In virtually every manager's reign there comes one defining result. In recent times one could have been forgiving for hoping that a Wembley win might bring Martin O'Neill his moment of history, his claim to Villa greatness. Sadly it seems that his tenure may be defined by the most harrowing defeat for many a year. Wembley dreams, though still possible, have been shattered and O'Neill's defining moment instead joins the legion of underachievement. Think Doncaster 3-0 Villa (O'Leary), Birmingham 3-0 Villa (Taylor) and Blackburn 5-0 Villa (Little).
Whilst our manager undoubtedly has the managerial nouse to revive our flagging fortunes ominous portents appear to be hovering over him - our worst defeat in forty years naturally acting as the catalyst, but not sole cause, for wider fan unrest, reports of more rifts with players and alleged friction with the chairman. There was even a bogus Talksport lead that he has walked away from the job. O'Neill must certainly be feeling the heat right now.
And so should he after a performance so abject and result so shocking it took me three days to even watch the highlights (thankfully on Saturday I only watched the first half). The cliche 'men against boys' does not do justice to the chasm between the two sides; this was marines storming the toddler's sandpit. Even more depressing was John Terry's revelation after the game that Chelsea knew we would be ripe for the picking after 'fifty-five or sixty minutes'. So Chelsea fully expected to coast for at least a third of the game against a bedraggled, listless, energy-sapped side - it was no surprise for them to score seven against a top-half side.
I don't feel it is necessary to analyse any specific points from the performance. The whole team was abysmal, it's as simple as that. Now the next few weeks only provide them with the opportunity to restore pride to the club. If a response does not come this season then I can only sadly infer that O'Neill, our saviour four years ago, has lost the dressing room and his appetite for the job. Conversely he can reignite the spirit that saw us over-perform so often during his tenure.
Two weeks ago I posted and predicted a crucial run-in for all teams, and felt that we would come up short. Well the end of the season is even more integral to our club's future prospects now, even though any chance of fourth spot had quite patently dissipated with those insipid home draws before the Stamford Bridge horrow-show. Simply put - Martin O'Neill must prove to our owner, staff and supporters that he can improve our club and fulfill the ambition we all felt when he took over. The fans and players are still there for O'Neill, on the whole, the situation is definitely retrievable, but it has to start soon.
"In light of ongoing and perplexing reports - despite my efforts to bring clarity to the situation earlier today - I would like to reiterate one or two points which, to me, are essential. Every summer, since taking this job in August 2006, I have sat down and discussed the season in general with my chairman, Randy Lerner, attempting also to formulate plans for how we hope to keep improving the club year on year. This summer will be no different. I have a yearly rolling contract and I hope to continue to do a job, the challenges of which I enjoy immensely."