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Embarrassing bells and humiliating whistles, Villa's ineptitude finally took its toll; THE END: VILLAINS PUT OUT OF THEIR MISERY AS RELEGATION IS CONFIRMED BRITAIN'S BEST COLUMNIST FROM OLD TRAFFORD.


THE sad thing was there was no sadness.

No teary souls amidst the fast food debris, no inconsolable diehards gazing glassily into the Championship distance.

Even the anger had gone. Long gone.

That is how badly this relegated Aston Villa team has betrayed its supporters.

Those fans - Villa 'til they die - did not rage or cry, they ridiculed and laughed.

Ridiculed their own, laughed at their own.

That is how badly this relegated Aston Villa team has betrayed its supporters.

The team AND the club - a club down in a blaze of ignominy, buried by a bombardment of boardroom ineptitude, barmy recruitment, bizarre managerial choices and beanhearted players. It has been a relegation five years in the making, painstakingly mis-planned for.

And when it came, it came with all the embarrassing bells and humiliating whistles.

The blame trail is a spidery one, dipping its legs into owner Randy Lerner's American office, into the computers of a desperate transfer department, into a succession of ill-equipped managers.

David Bernstein's forensic boys are already on the case.

But on this day, there can be no shields for the work-shy, no excuses for the lame-willed, no mitigation for the malcontents.

On this day, there can be no hiding place for the PLAYERS - not even in a Dubai nightspot or any other club they care to choose.

This shisha pipe team has been down the tubes for a long time.

Want an example? Barrel forward, Gabriel Agbonlahor.

In the middle of April, a striker of 10 years' Villa standing - not yet in his 30s - capped by England, earning PS50,000 a week, on the razz in Dubai recently, was too out of shape to be considered fit for professional football. Get your head around that. "Are you Gabby in disguise?" Villa fans inquired of Wayne Rooney.

Gallows humour is all those followers had left.

Their own captain, Joleon Lescott, was also treated to a serenade.

"Joleon Lescott, he's got a new car." They know, of course, because Lescott 'accidentally' tweeted a picture of his spanking PS121,000 Mercedes after getting some stick in the wake of a 6-0 surrender to Liverpool.

Lescott captained Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

In a bewilderingly dreadful match, he had a decent game, the odd one or two did.

Jordan Ayew gave it a good crack, Leandro Bacuna has ideas way above his station but he wasn't too bad, Rudy Gestede posed some problems after coming on. But that Villa actually came close to earning only their 17th point of the season - Gestede's post-smacking volley threatening to cancel out Marcus Rashford's sidefooter - tells you more about the stark mediocrity of this Manchester United side rather than any gallantry or brilliance from Villa.

And if some sort of transfer market utopia existed, whoever takes over at Villa would want to dump the majority of this deeply dysfunctional squad.

With lumpy contracts proliferating, that will not be possible but some sort of overhaul has to occur.

This was probably one of their more accomplished performances ... and it was deeply uninspiring at best.

This team is not good enough to come straight back up again, no mistake.

When Kevin Friend officially whistled Villa into the second tier, that team walked as close to the travelling support as it dare.

FIFTY YARDS AWAY. From there, they applauded. The fans pretty much ignored them.

The sadness has gone, the anger has gone. All that's left is ridicule for a great, great club in a terrible, terrible mess.



GUTTED: Villa's Aly Cissokho

THE LAST RITES The devastated faces of Villa captain Lescott (left), the players and the fans say it all after relegation is confirmed
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 17, 2016
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