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Author Topic: Cult Heroes of Villa Park – Tammy Abraham  (Read 612 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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Cult Heroes of Villa Park – Tammy Abraham
« on: June 01, 2020, 12:16:10 AM »
It took a fair bit of doing, but in the end Tammy Abraham became a Villa player and went on to play as big a role as anyone in Villa’s promotion squad. The deal with parent club Chelsea took a long time to sort out. The West Londoners haven’t exactly been shy about loaning players out over the last few years - any season where they don’t lend out about forty can be regarded as a ‘slow’ year - but with Tammy they had a few extra problems to deal with. In a loan spell at Bristol City two years before, he had sped past the twenty-goal mark in a team not good enough to trouble the play-offs. The following season, he turned up at Premier League Swansea, failing to make double figures in a relegated side.

Where next, then, for the highly-rated prodigy? Another season at the top level to see if he’s good enough, or drop down one level to boost his confidence ready for the next move up? The late arrival on the scene of Villa’s new owners meant that Villa weren’t exactly hitting the ground running on this one. The deadline day was approaching with still no deal done. Rumours abounded the Tammy was pals with Jack Grealish and that this might help to swing the deal. Scott Hogan’s injury in pre-season (non-existent, according to the player) meant that Steve Bruce could plead the need for an extra striker to new CEO Christian Purslow. Finally, with time running out, James Nursey in the Mirror said that the Villa-Abraham loan deal was off, so hopefully we were all able to get down the bookies tootie-sweetie to stick piles on it definitely being ON. And lo, it came to pass.

All this meant that Abraham had missed the first six games of the season, including the last, a 4-1 hammering at Bramall Lane. It was after this dismal showing, featuring a full-strength Villa team, that people’s patience with the manager was shown to be wearing perilously thin. Tammy helped to ease the pressure with a well-taken goal in an unimpressive win against Rotherham, his only win for his new boss. As an aside, Tammy made his own little bit of history in October, scoring in consecutive games for three different managers. First, he notched Villa’s second in the fateful 3-3 draw at home to Preston; he then opened the scoring under caretaker-manager Kevin MacDonald in the defeat at Millwall; finally, he glanced home the only goal in front of a packed Villa Park against Swansea for Dean Smith’s first win.

Deano took a few games to get his feet under the table, but then things really began to take off. The goals flowed around the side as seventeen goals came from five consecutive matches. As three of these games were against promotion-chasing sides, no-one could argue that they were just easy pickings. The highlight had to be the 5-5 draw with Forest, where Tammy well and truly announced himself with the first four-goal league showing since Tony Hateley in 1966. The only complaint in this quite incredible match was that Tammy really could have had five or six, not something that has been said of many Villa strikers over the decades.

The stats are quite brutal; two goals under Bruce, rather more under Deano. Villa’s form under the new boss was such that it drew comparisons with Ron 110%’s cavalier side of 1976-77, albeit in a lower division. It helped Tammy that he was the penalty-taker (alas, not in Bruce’s last game) which always helps to keep the goal count ticking over. In the meantime, though his rather willowy frame made him seem an unlikely target man, his good technique and fast feet made him hard to pin down for defenders. On top of all this, he brought to his game the level of effort and determination that hadn’t been seen since, er, the previous year, when Robert Snodgrass belied his loan status, having clearly bought into the ‘Villa Project’, if not the Engine.

If Villa suffered the triple blow of injury to key players Grealish and Tuanzebe, as well as the wear and tear sufferings of the worthy James Chester, for whom there was no replacement whatsoever, it didn’t seem to bother Tammy that much. Goals against Stoke, Leeds and Preston kept a steady trickle of points rolling in as the new year approached, when a major issue presented itself. No-one knew the details of the striker’s loan contract from Chelsea, but it looked like it included the possibility of the loan being cut short if a club came in with a serious offer for the player. Lo and behold, our friends from Barcahampton looked set to pounce, with Tammy’s approval of the deal the only missing factor. With much of the sporting press writing it up as good as done (how do they get, let alone keep their jobs?) Tammy kept turning out and scoring for the side. In the game against Hull, he gave another loan player, Bolasie, short shrift for not joining in on a team press late in the first half. Coincidence, perhaps, but the winger cut his loan short with indecent haste the following week. Two loan players, two different attitudes.

It helped at this point, with Villa leaking too many goals to win enough games, that Tammy’s friendship with Jack kicked in. Old U-21 pals, Tammy seemed to feed off Jack’s promises that he would soon be back from injury as transfer deadline day loomed. Who knows if this was a key factor in Tammy turning down his big transfer move to Molineux to help the Villa cause. In fact, Jack was still a month away from a return, but the odd dollop of bullshit in the right place never hurt anyone. In the meantime, Tammy slotted his twentieth goal of the season against the Blades, to finally settle who would claim Peter Withe’s goalscoring record that had stood for almost forty years. About bloody time, too.

To an extent, as Spring neared, the Abraham goal-fest began to dry up a little. Not that Villa fans were too concerned. The return of Jack Grealish from injury, the return from suspension of a now super-charged John McGinn, and the now fully settled-in Tyrone Mings, gave the team a hard core of talent. Plenty of others were happy to join the party, including Hourihane, El-Ghazi, Kodjia and the above-named, as the goals and the wins racked up to record levels. In fact, in the run of ten wins, Tammy ‘only’ scored three, the last of which was at a doomed Bolton, his twenty-fifth of the season, where he picked up an injury that required a rest for a few weeks.

A minor point, but it’s a pity that after these achievements, neither Messrs Withe nor Gray could have been invited to B6 to present some sort of momento, to show the link between the past and the present. A shame, but there you go. When Tammy returned it was for the play-offs and it was penalty time, one in the ninety minutes, the other in the shoot-out against an ultra-defensive Albion side at the Yawnthorns. It fell to him to take the last, decisive kick and he duly knocked it home. At least one fan felt palpitations on hearing the ball brush against Sam Johnstone’s boot before settling into the net. The celebrations were long and deserved.

As they were at Wembley, where Villa clinched promotion against a cautious Derby side. The Rams’ defensive line-up helped squeeze the space around Grealish, but McGinn and El-Ghazi stepped up instead. Not far behind them was Tamm,y who nearly scored a memorable first-half goal with a slick piece of skill, while those quick feet put Anwar through on goal (despite being fouled twice) but to no avail as the ref had forgotten the advantage rule.

In a better world, Tammy would have stuck with us for the first season back and his goals would have helped us to secure our place at the top level. Sadly, Chelsea had been doing something they shouldn’t have and their punishment took the form of a transfer embargo for 2019-20. Thus, they were forced to use some of the young men who were usually sent out on loan, instead of signing the usual £70 million ‘stars’, and, sadly for us, Tammy was one of them. So Chelsea were dealt with, but the real kick in the teeth was for us. I think he would have liked another season, as well, which would also have meant that an FFP-limited budget might have been better targeted.

In a world reeling from the impact of the pandemic, football becomes relatively unimportant. Still, it’s a shame that the first postponed fixtures included our home game against Chelsea. A lot of people would have been happy to see him back and thank him for what he did for us. Let’s hope we get the chance to see him again soon, though it may take a long while for that to happen, despite the fervent desires of the Thatcherites who run/ruin our football.

Dave Collett












« Last Edit: June 01, 2020, 12:45:50 AM by dave.woodhall »

 


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