Something For The Weekend (122)
Dear reader (if you exist) I shouldn't be telling you this, but below the ancient foundations of Aston Hall, deep in the cavernous subterranean network of vaults, whose eerie, dark, fingers penetrate the substrata of Aston Park, there is a cryogenic chamber, where curtains of cobwebs hang, the generators hum and dust stands thick on the serried ranks of sarcophagi, beneath the unknowing tread of the dog-walkers of Witton. Here lie, in endless numbered ranks, in their chilly beds, a host of sleeping Villa fans, who seeing the writing on the wall, circa the Eighties, chose to be held in suspended animation, until, according to the ancient hieroglyphs: Villa Are Great Again. 'Wake me when they find a cure', reads another plaintive plaque.
The guardian of these dreaming minions of better fortune, is an ancient Villa troll called Wolfy, whose matted grey beard hangs to his waist, and who endlessly patrols these echoing corridors, as he patiently awaits the call to throw the switch, like some latter-day Igor, and bring back to life, the glory-hungry hordes, who knew better days. Despite the wafts of escaping helium, there is still a haunting whiff of ancient Ansell's bitter, Woodbines and even the occasional niff of sweaty feet and beery farts but I think the farts and the feet are Wolfy's.
But I have bad news for Wolfy, the time is not yet nigh. Sorry, my short-arsed malodorous friend, but with no win in ten and possibly no win in thirteen, any time soon, you can leave our sleeping beauties a little longer - Villa are far from great and their renaissance looks a long way off, just now. Its back to stoicism and wishful thinking but real tangible evidence that their former status is within their grasp, is sadly lacking. So, let the sleepers dream and the rest of us look for consolation.
If not getting beat is a consolation, and it is certainly is, then there was plenty served up on Tuesday night, as Villa fought a heroic stalemate; reducing Chelsea to a couple of decent chances but alas creating none of their own. O'Neill's men managed roughly four shots throughout the ninety minutes as they manned the trenches in front of their goal and being so hopelessly out-classed, the haul of a single point for their ninety minutes of sweat and graft, seemed like treasure well worth the having and even savouring, come the final whistle. There was no churlish comment from the Chelsea manager either because, he like everyone else, knew that with a similar squad, he would have done the same. Consolation number two, came in the form of a superb display from Bouma at Left-back, and although Wright-Phillips is not quite showing the form of Ronaldo, for the bastards in red; given any sort of encouragement England's sometime little winger, will destroy you, as he did for Man City not so long ago. The overwhelming emotion come the end, was just total relief, that Villa could at least match one of the better teams in the division, albeit one racked by injury, and said to be shipping goals recently, with not a single proper centre-half available for selection. It was all very reminiscent of Leicester in the O'Neill days and Villa still have to finish ninth to equal Martin's first season at Filbert Street.
Looking for consolation in the papers, now that the transfer window is open, has not been encouraging either. The two rumours - Ferguson and Harewood - have hardly lit a fire under my enthusiasm. Wee Barry, has always looked a decent player for Scotland but his failure at Blackburn (?) and his disruptive behaviour at Rangers, is hardly encouraging. Harewood, on the other hand, is exactly the sort of player (like Heskey) who with the right amount of unconditional love, could be a real find for Villa. He was obviously on fire last year and it seemed like he was the first player to lose form, when Tevez arrived. If you were looking for a classic identikit Martin O'Neill player, Marlon is your man. But if I was looking at the team and thinking what it needs, I would go for someone like Graveson (adding bite and more energy to the midfield) and possibly Matthew Upson, as the experienced centre-back, to allow the youngsters to be rested. Tactically, it just looks like the whole team needs moving ten yards up the pitch for home games, as the present set-up with Gabby counter-attacking with pace, seems ideal for playing away, where the onus on attack is usually with home team but not really what you want to see at home. The best fun of all (as if) would be to get Peter Crouch back from Liverpool. But as everyone knows, when it is the Villa you are talking about, players either are not available, or they won't come, and Djemba-Djemba won't go.
So Wolfy will be keeping his job a little while yet and the Villa dreamers must sleep on, and leave the rest of us to reality. And you know what, I never realised how well the Villa fans did reality, until the latest bubble
burst and there were the stiff upper-lips to be counted and there was the stoicism to be heard and there I was, glad to hear people start talking sense and proud to realise that that will serve us all better in the long run.
Yes, dear Wolfy, it is a bit too soon but the day, may indeed come.
By Steve Wade