Something For The Weekend (85)
By Steve Wade
Despite staring the reality full in the face for too many years in a row to admit to, I have to confess that I have never quite rid myself of the expectation that Christmas might be something to look forward to. It is
obviously a Pavlovian response and it stands as proof that it's continued association with positive reward must arise out of some actual positive experience and it seems obvious that the behaviour is far from extinguished, even if the constant barrage of propaganda, hardly allows it to die a natural death. It is one of the many ephemeral delights of childhood, which
the receipt of a hundred stingy presents and the enjoyment of innumerable tetchy, histrionic Christmases, have so far failed to entirely erase.
Hope springs eternal and even if a Christmas parcel looks like its probably a pair of socks and even feels like a pair of socks, nay, even if I'm told its a pair of socks, its not until I've actually opened it, that I am willing to give up the hope that it might be a bottle of scotch after all, or at least a voucher awaits me.
Alas, this can lead to bitter recrimination and wicked ungrateful thoughts on my part, which usually involves the giver enjoying a garishly knitted suppository but normally dissimulation prevails and I am left to contemplate the possibilities of becoming a Jehovah's
Witness by the next time it comes around.
You can live in hope but not on it.
So, it wasn't until I saw Roy Keane actually doing the press conference, after he had signed for Celtic, that it began to sink in that he was unlikely to sign for Villa by January. It was not as though I was entirely
without my doubts about the idea in the first place, its just that Villa are so desperate for a talisman right now, that I was happy to give the lad a chance and hand David O'Leary the responsibility. I have little doubt that Villa could be transformed should they take to the field, with a player they could totally believe in and who would walk over gilded splinters to get them a result. There's little doubt that Roy Keane is that sort of player and the only doubt I had was whether the frail egos of the present team could withstand Roy's brand of constructive criticism, should they turn in one of their periodic lack-lustre performances. I sort of concluded not and thought maybe his verbals might extend beyond O'Leary's 'honest bunch of lads', which I am sure when it is uttered by him in the dressing-room is loaded with sarcasm. Saying the same thing to the press, with the sarcasm removed, is just him being clever.
Things have looked much better recently, after Villa turned in a string of solid, if unspectacular, performances, which was rounded off by matching Bolton last week, a team attracting as much praise as O'Leary's boys have drawn criticism. In a one-one draw the two sides more or less cancelled each other out, each letting in a similar sort of goal. And if the goals arose
from individual error, at least no one looked too far out of position, which is the genuine stuff of a coach's nightmares.
Villa will need to repeat the sort of discipline they showed at Bolton, as it seems obvious that should they get too gung ho, they will end up on the end of a similar scoreline as Wigan, when they take on the mighty Reds this weekend. If Villa's backs get too far out of position, Ronaldo and old man Giggs will get behind them and Van the man will have a field day. McCann will need to counter Rooney and if anyone is to charge forward it has to be Davis. Moore seems like a must, as his pace will give Villa a vital outlet, should they be under the cosh. With Mellberg out, Villa lack an important voice on the pitch, on a day when positioning the back line, exactly where it should be, will be crucial. It is a game where Villa's forwards need to produce something a bit better than a routine performance and establish
their star status but I see Steve Davis as Villa's key player, as he exploits United's lack of pace in the centre of midfield and draws fouls from the likes of Smith and Scholes.
Whatever the result, it is certain that a lot will be made of it, for both Villa or United but with an ominous silence descending on Villa concerning the takeover and with Ellis reasserting his habit of withdrawing funds just when the manager and supporters, are desperate for a centre-half, the prospects look as promising for Villa, as it does for me enjoying anything better than a new pair of socks for Christmas.
But socks or not, I really don't want another turkey on Boxing Day.