Unless something "happened" to your yeast before you used, it should be fine. I have an empty vial here from a batch of English style ale, and it came out just fine. What do you mean "went south"? what happened?
I do always make a starter- boil about 2 gms malt extract in 600 ml water, add yeast when cool. Thats it. 18 hours later, pitch. Fair bubbling 2-3 days (same as every recipe I make). Tasted just fine, very popular with my friends.