Back in the Dark Ages when I was at school, we had a science teacher called Graeme Penman.
He was a Kiwi with a fantastic sense of humour and also the Junior Colts cricket coach. Nets with him were fun, and his lessons were more than bearable even if, like me, you were utter wallaby poo at science. He could hit a specific unruly pupil’s ear with a piece of chalk from ten yards and was also known to launch a wooden-backed blackboard rubber at anybody who was truly disruptive.
He was never arrested for ABH to my knowledge; this was the 1970s after all. Most of us liked him immensely.
One morning we all trooped into the lab and noticed he had a saucepan full of simmering water on a burner. “What’s that Sir?” someone asked.
“It’s a saucepan of water”, he replied. “Take a good look at it while you can”.
Confused, we all sat down.
Rather obviously, the subject of the day was evaporation. The lesson ended with hissing and spitting from the empty saucepan, thus proving Mr Penman hadn’t been talking through his antipodean derriere.
I recalled this incident for the first time in nearly 50 years when I crawled out of my pit on Sunday morning. Because the patience of some of our supporters seems to be evaporating as quickly as the contents of Mr Penman’s pan.
I wasn’t at the game but the brief study of commentary, an amalgam of social media, twenty minutes of Canary Call and a “match report” from my mate Pat – a Villa fan who was there – leads me to the following conclusion: the knives are already out in certain quarters – four games into the season.
There has been plenty of hissing and spitting and that’s for sure.
Following on with the scientific theme I can ‘distill’ the whinging into four major sections.
Moan one: team selection and tinkering. “We never win when Naismith, Martin and Jerome play” was my ‘favourite’ but few people took it on board that Ive Pinto was clearly unfit, Nelson Oilviera had a groin strain we knew nothing about and Daniel Farke clearly didn’t fancy James Maddison for this game. Verdict: Out of order.
Moan two: Russell Martin was largely vilified for a poor performance. Mark Rivers suggested on Radio Norfolk that Martin was no longer fit for purpose, social media destroyed him and Pat said he was frankly dreadful. Having seen the highlights… Verdict: Justified criticism.
Moan three: Angus Gunn could have done better with a couple of the Villa goals. Yes, I suppose he could if he had eight legs and six hands. Verdict: Out of order.
Moan four: The wrong substitutions at the wrong time, aimed fairly and squarely at Farke with some (okay, many) suggesting an echo of Alex Neil. Pat took no notice of our subs and I wasn’t there so therefore… Verdict: The jury is out.
It seems we were abysmal in the first-half but could have nicked a draw if Conor Hourihane’s final goal had been disallowed for the handball in the build-up and we had got lucky. It wasn’t and we didn’t.
Now when the vast majority of us vowed patience with the new set-up there was surely not a four-game limit on it. Nobody can be happy we shipped four but Villa were by no means as bad as they’ve been painted. We will suffer from results like this and getting into the play-offs will be a bonus.
But moaning like hell itself is not going to help. Everybody is unhappy after a bad result; I know I am. But we have been presented with a scenario and a cogent plan and I believe we should be content (c. D. Farke) with it.
Had our previous manager somehow managed to limp on to starting the season and our first four performances had been like this with the ‘old guard’ while the Board sat on their hands I would be fuming.
But evolution takes time, as will the ‘Webberlution’. We have to stick with it, some of us who actively want to and others who believe (probably rightly) they have little choice.
Archant’s Paddy Davitt made a great point which puts things into perspective, for me at least.
After a performance like that the last thing you need is Millwall away. They will smell blood, that’s for sure.
But we have the Carabao Cup tie at home to Charlton tonight (whose manager Karl Robinson has threatened to rest many of his first choices) and even with a depleted squad this might blow away a few cobwebs and bring back some confidence.
These are still very much early days in a long season.
And to return to Mr Penman’s saucepan, maybe we should put a lid on the moaning for now.