Something For The Weekend (115)
By Steve Wade
The Autumn moon has been hanging in the sky this week like a Brian Godfrey volley going over the Holte-end, and the trees have taken on that colour, which has a name apparently - filemot. Sadly, after an extended period of being over Earth's periodic lunatic nightlight, the Villa fans woke up on Sunday feeling rather under it and had to content themselves with a lie-in, or maybe spend the extra hour chasing leaves around their lawns, in the mad
horticulturist's version of keepy-uppy. Or, is it blow-football for men who like power-tools.
Villa went back with the clocks last weekend as Liverpool gave Martin O'Neill's kids and journeymen a forty-five minute football lesson. Despite the fact that coming unstuck at Liverpool is a regular occurrence for the 'big club' of the Midlands, it was quite a blow for the deluded; only a niggle for the hopeful but definitely a boon for the habitually whingeful.
It had to happen eventually but it was still a bloody shame because I was really enjoying it - my Villa delusion. Unfortunately, with the yellow cards accumulating, like the similarly coloured Autumn leaves and with some very aged joints starting to creak, Villa are going to be trying out a different team just about every week up until January. It's squad-rotation, economy style, or as Villa fans know it, make do and pretend. But happily it was the kids who managed to salvage a mere vestige of pride and the Road Runner scored with the sort of quality finish, which even the likes of Rooney might take some pride in. Speaking as an Erdington scum bag, I was very proud.
Doug and his Missus were in the stands and were looking well - the old boy looks great since he retired and Heidi looked as poised and elegant as ever. The man is still an example to us all, when it comes to staying power and pertinacious survival. He's got more balls than a pachinko machine, that bloke.
How pertinacious the Villa faithful are remains to be seen but it was a result that proved that the gulf between those who have won the European Championship recently and the rest, is certainly substantial, as Bolton, the Premiership's plucky occasional Goliath-slayers, found out when they were taken apart, at a stroll, by Fergie's Reds; and are a club rather nearer getting things in place than Villa. Oddly, Liverpool are a team who are usually excused playing badly, when Steven Gerrard is absent, but the Villa fans are rather unwilling to ascribe such importance to Gavin McCann, who was described by O'Neill, as far better than he had been led to believe (A beautiful example of a Matinesque sprinkling of fairy-dust).
When it comes to fairy-dust Villa are top of the league and I saw some odds which put Martin O'Neill as the least likely to lose his job. Yes, all is well in Dingley Dell and the club, at last, seems to be moving forward in some meaningful way, where for years the illusion was rather easier to see through, as events repeated themselves quicker than a selection of dishes in a wedding buffet (chicken-legs, quiche, sausage-rolls, sandwiches and then chicken-legs again*), like some repeating background to a chase in a cheap animation.
*Copyright - Peter Kay.
The club is as much reliant on youth on the terraces, as they are in the team, while for a lot of the aged Villa fans the revolution has come a bit too late, as too many are burnt out and still nurse their bitter disappointments and disillusionment like the shell-shocked from a war that is over - they still mumble their discontents and still relive the old nightmares. For some it has come too late and the changes will take too long, for many. It is the youth who must keep the faith and see the project through, the old will fall by the wayside - its going to be a long march.
But Villa need more fans and fairy-dust is just so much froth. The things which bond a fan to a club, are not just nice words but the shared feeling, that you have witnessed something special and the management desperately need a 'was you there?' event, for the fans to really feel part of a revolution. You know the sort of thing - Didier Six beating United on his own; the last-gasp result against Tranmere, Phil King's winning penalty against Inter. These are the things which bring the doubters and dissenters back. Fairy-dust is fine but the other stuff is like quasi-religious experience of Damascene intensity. Get the burnt-out old duffer in a good mood and even he will tell you a tale of some distant match, drawing with United (4-4), in a totally amazing thriller.
But as of yet Villa lack that bit of quality and the gulf is just that too big to bridge with sweat and sinew alone. Villa are in need of someone worth paying the ticket-price alone, to see. The present team are doing the club, the manager and the fans proud but the quality, is just not quite, what too many would fork-out thirty quid to see (nearly a day's pay on minimum wage). Happily the transfer window is only eight weeks away and I just hope that when the fans come to open their Christmas hamper, it is neither empty, or full of tinned Spam and Branston - the Co-op when they were hoping for Harrods.
As ever, when the sun shines on my Villa Autumn its just great but when it doesn't, it tends to be grey and miserable, and as ever, when I look forward, I experience the dread of the ghosts of Christmas-past.