Writer: Steve Wade
Date:Saturday May 24 2008
My moral-compass went haywire, this week, as I found myself at magnetic-north.
As is well known, the soothsayers down the ages, have used everything from the casting of lots to the close examination of the entrails of a dead animal to seek their cosmic revelations - personally, I tend to use football.
You know the sort of thing: the Germans will always beat England because of that dodgy goal in sixty-six; Villa have bad luck in the FA Cup because of super Mac's indiscretion against Ray Wood; Birmingham City start losing to Villa as soon as Robbie Savage leaves. Any player called a genius, will definitely f*ck-up his life. Blues will be perpetually shite, no matter what they seem to do. The list goes on and on but I am sure you get the idea. Some things are as predictable as Ferguson spitting his gum at the end of a game and Wenger always being unsighted - some things are not.
So imagine my difficulties this week, as I tried to make sense of the FA Cup final, the Champions League final and the SPL winners, all crammed into a few days. Normally, I like to deal with one thing at a time, when I'm getting my bones out.
The FA cup final was a tough call. There were two ex-Villa goalkeepers on show: one renowned for making costly mistakes in two previous finals (James) and the other the most famous Villa fluffer in the history of Midlands football - Enckelman . Who would come out on top? Then there were the two managers: one had had a really shite year, during which he was harassed by the police and there had been a tragic death in the family; while the other manager had had his whole life wrecked by malicious false accusations - Jones. But then Cardiff had Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in their starting line-up, who famously seems to have been brilliant everywhere he's been but never actually won anything. Then there is Peter Ridsdale, still suffering the negative karma of his Leeds fiasco. Who would fate pick to reward and punish? We got our answer and a one-nil victory from an Enckelman fumble - was spat out by the system. James even made a mistake and got away with it - which was just rubbing it in.
Then came Wednesday night.
It was even more complicated and the only question was whether the Munich air-disaster would out-trump everything else. There was the fact that the club had been sold into heavy debt. There was Ronaldo taunting the gods by telling everyone he was the best in the world. There was Rooney, whose reputation as the saviour of England, has yet to be demonstrated in the really big games. There was the problem of Roman Abramovich and whether he should have spent his half-billion on helping Russian peasants instead of Chelsea pensioners. There was John Terry, who likes to park his car in handicap spaces and just pay the fine. There was Ballack who had finished second in a Champions League final already. There was Ashley Cole - no comment needed. Then there was the Special One, who might
have needed reminding that he'd not managed what his disparaged successor had.
As it turned out, the gods frowned on Chelsea and smiled on Man United - that Munich thing proved once again to be unbeatable. Chelsea hit the woodwork twice, like Bayern (99). And then Drogba got himself sent-off, with a little help from the United players, which not only lined up John Terry for that fateful penalty, it also neatly left Ryan Giggs to score the penalty which won the trophy, on the day he surpassed Bobby Charlton's appearances for the club. The gods had done their maths and decided once again that they prefer United to everyone else.
Like the rest of the watching public, I still can't understand why Terry slipped, when taking the kick that would have sealed the tie. I still can't believe he did it and I can only assume that it was how fate decided it must be. All psychological explanations, just seem meaningless. The whole drama seemed too perfectly set-up, for it to be anything else. There was Ronaldo being punished for his egregious hubris, when he missed his penalty, but somehow, the gods decided that they had punished him enough and maybe the loss of his father, was just enough to off-set his boasting, just as the death of Lampard's mother turned out to be not quite enough, to trump United's Munich claim to entitlement. The only way Chelsea could have won it, would have required them to play Shevchenko as their cosmic joker. Missing such an obvious ploy surely will count against Avraham Grant - the gods just love irony.
Terry's failure seemed to prove one thing, and that is, that you can shed blood, sweat and tears, to achieve something but unless you are fated to do so, the gods are always going to intervene, so it doesn't happen. Terry will take some stick but many will remember his disgraceful behaviour when he jeered at grieving American tourists after 9/11, and some might think his time had come. The gods seemed to think so.
But looking at the list of Champions League finalists, you can't help but notice how the truly great teams, pop up time and time again. So unless Roman Abramovich runs out of love for Chelsea or money, then I suspect we'll be seeing The Pensioners in Rome or Madrid, in the next couple of years. And how sweet will a victory taste to them then?
When Celtic won the SPL a few days later, it was both poignant and fitting that they should do so, so soon after the death of Tommy Burns, but I suspect that human-intervention, in the form of the SPL's decision to make Rangers play so many games in such a short time, had more to do with it than cosmic vibes. The political reasons for so handicapping their sole representative in the UEFA cup, are probably only known to the committee which decides these things but no one needs reminding, what good a Rangers victory would have done to the prestige of the Scottish game. But congratulations to wee Gordon nevertheless. It can be but a trivial consolation for the loss of his best mate.
The unavoidable message which this week's denouement gave to all football fans, managers, chairman and players, is that you can only do your absolute best and the gods will decide the rest. And of course the question on most people's lips, is will Sir Alex think it timely to retire? If he takes another nine years to win it again, he will be 75.
In the meantime Villa fans wait anxiously for the arrival of the sort of players, which will take their team into phase two, of the five-year plan - Europe and beyond - the final frontier, where no previous chairman has gone for a very long time.
But while we are waiting, its up to you big John.
Date:Saturday May 24 2008
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