NIGEL Reo-Coker witnessed some familiar failings in his former club Aston Villa as Wanderers romped to a vital victory on Tuesday night.
After an incredible turnaround, which saw Stephen Warnock put the Midlanders into the lead before Martin Petrov’s penalty and David Ngog’s close-range effort shifted the balance within two minutes, Reo-Coker was left with mixed emotions.
Understandably delighted that the Whites had taken a step towards safety, the midfielder praised the character within the camp to bounce back after a disappointing performance against Swansea.
But he saw something in Villa’s capitulation that he has witnessed all too often at the Reebok, and that was a side who struggled to cope after conceding a goal.
“We have been in situations like this all season, where we have let goals affect us too much in games,” he said.
“It’s something the manager doesn’t like and it’s something he doesn’t stand for. When you go a goal down, you have to have belief that you can go and get another.
“We’ve been in that situation so many times where we have let our heads go down too easily and you got a sense of that from the Villa side.”
By his own admission, Reo-Coker was not at his best on his first return to Villa Park since leaving the club last summer on a free transfer.
But the fact Wanderers were able to take three points after being second best for much of the game had much to do with the fragile state of mind around Villa Park at present.
Alex McLeish is missing experienced heads such as Stilyan Petrov, Darren Bent, James Collins and Richard Dunne at present, leaving a young crop of players to cope with a home crowd who have not seen eye-to-eye with their manager since the start of the season.
“It’s credit to the Academy but it is a lot to ask of them,” Reo-Coker said. “The fans are worried and the boys look like they are low on confidence.
“People don’t understand how intense the Premier League is – gone are the days when you play week-in, week-out as a youngster.
“If you look how Arsenal and Manchester United do things, young players stay in for a couple of games and then they take them out. But I’m not sure of the situation at Aston Villa at the moment.
“They are in there and doing the best they can. All you can ask is that the fans support them and try to encourage them.”
Wanderers too have dealt with their fair share of problems, and though they remain in the bottom three heading into this weekend’s game at Sunderland, Reo-Coker is confident they can get over the finishing line with Premier League status in tact.
“The win was massive,” he said.
“It’s been a long season for us, a very long season. With the Fabrice (Muamba) situation and losing key players through injury, it has been very dramatic.
“We have got a young squad and it’s not the biggest but I always believed that we would turn it round, and when we do, it will be a true testament of the character the manager has tried to instil.”