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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Something For The Weekend (92)



By Steve Wade

I am surprised there is a tree still standing in and around Erdington these days. Its not that its been windy or anything, it's just that they have been made veritable pin-cushions after some desperate cat-lover, raided the company stationery cupboard and pinned up a couple of thousand notices, offering 500 reward for the safe return of their much loved but definitely lost moggy. Judging by the very evident intensity of feeling it is almost certainly a woman, who has perpetrated this rash upon every lamppost, pillar-box, tree, fence-post and possibly wooden leg, in the district.

The surprising thing, is that for reasons less to do with arboreal affections and probably more to do with bitter envy of such obvious devotion, these notices have attracted rather a lot of hostility, which has manifested itself in the form of some energetic vandalism, of such heated variety that obviously a conniption fit resulted. Discounting the likelihood that some dysfunctional rival p***y is the perp, one suffering from affectionless psychopathy, or low self-esteem perhaps (a cat with a grudge - I'm looking for the guy who shot my paw, sort of thing), then it must be
assumed that some local humanoid is doing the slashing and the tearing - think James Finlayson in Big Business. All inspired, I assume, by a bitter, deep-seated resentment, that the love of a fat woman has gone to
waste.

The truth is, the cat looks a bit ordinary to me and I am sure even if I could pick it out in a line-up, I would be unimpressed. Obviously, by the area covered by the wanted-notices, it is a very clever-clever cat and even if it hasn't quite taken up joy-riding just yet, it can at least ride a tricycle, or has its own bus pass. This is unusual for cats because when it comes to games of fetch, they are usually just a bit crap in my
experience, but they are usually good listeners, or at least they pretend to be, while they luxuriate in the digestion of some dead animal. Who was it said, that you never see a cat with a homeless person? Mongrels of every
description but never a cat. It says a lot. But they don't work in gulags and concentration camps either, which sort of evens things up - a bit.

But seeing the effort put in by the afore mentioned cat owner and considering the offer of a 500 reward, I could quite understand why a non-fan of the felines, might be rather nonplussed by the fuss about a puss, and ask why this seemingly very ordinary cat could provoke such loyalty and affection.

You have to know them to love them.

Which is roughly the thought I was having when I was watching Villa in the FA cup last Sunday night, on the telly, as they struggled to put a single pass together against Man City. Villa were so dog-rough (and definitely not the cat's pyjamas) for most of the game, it was just a little bit embarrassing, knowing that a huge television audience were seeing what the fans see every week and were undoubtedly reaching the same conclusion - Villa are a bit s**t these days. It was hard
to believe that as many as 35,000 actually turn up to watch this team and pay through the nose for the privilege.

Whether it was better in the flesh, as compared with my own prawn-sandwich experience, I would not like to speculate but from the comfort of my armchair, Villa looked particularly dire and if it wasn't for the relay of refreshments and cooling compresses to my forehead, to sooth my distress, it might have turned into a miserable evening. It has to be said, that Man City were not much better and apart from Barton, there was scant evidence of either team's elite status.

Art for art's sake - it certainly was not.

I don't know whether a week of watching the elite of winter sport, throw themselves down the side of a mountain, on nothing more than a tea-tray, in the Olympics, skewed my perspective or not but I kept thinking that there was no good reason why football should hold such a special place in the nation's heart. If truth be known, this was not a remarkably poor game by
any stretch of the imagination, and it is almost always expected that the half-time analysis on the BBC will start off with Lineker saying something along the lines of: 'That was totally s**t - what do the rest of you
think?'. Now I was naturally riveted and kicked every ball (and every player) but it struck me that it offered very little for the neutral.

I don't know whether it was a certain moment when Gareth Barry and James Milner shared a camera shot during the broadcast but I thought Villa were looking rather chunky these days. And I could not help but be reminded of an
unflattering description, Danny Blancheflower I think it was, used to describe Villa in the Fifties, as a strong physical side with very little finesse. There is no doubt Frankie Moss would not look out of place in the
current side. But watching Liverpool bully Man United the day before, or knowing Bolton's recent record against Arsenal, or, even knowing how the present champions play, its hard to posit a decent argument against the logic of building a team of athletes, even if the result is anything but pleasing to the eye.

One of the most painful memories of this current campaign is the vision of Ronaldo doing his fancy kick-around-the-corner cross against Villa, when he was in full p**s-taking mode, at Villa Park. It was notable that he never got such license against Liverpool and it looks like compelling evidence that Premiership teams are stuck with a choice. Do they play stuff which
pleases the eye but which means they will get bullied and overpowered, or do they buy the best athletes money can buy and grind out results in ugly matches? From Villa's second-half performance, when suddenly Steven Davis's athletic power began to make City look a bit leggy; it seems that O'Leary's preference is obvious but whether the fans want the same, only time will tell.

But based on Sunday, at least, the future looks drab and I certainly can remember better play and better times than this.

MISSING!

Mangy, old, toothless Lion - answers to the name of Villa.

If seen please return to its enclosure at Villa Park.

Probably looking a bit lost - has no sense of direction.

May be approached but will only respond to sincere offers of a richer diet.

Hasn't roared for a long time.

Might be found auditioning for The Wizard Of Oz.

Much loved but sadly missed.

Small reward offered.
The Journalist

Writer: J P Fear Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday February 24 2006

Time: 6:33PM

 

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