Something For The Weekend (119)
By Steve Wade
I make no boast of any deep knowledge of the Gaelic mind-set, to demonstrate a clearer understanding, and except for a few nights, when the craic was described as fierce and the odd, short excursion through the lamentations of Frank McCourt, why, even my Celtic blood has been thoroughly diluted four or five-fold by a degenerate infusion of the Saxon; I understand the above phrase is used by the stoics from the Liffey and even beyond the pale, to mean a philosophical acceptance of the sad reality. Even though I have been known, at the least encouragement and in the face of violent discouragement, when drink has been taken, or even not, to break into the worst imitation of John McCormack, singing The Star Of The County Down, you'll ever hear, my ignorance is complete. Even my short course in the Irish three-R's - the rake, the ride and the rear-up, only got me a very generous B-minus.
Whatever? The cup draw brought home its true meaning this week when Villa were handed an away trip to Old Trafford and I was left to assume that Martin O'Neill had been heard to be less than complimentary about the little
people to be inflicted with such bad luck, especially after an early away meeting with Chelsea in the other competition, which I seem to remember ended with a severe arse-kicking for Witton's Wanderers. But the historical
oppression of the mystic Celts, under the English jackboot and the dread of Rome, begot a wondrous poetic turn of mind and like the flames of smouldering turf, their passion burns hot and it burns deep. Under the guidance of their own Heaney, it is time for Villa to soften reality and fear with dreams. A righteous indignation to avenge the oppression of the Reds, needs sparking alight. The memory of the Villa being routed by the Dutch cavalry, on Jan 6th 2002, still rankles.
Martin Go Bragh
As Spurs proved in the Eighties when they were playing catch-up with Villa's record, a few soft home draws, early on in the competition really increase your chances of success and don't necessitate the need to draw too heavily on the heroics or luck to get through. As Villa found out when they lost to the final to Chelsea, they had used up all their luck in the semi against Bolton, especially in the goalkeeping department. But even though I note that their run to the final in 2000, began with a home tie against Darlington, it is as much about heart, as anything else, as they proved the year before, by going out against Fulham, their successive home draw, in that year's competition. Having the dream and the heart is everything.
To win it in 2007, exactly fifty years after their last success, is the sort of dream which excites old men into passions and to relive the feats of Eric Houghton et al would be the dream of dreams. The numerology is just too seductive to ignore. It may be unlikely but it is not beyond the imagination to envisage Villa sneaking a win but it would need O'Neill's team to be inspired, to unprecedented levels, and Man United to have either an off-day or to have bigger fish to fry elsewhere, for them to pull it off. Certainly, Villa would not only have to defend, up to their highest standards, but the strikers would need to put their magic boots on for the day, to take the first step, in bringing home the cup, which was considered their very own before the first world war. If Brazil can be given the Jules Rimet for winning it three times, then Villa should be after their third bespoke FA cup. Just bring it home boys - bring it home.
To be sure, we've had the cup stolen more times, than a lot of clubs have won it.
There would be no one more appropriate to hold that trophy over his head in victory, than Gareth Barry. The guy is quickly becoming a Villa icon. And as a quality player, who is wanted elsewhere but who chose to stay, his credentials as the next Villa legend are impeccable. No photograph would look better, hanging next to Dennis, Andy and co, in a line-up of Villa trophy winners. What a way for Baros to turn his season around and to show the world that he still has got it, than for him to slot in the winner against United.
Come on you Lions!
For such a man as O'Neill to let loose the Celtic tiger and bring home the cup, would indeed be such a beautiful thing to behold. There's no other club worth the mention that would honour the tournament more than Aston Villa - indeed it is all that many pray for.
'Tis, 'tis, 'tis!
By Steve Wade