Something For The Weekend (164)
The Premiership returned with a bit of Marvel Comic crash, bang, wallop, and the England fiasco was immediately consigned to history's dustbin. Villa's fourth win in a row against fellow top-six aspirants Blackburn, swept away last week's regrets and put everything into perspective. While the people who, in Sir Alan Sugar's words, had reversed the Ferrari over the cliff, still cling to their sinecures and don the camouflage paint, the idea that the Premiership should make even the slightest sacrifice for the sake of the England set-up, increasingly sounded like an obscenity.
It seems no coincidence that the task of finding a suitable candidate for the England post has been handed to Brian Barwick, who, although blessed with a face better suited to radio than television, at least provides, with his football accent, a reasonably convincing beard for the committee. But guess who was in charge of finding the right man last time? Yes, you guessed it - Brian Barwick. And as might be expected, the guy with the only decent record of choosing managers, a certain David Dein (Wenger and Eriksson), was ousted from that process. Bingo, McClaren became a shoo-in.
Citation - Click here:
Funniest thing of the week was seeing Mourinho being door-stepped at his home in Portugal about the England job. For someone for whom English is not his first language, and especially not the brogue of Ulster, he sounded remarkably like Villa's Martin O'Neill as he refused to accept a job he'd neither been offered nor knew the conditions pertaining thereto. Of course the rest of us know, that a public display of ministerial slipperiness is actually part of the interview process, and all Villa fans will remember that it became obvious that Graham Taylor was going to get the job, when suddenly he started to utter incomprehensible sentences and opinions of unfathomable equivocation. Jose passed the test easily and he even did a passable impression of humility, which will be put to a fuller test when he has to kowtow before the football demigods of the FA committee.
Mourinho is obviously the best candidate for the job by far and it is hard to think of anyone better. We know how he'll play, with a holding player and a solid defence (all English attributes), and he's about the only person with any idea how to get fat Frank to play. But most of all, he is the only one with an ego big enough to survive the Total Perspective Vortex (click below) which is the England experience. If there is anyone who can take the fear out of England's game, Jose is the man. McClaren definitely must be the last of the lick-spittle yes-men.
It hasn't been a great week for all the putative England candidates, however, especially Harry Redknapp, after his Missus found herself starring in an episode from the Sopranos, when the cops arrived
mob-handed with a film-crew in tow, in the early hours, to catch her in her nightie and trample the Axminster. This seems like a rather intrusive way to request someone's help with enquiries. The prejudice seems to be that this puts Harry beyond the pale as regards the England job but as Guus Hiddink was actually convicted for tax evasion and narrowly escaped gaol, it would seem the FA are quite flexible on these things. So don't give up Harry.
Mark Hughes is probably rather glad that his stock has fallen slightly, at the hands of a dynamic Villa side, and the caprice of a referee's assistant. For once he didn't complain too much and having thus shed his halo, he can continue to pick his sleeping attire, as carelessly as he likes, without too much risk of uninvited early morning calls from press or police. But halo or not, he is still one of the best candidates available and possibly ready to move on. Not as if the England job is the best job in the world though, and I can't help thinking it would be brilliant if it became about as sought after as the Scotland job. It seems that St Andrew himself might give that one a miss these days.
But all that amounts to nothing compared with the feelings I enjoyed on hearing of Villa's four-nil victory at Ewood on Wednesday. Even filtered through my thoughts about the good fortune of getting a penalty and a player sent-off, it was still a sure sign that the collective Villa head is right. It would have been all too easy to have missed the penalty, as has happened before and sometimes ten men can make life very difficult for eleven, if the eleven lack the know-how and confidence. Four-nil almost certainly flattered Villa but the three points didn't.
Come Saturday evening Villa face the massive challenge of continuing their winning ways against the thoroughbreds of Arsenal. Even without Fabrigas and even taking into account any hangover the Gunners might have carried back with them from their defeat in southern Spain, they represent a huge footballing challenge to Villa. But most of all, it will be a test of their mental strength and their self-belief as they attempt to deal with the altitude-sickness often encountered in the upper reaches of the Premiership. Sometimes the fear of success is a destructive force on days such as these and can combine with thoughts about having done enough, to just ease that foot off the gas just enough to release the pressure of ever-increasing expectations. Mental preparation will be paramount and the wise will set aside the significance of winning and focus on having a good day for their team and not much more. O'Neill's side are well equipped to deal with Arsenal and may have to be content to let them have the ball, while
counterattacking at speed when the opportunities arrive. Arsenal will play all the football tomorrow but Villa can certainly get something out of the game. Perhaps, even all three points.
But what ever the result, this week has been good enough to excuse a drink or two: