jumping up and down when we scored and often standing up during the game to see what was going on.
As for Martin O'Neill, he got the sort of reception you would expect and he certainly confirmed my suspicions, he has had pogo sticks implanted into his legs as he was jumping up and down like a good en. Funny, he has been here 2 minutes and he already looks and feels like a Villa manager, standing with the Villa tracksuit on, pacing the touchline (giving the fourth official plenty to do, maybe they will need to attach some elastic on him so he can only stroll so far?!) and getting totally involved. Bit different to our last manager, what was his name again?
Last night it felt to me that the soul was back at Aston Villa and the buzz and excitement was infectious. With over 37 000 fans there, it just shows what a bit of optimism can do to the Villa faithful. If DOL had remained, I would think the attendance would be 10 000 under that! Only thing we need to crack now is for the Holte End to forget about Birmingham City - who cares about them? So why sing about them?! The ground was also full of talk of Randy Lerner and the takeover, with some funds and fresh ideas, Villa Park is going to be rocking and rolling. We'll soon have the ground full to the rafters and many of the younger fans will see what it really means being a Lion. Many won't have been around for the European nights, lets hope they come soon and we can all forget about the politics and the past, and start to enjoy a bright future.
Reading were certainly no push over, I don't think anyone expected them to be and our defence was caught cold in the 4th minute as Reading cut through our team and Doyle scored.
Villa weren't to be rushed or panicked though, they played how they should, with the ball mostly on the ground, they seemed to have a better understanding and more cohesion and it was great to see the amount of forward passes had increased. The midfield still aren't always providing the necessary through balls to Angel who gets caught off-side very often because of that. There seemed to be more patient build ups last night and it was good to see. On the 34th minute Villa quite rightly got a penalty and , Sonko saw red. Angel neatly despatched the penalty and Villa Park erupted, as did O'Neill and the bench.
The second goal was nutted in by the ever brilliant Gareth Barry from a perfectly floated cross by Peter Whittingham. So happy to see Whitts still at Villa, the fans are too quick to get on the back of the youth players, but given time these players will become regulars for Villa. He came on as sub for Jlloyd Samuel who picked up a knock.
Vital Villa did a poll on the result and 92% said we would win, only 3% that we would lose and the remaining 5% said a draw. The majority were spot on and the Lions are in dreamland. Reading huffed and puffed, with some great teamwork and crisp passing, but there was only ever going to be one winner last night and that was the mighty Villa. Our luck looks like it is on the turn, long may it continue.
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Date:Thursday August 24 2006
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