Think back on it.
February 25th 2017.
Aston Villa at home to a scrappy Derby County side.
Villa would go on to win their first game of 2017 on this day. But the real talking point came in the 94th minute.
Linesman Mark Russell awarded a throw-in to Derby, when all of the sudden, something pretty strange happened. Even more strange that it happened so late in a contest where Villa were up by one goal.
Leandro Bacuna crossed a line and shoved an official. Okay… maybe ‘shove’ isn’t the appropriate word here.
A light… push, maybe? Chest bump? Regardless, he went over the line. Generally, that type and lesser types of behaviour do come with a suspension. What Bacuna received was a 6 match ban. More than a slap on the wrist, Steve Bruce was pretty adamant that the suspension was overly harsh and was straight on to nonsensical.
Steve Bruce was right looking back on the situation. A three game suspension would have been just fine. Bacuna didn’t throw a punch, draw blood, or attempt to fight the traveling Derby fans. It wasn’t like he took his shirt off, beat on his chest in Hercules fashion and taunted the Derby players personally. He let the heat of the moment get under his skin, and ultimately let his team down. Up to this point, Bacuna was not having a terrible campaign. Mediocre at best, he was making strides forward rather than backwards.
But the real miracle that happened during Bacunas’ six game suspension came in the form of wins. Without Bacuna in the Aston Villa side, the club would go on to win five of those six games. The only loss in that stretch came to Huddersfield in the form of a 1-0 affair. It did not matter who Villa came up against, they were a house on fire and the entire Championship took notice. Maybe too late in the season, or ‘too much too late’… it was still a sight to see for Villa supporters as the players seemed to not be giving up with promotion out of reach.
Leandro Bacuna would be available for selection on April 8th against Burton Albion. And what would the football Gods have in store for Mr. Bacuna and Aston Villa at the Pirelli Stadium? You guessed it. A draw. To a side that was scraping points in any fashion to maintain survival. All the while Villa were just trying to make an honest attempt at the end of a roller coaster of a season.
I believe this was the moment that the fight between the Boo Boys and Leandro Bacuna got under way. One could make a point that it happened after he was a contributor to the woeful season that saw Villa relegated. And that could very well be justified. I think the lot of Villa supporters were behind Bacuna after his suspension. I think they wanted to see him come back with a chip on his shoulder and rested legs.
After getting completely jeered this past weekend at Villa Park in a 1-1 draw, it seems as if the Boo Boys took a page out of Mike Tyson’s book and delivered the knock out blow. Villa supporters clapped his substitution, and for good reason. To put it bluntly, he was not good enough in any capacity. Having to cover for Bacuna as he made forward runs and wayward passes against Hull, Glenn Whelan was the man who suffered most from Bacunas’ outlandish approach to the game. The former Stoke City man was absolutely gassed by the end of the contest. The big check-mark on Whelan is that he has stamina and natural fitness for miles, but you cannot expect Whelan to play his natural game when he is left covering ground that is too big for any player to cover.
In 2016, Bacuna had a few choice words about Villas’ disastrous season that would end up with the side being relegated from the Premier League:
“This is a massive club with great supporters so we need to show what we’ve got. It’s been a struggle this season and it doesn’t make you happy.
“People might think as we players we don’t care, but it’s the most horrible thing for any player to go through. We just want to play for our own personal pride and club’s pride and show we can do it.”
Nice words, to be fair. That is the kind of attitude every player should have. The only problem with nice words is that they mean little to nothing if actions don’t back it up. Leandro Bacuna has not backed it up. Even though he shows flashes of brilliance, that he is a dangerous delivery man from a set piece, and doesn’t have too bad of a work ethic, one has to feel as if the Boo Boys at Villa Park have done some real damage this time around.
It seemed a split jury between Aston Villa supporters as the team sheet was announced this past Saturday. “Why is Bruce selecting him with Hourihane on the bench?” was a pretty popular retort. I can’t say that I didn’t have the same thought. His performance throughout the game didn’t help the scepticism, and it may have forced Steve Bruce and Tony Xia to find a new home for Bacuna. There were a few who had the mindset that the Hull result was the first game of the season, and the supporters need to support all of the players no matter what. A nice thought, but not very realistic. Bacunas’ shock selection, his woeful play, and the memories of 2015-2016 will forever be burnt onto the hearts of Aston Villa fans all over the world. Once sought out to be a part of the solution rather than the problem, Aston Villa supporters are now at their wits end with Bacuna.
With all of these things considered… can you blame them?
Think back on it.