Glensider at St James Park
St James Park
Attendance: 43 546
As that rather superb Topanga Canyon band 'Canned Heat' first informed us on their self titled debut album back in January of '67, we're 'On The Road Again', and indeed, aren't we just. Yes, I know that to all intents and purposes the new campaign kicked off with that 3-0 demolishing of West Ham United at Brummagem B6 last Saturday, but it's today when the real stuff gets underway. The Villa away-days are back, and another season of fun on the road as we clock up the miles to support the claret and blue boys begins.
As the trips to St James Park have always been amongst our favourites on the calendar (no real idea why, as we've certainly experienced a wide range of results and performances on Tyneside, definite highs and lows down throughout the years), there's no complaints from any of us as we leave Brum behind, destination Newcastle United.
As our personal little 'fixture list' has been quite kind to me as the new season swings into action, and I don`t have to provide the vehicle or take to the wheel until we head to The Molinuex in late September, I'm quite happy to disappear into the back seat and work my way through the multitude of Sunday newspapers that accompany us on today's little jaunt, halting my reading only briefly and occasionally to nod, shake my head, utter yes or no, or to sing a line or two of whatever Jethro Tull track it is that emits from the cd player. Clearly a pleasant outward bound journey lay ahead, just had to hope that the return trip home would be as enjoyable.
Plenty of fellow Villans on the road with us, as we tried to determine in what season we last won our opening two games of a campaign. We certainly didn't manage it under Martin O'Neill, nor under David O'Leary, but sadly we tired of the exercise before we could pinpoint the year, the manager, and the two victories.
Glorious sunshine as we approached Tyneside, weather more in keeping for an afternoon at the cricket, rather than ninety minutes of watching our national winter game. Does any geordie attend a game without wearing a replica shirt? It must surely be compulsory to sport the black and white striped top. However, a lot of claret and blue in evidence too, including four handsome individuals inside our car.
The talk in the pub pre-game centred unsurprisingly around the search for a new manager, and it certainly seems that the very vast majority of the regulars favour a new guy from outside of the club, while most agreed that the game today would be a much bigger test of Kevin MacDonald's credentials. Certainly under O'Neill we were a more than useful outfit on the road, extremely hard to beat, as our points haul over the past couple of seasons would indicate. Many agreed that there was a suggestion of going 'a little over the top' following the victory over a very poor West Ham, but today, on opposition territory, we would find ourselves tested more.
KevMac's team was probably the one most of us expected, although many expressed reservations about attempting to go all-out gung ho when on opposition territory, in fact it was the team that started last weekend, with Stephen Ireland in for James Milner. Lets face it though, after a wasted summer of virtually no incoming transfer activity, he has few options, although a more reserved approach was called for for this game, as opposed to how we set about the West Ham season opener.
Friedel, Young, Dunne, Clark, Warnock, Albrighton, Petrov, Ireland, Downing, Carew and Young.
On the bench, Guzan, Beye, Bannan, Lichaj, NRC, Delfouneso and Heskey.
The opening exchanges suggested little of the drama to come, but on eight minutes we threw away a glorious opportunity to take an early lead. Ashley Young was put clean through in the box, and as he attempted to round Steve Harper, he was taken down by the Newcastle 'keeper, and Martin Atkinson was left with very little choice but to point to the spot.
Up stepped Carew, only to blaze the ball way over the bar. Head in hands time all around, both on the pitch, and up amongst us, in the gods.
A mere two minutes later our woes doubled. Joey Barton was fed by Gutierrez, and he unleashed an absolute screamer from 30 yards out, that flew past a well beaten Brad Friedel. 1-0 to the Geordies, the stadium volume increased to a new level, as if that were possible.
Ashley Young rounded Harper to find the net on twenty-five minutes to seemingly level matters, but the goal was ruled out for offside. I'd have to see that one on the box to clarify my thinking, but it looked a decent enough goal to us.
Before we knew it though it was 2-0. Gutierrez put a ball into the box, and Carroll was there to nod it down to Nolan.. His first header was well saved by Friedel, but he made no mistake from the rebound.
It got worse. Three minutes later Barton whipped in a corner, it was nodded across goal. Richard Dunne screwed his clearance up completely, and Carroll reacted quickly to shoot past Friedel. Come Back Martin O'Neill, all is forgiven!
Newcastle looked likely to score each and every time they came forward, and they were coming forward at will. That calamitous afternoon at Stamford Bridge apart, this shambles was looking very much like the most inept Villa away performance we had witnessed since David O'Leary walked amongst us.
Into the second half, and it didn't get any better, although it took the home side until the sixty-fifth minute before they made it four, Carroll notching his second goal of the afternoon. You could see though that the rampant home team weren't finished, and a repeat of that seven goal hiding at Stamford Bridge started to look a very distinct possibility. Woeful stuff. Simply not acceptable.
The mood amongst the travelling Villans was now one very much of anger, with KevMac, the players, the ex-manager, and Randy Lerner, all coming in for their fair share of abuse. Not a pleasant atmosphere at all.
We were a shambles at the back, completely dominated in midfield, and lacked any threat or purpose up front. Embarrassing didn't even begin to describe it. Outplayed, outfought, outclassed.
Kevin Nolan made it five in the eighty-fifth minute, and there was still time for Andy Carroll to complete his hat-trick right at the death. By then though, most Villans had vacated the stadium, leaving just us few gluttons for punishment, to soak up the final humiliating action.
Absolute and utter dross, there's no escaping the fact. A gutless, clueless shambles, that clearly indicates that all is far from well, and that this campaign is going to be a very difficult one. We were soundly beaten by a team that with all due respects are hardly going to see their name in lights this season, apart from that is, following today's trouncing of our lot.
Not the result/performance that we expected, and not the result/performance we had all hoped would kick-off our away day campaign. Arguably the worst Villa away performance witnessed in a long time. Even worse than Stamford Bridge. At least we played reasonably well there for forty-five minutes. I am, suffice to say, somewhat stunned, and definitely lost for words. One of those very rare occasions when reliving the nightmare and having to pen a report, is not the most pleasant of tasks.
Randy Lerner, over to you.