Something For The Weekend (99)
By Steve Wade
If Easter is about suffering and celebration on the religious calendar, then the football fixture list seems to promise the same and perhaps the link between most football clubs and church is revealed in this. I even think that the hymn about the green hill and the City wall, might easily be adapted for the terraces, as usefully as Abide With Me. But possibly, although most fans won't find themselves being lectured on the nobility of suffering over the holiday by some over-fed bishop; suffering and forbearance seems likely to appear high on the weekend's menu. Some might be celebrating, others not. If the fans are not hanging about in the queue for Ikea, then surely they will be enduring the prospect of yet another dour struggle down Villa Park, without even the benefit of a soothing pre-match drink, due to yet another midday kick-off. Either stark misery or ecstasy is in prospect for both sets of fans.
The art of journalism has often been described as the ability to make the facts fit the story and certainly the reports of last week's local derby against West Brom followed that model. Somehow Villa emerged as fortunate, while Albion's inability to create a clear-cut chance, was reported as some kind of injustice. While Phillips missing a bread and butter chance was ignored, Greening's poor header in a packed area, was billed an horrendous miss. While Robson, that paragon of fair-play, stood bleating about not being gifted the points with a penalty, Luke Moore was getting stitches after being felled by two Albion players in the other area. And, while Lee Hendrie joined the ranks of that long list of Villa players, crippled in Albion games, the sympathy was with the Baggies. Robinson's horror tackle didn't even make the BBC's edit.
Villa's woes were not the story and the reportage reflected that fact.
Equally, the sins of Doug Ellis have ceased to be the story and where the possibility that Villa's stasis may have a little bit to do with the financial demands of the Villa chairman, it is now a matter of little interest for the fans or the media, while the sins of Villa's latest manager have suddenly become the big issue. While the fans groups have hammered away at the media, in an attempt to get the truth about Doug Ellis into the public mind and with very little effect; the fact of David O'Leary's porkies, concerning his refusal to attend a forum, is suddenly worthy of both headlines and the publicly-expressed wrath of the fans. Its a bit like
comparing Jonathan Aiken's freebie at the Ritz with Blair's fourteen million.
The possibility of yet another Villa manager getting the sack, is just a better story than the similarity between his downfall and every other
manager before him.
Bearing this in mind, and ignoring the fact that a point would do for the Villa (it's what I would settle for at kick-off, ), then if David has any powers of persuasion, or any talent for motivation, then the Villa manager needs to bring it to bear in these few days leading up to the most crucial local derby in years. For Villa it means more than pride. It means the guarantee of survival and the possibility of separating the club from Birmingham City, by not only the few miles which measure the distance between Witton and Small Heath, but also the distance between the Premiership and the Championship. It provides the opportunity to base Villa's future on a monopoly of Premiership status and money, rather than continuing an internecine co-existence of shared mediocrity.
It seems that one way or another David O'Leary will move on and enjoy a substantial pay-off to ease his grief but before he does so, he needs to at least leave some kind of legacy, like most of his predecessors managed to do. Sinking the Blues would do quite nicely thank you very much and given sufficient time, for the fans to stitch up Doug as the sole wielder of the assassin's knife, he might not quite make it to the ranks of those well thought of but at least may enjoy promotion, to that list who were perhaps, the victim of unfavourable circumstance.
The Epitaph - O'Leary, the guy who sank the Blues.
But in the meantime there is the small matter of getting his honest bunch of lads, to repeat the passion of the Albion match but with the addition of a goal or two, which surely the strikers must know they owe both their team-mates and the long-suffering fans. And, perhaps even the guy who brought them to the club.
While I am waiting for that, I will be singing........
There is a blue room not far away without a single cup And a quick reminder of this truth will shut a blue-nose up We may not know and cannot tell, how this came about But when the Villa meet the Blues, we're bound to point it out.