Writer: Steve Wade
Date:Friday March 14 2008
Arise, oh, mighty Barnsley, we salute thee!
I've never experienced the sights of Barnsley but the shot from Oakwell's TV gantry across the ground, over the roof of the old west stand, should be memorialised on the lid of a biscuit tin, at least. Such is the wondrous sloping curve of Belgrave Road, as it dips down to Grove Street, that the grand old ground seems to be embraced and enfolded in the bosom of the south Yorkshire landscape, as tradition expects. Surely, Kes must still dive and tumble, on yonder hill.
Ayup, it were grand!
After Scudamore's betrayal and on-going attempts at asset-stripping the Premiership, Barnsley versus Chelsea looked more and more like a re-enactment by the Sealed Knot, of old values versus new. Northern character taking on the rapacious spin-driven blood-sucking South. I did not need reminding that it was in Barnsley, in 1984, that the whole world changed and Mrs T's f**k-you society was born. I needed no reminder that Scudamore and the rest of the carpetbaggers, were but a logical conclusion of the philosophy which prevailed.
And poetically, it was the south who were guilty this time, of getting help from the Russians.
But didn't we all prefer the empty promises of Saatchi and Saatchi, to the soothsaying of that annoying King Arthur? And, fear not, Oakwell's west stand will go the way of Archie Leitch's finest creations and Barnsley cannot but yield eventually. The Grimethorpe brass band has already followed the money south.
Somewhere, old England, still lives.
As for the football, it was just a fantastic game and I couldn't help but be reminded of Villa in their heyday, as giant-killers. For nostalgia addicts like myself, so sickened by the state of the nation and the people who run it, the FA cup has been fantastic this year. And if I wasn't dreaming in Northern clichés, I was remembering West Bromwich decked out in blue and white, in 1968, which made it look like a village community united behind their local team. Does either that community or that village still exist, in the age of multiculturism? My guess, and its no worse than anyone else's, would be that such evidence of community, is far more likely to be found in Barnsley, than in either West Brom or around Villa Park, come the longed-for Wembley day. Such is the Diaspora, such is the urban division.
As you would expect, from 'The Tarn' with a tradition of glass-blowing, Barnsley showed a lot of bottle.
Elsewhere, Portsmouth relied on cosmic intervention to knock Man United out, who cried like babies (expect a soft penalty for them anytime soon); while Albion were simply astonishing and Cardiff managed to do what Villa didn't - beat Middlesbrough - courtesy of a wonder-goal from ex-Villan Peter Whittingham.
Such moments of televised football delight, always invite questions about whether the lad should still be at Villa. Its the sort of question Man City fans are forced to ask whenever they see Ryan Giggs, which is quite often. Or, the question Man United might have asked when both Paul McGrath and David Platt were handed their PFA Player Of The Year awards. No club can keep everyone and there is no guarantee that a player who gets stuck at a club would have developed in the same way as they did elsewhere.
Some transfers should never happen (Campbell from Spurs to Arse, Figo to Real Madrid etc.) and any player with any respect for the fans will avoid it like the plague. But when it comes to youngsters, you can't keep them all, they just block the progress of the next generation and hold back their own development. But for me, there is always the bonus of suddenly finding other teams interesting, just because they have a Villa boy playing for them.
Watching the UEFA cup rounds this week, which lets be honest, is not always the most riveting thing you can do with your evenings, was transformed by the chance to see two Villa boys play for Bolton. Okay, Everton and Spurs had the drama and the not too displeasing outcome (I get a bit jealous), but I do find my attention wondering. But Bolton was another thing altogether, as I could watch every move of Jlloyd and Gary Cahill, who was captain for the night. For me football is just not interesting unless it is personal.
I think I might have shouted, 'Come on me babby', a couple of times, when the Villa boys were on the ball. Gary as we all know is a great player and it looks certain that he has a very good future - he's surprisingly skilful for a centre-half. He's obviously still learning and his desire to win a game, sometimes takes him into some very surprising areas of the pitch, for a defender. Jlloyd is the most frustrating, just as he was at Villa Park. He's got a surprisingly good physique and can be quite skilful but he just has some annoying habits, like taking the ball too close to his opponent when he tries to beat him. But his main problem seems to be not maintaining a rhythm to his game, which tends to mean he loses concentration. Jlloyd did not look great but compared with Nicky Hunt, he was outstanding. No matter what shirt they wear, Villa boys will always be Villa boys.
For all the hype, the UEFA cup is not all it might be and even with Andy Townsend, reminding the viewers, of how Villa beat Inter in a penalty shoot-out, my memories of it are of dreary matches, which you are desperate to win - not the happiest combination. It was with these thoughts in mind that I consoled myself, as Wednesday's draw against a team they might have been expected to beat, saw Villa's challenge for a European place begin to falter.
Combined with a rather depressing budget, which seemed designed to have a go at yours truly, all that remained for me to do, was to lie back and think of England past, and that view over Barnsley.
It were a reet Bobby Dazzler and its a pity Villa left me feeling brassed off.
Date:Friday March 14 2008
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