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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Aston Villa 0 - West Ham 2

Villa Park

3pm 8/02/14

Attendance: 36,261

Grizzly: Villa v West Ham


I blame the Atlantic jet stream. It's currently stuck in a low pressure groove, and is in the habit of throwing buckets of wet disgusting weather in our direction. That is why the tree has fallen on the line, forcing the cancellation of the train we are sitting on. This means everyone has to jump off at New Street.

We dash to the cab rank, but there's already a queue. Good ol' extreme (yet now familiar) weather. We wait ten minutes before bundling ourselves inside a black cab along with four youthful looking Hammer fans.

There's some good banter on the drive in, though as we arrive at B6 I feel obliged to inform them that, unlike Villa Park, Upton Park is a dump; that their away end is a sweaty walled, spider bunker and that they should feel ashamed for forcing it on the football family. Please move to the Olympic Park as soon as possible.

The last time we met we played out a 0-0 in blowing rain, in a game that was an offence to the eyeballs. We are all hoping for better today though I am not so sure we will get it. You only have to consider who we are playing to understand why, though let's not quibble about it. After all, every League has one: you know, that team that has ten pints of warm ale each on the bus, before running out all pointy elbowed with six inch studs in their boots? They launch the ball for their 'parolee' target man and then bum rush your keeper for the knock on, whilst trampling your 'young and promising' central defender half to death in the process. It's their 1970's philosophy, this mud splattered, six yard box, puddle splashing, aerial football, because it's a ******* man's game, innit. Joking aside, you get the drift. Welcome then to West Ham United, their staff, players and especially their long suffering fans.

On a summer's day I'm sure we would wipe the floor with Big Sam's Hammers, but in the middle of a rain storm, when we have to get down and dirty and man up, it could well end up being meat and potatoes vs cornflakes. Headers anyone?

Team news flies in via Twatter. Bad news Bible: Roncrete Vlaar is out so Bakesy is in. Can't fault the boy for his courage and his ability to get body parts in the way yet we need a mature head today and a leader, and that isn't Bakesy. Lowton comes in at RB, with Clark at CB and the excellent Bertrand at LB. It's Bacuna Delph and Westwood across the middle, with Weimann, Benteke and Captain Agbonlahor up top.

West Ham, having lost their latest Perry Mason led legal challenge, are still without Andy Carroll. In his last, and one of his only outings for the Irons, he managed to get himself sent off, assisted by winter gymnast Chico Flores who performed a 'Tripple Reverse with Tuck', so Carlton Cole will once again deputise for the former 50m man. Winston Reid, is still not fit enough for a start, so takes his place on the Hammers bench.
The referee's bugle sounds and it's Game on!


First thing to note: I have under layers on today, leg warmers the works. Scarf snood, fleece, outdoor coat and a funny woolly hat, yet my word, it's cold. The wind really gets under the skin and its tipping it down with it. Out on the pitch, everyone is taking their time getting used to the conditions. West Ham send some speculative efforts up which we clear, leaving Delph and Westy to fire some ranged passes for strike force Villa, yet they're struggling to judge the distance. Stewart Downing is today's pantomime Villan but in these conditions I don't really feel that bothered about joining in with the boos. He knows what he is by now. We've told him enough.

West Ham start to find some width. Matt Jarvis is really troubling Bacuna on the right side and is finding his way past Lowton. Clark comes and clears, shepherding the ball out of play. Guzan sends the ball up to Benteke, but the ball spins back in the air and comes down, into a scrum of heads and legs. It comes wide to Jarvis again who is in space. Bacuna is too far forward and is not tracking and Lowton is beaten for pace, leaving Jarvis to send in a fizzing ball to the far post. Downing is there but Bertrand somehow nicks it away on the deck, sliding hard into the post for his trouble. That looks like a nasty one. Referee Mike Dean stops play, allowing the winded Bertrand time to get medical treatment. He is applauded back to his feet. Super last ditch tackle.

West Ham are using the width of the pitch well, with Carlon Cole tussling with Baker for the knock on, winning the ball before sending it out to the flanks. Matt Taylor finds space after some more good play out wide, but his narrow shot is saved by Guzan. Wake up Villa!!!

The ball swirls around and it's ping-pong in the middle with Delph dominating in the centre circle. We are set to strike on the counter here as West Ham are pressing. We just need the right weight of pass and then we can rip them a new one. The ball comes back to Guzan... yes.... go.... He throws out to Weimann... he races on to it, keeps it in.... acres of space ahead of him....he breaks into the last twenty yards, fires a low cross toward Agbonlahor..... but he can't control it. Darn.

We are now pressing West Ham, moving it from side to side, stretching their back four as we look to create holes and gaps, but we lose possession. The ball loops up and it's knocked on, wind aided, for Jarvis who runs clear. Bakesy is on his tail.... Jarvis into the box but Bakesy is there with a killer tackle at the last. He gets enough on it to see Jarvis' shot wide.

We go back at them, winning a corner. McCartney heads clear but only to Westwood on the edge of the D... he shoots.......just wide of the neat post. Inches wide.

Button looks like a block of blonde ice so I take her down to the concourse for some warming chips and a pew in the Holte Suite. Having set her up I nip to the facilities. I come straight out all a rage and go and find a senior-steward. The toilet is blocked with faeces, fag butts and toiler paper, and it reeks of smoke. Now, my response might sound overly dramatic to some, but I watched my father die a slow death from lung cancer, so me and smoking are no longer friends. As a result I do not want carcinogenic material on my skin or clothes; neither do I want to wipe up someones urine before I take the Villa Park throne. Seriously, do they do this at home? Absolutely disgraceful.

After warming up, it's back on to the Holte. I take my seat just as the second half starts. West Ham launch one from deep. Someone meet it??? No. It comes to Downing. He goes down the left, foxes Bertrand, then sends a low cross over to the far post... Nolan.....left-foot, right-foot give a dog a bone....West Ham's away army erupt in the rain. Vital Villa friends, I must sadly inform you that the Grizzly head is once more in the Grizzly hands because on 46' minutes it's Aston Villa 0-1 West Ham.

Do I sense another 5-10 minutes of suicidal football at Villa Park? I do hope not. Rattled we take the kick-off from centre. West Ham, experienced campaigners that they are, charge at us, trying to force an early error. Delph is caught in possession, only this time his quick feet fail him. Nolan bounces him off the ball, marauds his way into the penalty area....central defender anyone? No.....still buckle my shooooe.... GOAL.
Yes, I was right. It's another 5-10 minutes of suicidal football from Villa. Actually, make that 2 minutes. Some bloke behind me is now screaming every obscenity known to man in the direction of the pitch as the Irons go mental for Kevin Nolan. Everyone around us falls quiet as that B6 depression sets in. Gees, I feel low. Complete naivety and inexperience from us. We fell right into that. On 48' minutes it's Aston Villa 0-2 West Ham.

Paul Lambert does not look happy. He is not alone. He brings on Albrighton on 54' minutes for a poor Lowton. He immediately makes the difference, dazzling on the right-hand side. We soon have West Ham on the back foot and are pressing the Irons deep. Albie tries one from distance..... Oh my... it's off the far post.... super stuff there from 25 yards.

We continue to press with a run of corners. Bennett then comes on for the weary Bertrand who goes straight down the tunnel, clutching his side. The Mrs is looking out on the pitch in disbelief: "Bennettttt???" she cries. "Yes, he's still here," I tell her. A bad day has just gotten worse.

We go close with a Benteke header. It cannons of the corner of the bar. Another good effort, though its all in vain. Crosses are reigning in now from the excellent Albie but we just cannot get the final touch. West Ham are, as you would expect, incredibly well drilled at set pieces; they are relaxed with a 2 goal cushion and they are heading everything clear. Despite an acrobatic late effort from Benteke at full time it's Aston Villa 0-2 West Ham.


We go straight round to the Holte Suite where we sit and watch the results come in. Good news: Sunderland have lost, as have West Brom, who boing-boing into the relegation zone. Bad news: we are now 11th on GD (later to be 12th on GD) 4 points off the drop. Oh, and it's raining heavier than ever now and the wind is now blowing a gale across the car park. Please, can it stop raining. Bored of the rain now, bored of inconsistent error ridden football at home as well. As my beloved Button might put it. "God, we are **** at home."

That was a stupid game to throw away wasn't it? - and we have thrown it, by committing stupid, unacceptable errors in a two minute spell of mad, bad defending. Paul Lambert, in his post match interview, looks like he's ready to rip paint of the walls. For me, the players have let him down there, plain and simple, and us with it. I feel like I want to go round to Bodymoor Heath and paint a massive 90 on the side of the training complex because they seem to forget that they have to perform for the whole game. Not for 54, 68 or even 88 minutes, but for 90. That's N-I-N-E-T-Y, lads.

Next up. Cardiff away. A must win fixture.
Scuba gear at the ready. See you all there.

Star Player

Man of the match: Albrighton

Room for improvement: Agbonlahor

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The Journalist

Writer: Villa_Grizzly Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday February 9 2014

Time: 1:01AM

Your Comments

Grizzly I got up in Australia to watch this, couldn't believe the first fifty minutes and then as you say in your great report Albie comes on and we are buzzing. Simple Villa play like you did near the end from the beginning and we'd see far more home wins than defeats , batter teams thats what the likes of Liverpool and united have done at home for years. We need to get better delivery to Benteke , Albie from the start Tuesday one hopes. Finally haven't we get a good young centre half that deserves a chance !!!
Similarities between the "facilities" and the game are quite remarkable.........
Pride of Lions
How did Collins play?
Collins played well. He was a ball magnet and headed our howitzers away all day. he's not a great footballer but he did a very effective job.
Collins cleared everything we threw at him . Just the bloke for a game like that against our hoof it up the left to Benteke game. Why don't we try hoofing it to the right now and then ? Pick up thy bed and walk Lamberk
Yup, agree with the others, Collins was pretty solid.
The Fear
Well the only note of difference from this drivel to all the other drivel we have played was at least Lambert showed a 'slight' morsel of disillusionment in the sides effort. Maybe his own contract talks have made him a bit edgy, but he needs to start using the hair dryer treatment on them instead of trying to protect them with post match drivel. If we had enough depth in our squad the bomb squad would be full of underperforming players, not ones who happened to be given over generous contracts by clueless management.
marlin magic
Normally enjoy these reports due to their balance and restraint when we are poor. But you would be forgiven for thinking if you read that and didn't see the match, that Villa were okay and robbed by 5 mins of madness - we weren't, Villa were absolutely dire and clueless what to do at home to break a team down - again. Bloody useless and increasingly obvious that Lambert has not got a single clue. I'm sure its not intentional but a report like that could have easily have been written by the official AVFC site. Admittedly its the day after and I'm still fuming!
Totally agree on the smoking thing, toilets are toilets not bloody smoking booths!! They used to patrol the toilets didn't they? I used to smoke, not any more thank goodness, we used to say - it's a bit sad if you can't go 90 mins without having one. Isn't there a smoking section in the upper Holte now?
Your right Crimsondonkey Lamberk hasn't got a clue. I've lost track of the number of times Albrighton has come on 20mins from time, been man of the match and on the bench for the next. OK we've got limited resources but Lamberks use of them is pathetic. Is Holt a better striker than Bent? I don't think so. Bent might not be allowed to physically play against us but to all and intents and purposes He is. Since this decision was virtually Lamberks first when joining Villa we should guessed his level of expertise then.
i always loved albrighton, but lets get things into perspective. he is a great runner and can run through players, but his final touch is usually very bad or he ends up in the crowds as he runs like forest gump, aimlessly and too far. but yesterdays performance was out of this world, hopefully he has come of age now. cardiff on that performance is a must start
Ali Arab
Thanks for another great report Grizzly. After serious thought, my solution for our consistently poor home form is as follows: 1) put the lads on a bus the morning of home games and ride them around the ring road for a few hours; 2) when they arrive at Villa Park, shepherd them into the visitors' dressing room and have them put on the away kit; and 3) when they take the pitch greet them with a new anthem, something along the lines of "We may look like the Holte End, but we're really the Kop . . . . "
Virginia Villan
I agree that Gabby wasn't his usual self, but could that be PL's fault for rushing him back too early? I thought Delph had his worst game this season, with far too many misplaced passes which were reminiscent of his early Villa days.
I wouldn't have rushed Gabby back so quick, and we could do with Lambert by now sorting out this horrific home record, poor display great review by the way Grizzly, Benteke plays good so do we, way too reliant on the big man for my liking, not happy.
Billy Lee
really feel for benteke, we play far to negative at home only come to life when trailing,good report from grizzly though,also agree with ali regarding albighton, but Collins not my cup of tea, but better than the chuckle brothers, LOL
Albie should be starting, Helenius or Bent should be ahead of Holt...plain simple
In light of how well Albie played against West Ham and how we started to play football a bit.....I hope he's sent out on loan to the Championship straight away. We cannot and will not allow this style of football at Villa Park, especially at home. At one point a game of football almost broke out. Disgrace....Lambert.....drop him.
Agree Villa Hippo Gabby still looked crocked not his usual self it seems to be the case that we have to rush certain players back,EG Benteke earlier in the season must have played 4/5 games while still not 100%.Vlar and Delph the same. Unless those 4 and Guzan are playing at their best we struggle.
In my view, the reason Delph had an off day is because he knew the centre halves couldn't be trusted and spent most of the game dropping to cover for their mistakes. Yes he was at fault for the 2nd goal, but the clowns behind him have cost us dozens of goals over the last couple of seasons and it would've been many more if it wasn't for Delph. He can't do everything on his own and needs help in midfield (as has been the case for ages now), as well as two centre helves he can rely on. Playing hoofball against an Allardice team at home is destined to end in failure. I can see that and have never coached a team in my life! I think too many of the players thought we'd got out of the relegation scrap after the Baggies win. They need to get it through their heads that we're right in it (again), just like we were last season.
The buck always stops at the top! People mention Lerners "200M investment (club bought at around 80M?)'. How much is actually out of his pocket...Anyway, anyone with 1% of intelligence, knows that Lambert is not good enough. If you are going to spend money, spend it on players who are good enough. If not play the youth players. I would never want Macleish, Allardyce, Pulis, MCarthy here as they are (no disrespect), managers whose strength is the Boltons, BLackburns, Stokes, i.e. limited ambitions focussing on staying up. Note Blackburn went down after Allardyce left..I never wanted David Moyes when O'Neill left. I saw him as a manager like O'Neil who could take a team so far but would always have limitations as he could not attract the right players and manage them to take a club to the very top. Its not just money its credibility. But, if Allardyce was in charge here, do you not think he would motivate the players better? Motivation is not just about uncrossing your arms and looking like you know what you are doing, its about being 100% focussed on the game. Villa's lack of concentration is a direct result of the manager not being able to motivate the players in that way. I agree with the majority that Lambert must go, I agree with the majority who query who will come. I pray that Lerner will go as his lack of attendance and refusal to speak proves he has lost interest. Equally, he never wanted to invest much time. He allowed O'Neill a free reign and that costly mistake brought home the effort he would need to put in and he simply does not want to. So hopefully he will sell. So the here and now. Why not put, until the end of season, Gordon Cowans in charge and temporarily bring in someone e.g. Olef Melburg who will immediately get the fans lifted which will lift the team. It is dire and yet 4 wins and two draws and we are safe. That way no long commitment or promises made by a chairman who may not be there. But, plenty of time to source a new manager for the new season with a new owner. Surely someone exists who can actually get the team to concentrate and defend. Surely someone can stop making excuses and yes give the hair dryer treatment and stand on the touch lines leaving them in no doubt that one moment of Delph like lack of concentration will see them hauled off.

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