After a convincing win at home that put an end to our relegation fears—this season’s, anyway—I feel relieved, proud, exhausted, deflated, and depressed all at once. And, yes, a tiny bit hopeful.
Relieved that it’s over, and we can watch the final two games of the season without worrying that we’ll be playing the Blues (and singing them) in the Championship next year. Proud that we achieved safety with a positive result, without having to let other teams’ losses help us survive. Exhausted because, you know. Deflated because the last remaining tension has been let out of the season. Depressed because, you know: another shit season. Hopeful because, without hope, how can you be a Villa supporter?
Not that the season hasn’t had its moments: beating Arsenal, Manchester City, and Chelsea. Picking up a point against the deadliest Liverpool side in years. A thrilling win against Southampton. Moments of brilliance that made futile losses against crap sides all the more maddening. We were owned by Fulham—Fulham!—who are going down.
It’s worth noting the players who played roles in the three goals. On the first, Gabby bullied his way down the left, literally pushing a Hull defender out of the way, before passing to Albrighton. Albrighton whiffed but didn’t give up, poking the ball to Westwood, who put it away neatly.
On the second, Baker’s two determined headers failed to find the net but Weimann, showing a poacher’s instinct, was in the right place at the right time to put a third header home. The Austrian’s celebration, cupping his ears in front of the fans, was a sad reminder both of his season and the support he’s lacking, and a telling contrast to the moment after he got the winner against Manchester City in the fall. On the third goal, little-used Jordan Bowery played a perfect cross to Weimann, who scored on a deft glancing header.
With the exception of Gabby, whose spark has dimmed a bit as the season wore on, the rest made, at least on the day, a case for the youth movement, coming up big when they absolutely had to. Three of six players, Gabby, Albrighton, and Weimann, are Villa products; only one could be called a veteran. Supporters disappointed with the season—and I certainly count myself one of them—should keep in mind the role played by Benteke’s and Okore’s season-ending injuries. Had they both been available all year long, surely we would have been safe much sooner.
At any rate, the sense of support and unity finally shown by supporters for this last home game will probably dissipate quickly. We all want a stronger team and better results next year, and any two supporters will be of three minds as to how that can be achieved. And will Lambert be back? Will Lerner be back? Or will he sell the club, and to whom, and if so, what changes will take place?
It’s all too much to think about on a cold Monday in Chicago. I’ll watch the last two games, hoping they give me a few more moments to cheer about.