Aston Villa 1 – 0 Wigan Athletic
After last weekend’s defeat, getting back to winning ways was the order of the day. And we achieved that; Jack Grealish showed why the laddish larks are forgiven, overlooked and torture to us.
With a goalless draw seemingly inevitable, Grealish made the difference. Two minutes to go, Jack seized on what the Wigan defence probably thought was a half-decent clearance. The ball fizzed into the top corner, an arcing shot beyond the despairing dive and hit the taut net with a reassuring ‘whomp’. I have no idea if that’s the noise properly described but to me it’s a ‘whomp’.
The ball hit the corner of the back of the net so perfectly, it bounced a couple of times in the goal before hitting the prostrate goalkeeper. OK, it didn’t but it should have done; that’s the only way the goal could have been improved. Beaten once on the way in, the ball thuds into the back of his head on the way out. It’s the satisfaction that only a football supporter can understand.
And we do enjoy those moments because we know the agony of them as well. Villa fans particularly; we’ve been hapless in relegation, we know what it’s like to be on the receiving end.
Steve Bruce has changed that; he’s given us hope and wins like yesterday’s are the sort that feed belief. We were, for the most part, rubbish. That’s a considered football term, before anyone asks. And don’t ask me if anyone went close to scoring because I’m struggling to remember. Kodjia did; he always does, doesn’t he? He does, doesn’t he?
On this occasion, that forlorn desperation in my words is the truth. Jonathan Kodjia did fire goalwards but Jordan Amavi went closer, which was surprising in the sense that the Ivory Coast international is our ‘go-to’ guy.
Whilst despair was beginning to fill the air, Jack’s goal and the eruption of relief which ensued, does underline the work Bruce has done since taking over. Last year was the ‘media friendly’ side of our despair. The printed paper, the protests against the owner but in truth, no-one trusted the XI.
Managers came and went but made little difference; the players were hapless as well. Roberto Di Matteo turned over a great number of staff and did a necessary job, rooting out the chaff from the wheat. Or the wheat from the chaff, whichever you prefer. That twisting of the saying sums up the difference between the two seasons. Closely related but undeniably different.
In what’s becoming a wonderful way. Thirteenth place; pfffft, it’s nothing. Four points off the play-offs? Colour me intrigued. By the weekend, with a freak coincidence of results, we could be in the mix. I’ll settle instead to being one point off the pace.
These aren’t heady times yet but we’re getting there. I look at the top of the table with some envy. Newcastle have spent the money Villa should have. Brighton are where we should be. They have what I want.
And Steve Bruce might just deliver it.
Three points, a Jack Grealish goal. Does it get any better? Of course, but I’ll settle for it right now.