Something For The Weekend (126)
So it seemed after Villa signed themselves a pair of strikers and then, looking slightly better at one end of the pitch, conceded two soft goals in the first seven minutes, at the other. The second of which, entailed some egregiously Keystone cop-ish defending, when, even without the luxury of Prozone, three Villa players could be seen taking up a very strange position, in a region of the pitch innocent of any concern with ensuing play, which left Newcastle's Dyer in acres of Geordie turf to produce one of those moments of excellence, which have punctuated his injury-ravaged career. So it was up hill from then on and despite new-boy Young scoring on his debut and his big mate Carew, having one mysteriously chalked off via one of those bizarre refereeing decisions which make you despair, Villa never quite had the quality to turn their pressure into clear-cut chances. And then just to rub the Villa noses in the nutty slack, the Magpies scored a third to kill off all hope.
Alan Shearer saying that Newcastle were lucky, was not much of a consolation.
It was a real sickener and I was left to rue my graceless smirking, the night before, when Blues had lost by a similar margin to bottom club Southend. Such schadenfreude, should not be indulged in, even when provoked by blue-nosed tauntings, concerning Villa's win over the 'mighty' Watford. Their defeat by the 'mighty' Reading should have been enough but no, I had to do my little dance didn't I, accompanied by that, oh so pleasurable, fisting motion, which has even been known to get under the Wenger skin and for reasons probably only known to sexologists, is the most satisfying of all, in a mime-artist in an S&M club, sort of way.
Dashed hope and blue-nose sarcasm, is not a happy combination.
If supporting Villa was a computer game I'd start scouring the Internet for cheats, just about now, or failing that, I would start editing the Hex. I've never found a game which wasn't substantially improved by a bit of 'editing'. The Villa experience, as things stand, could still do with a bit of fettling. Knock a few years off Olly and JPA and a decade or so off Chris Sutton, and the squad would start to look something like. And I would definitely be tempted to find the hex address for Class and give the whole squad a top value of FF, for the rest of the season. But like binary there are only 10 types of people who understand these things - those who do and those who don't.
But even though the jam looks more likely to arrive a little later than hoped for, things have improved and such was the success of my brain-washing under previous regimes, by reflex I worried whether Villa can afford to buy two players and not sell anyone the fans would rather keep. Young's thirty grand a week, gave me the jitters too and the fact that JPA was not shipped out to compensate, produced a very weird feeling indeed. But presumably, the purchase of Shaun Maloney must mean O'Neill is dropping a few hints, to Villa's erstwhile saviour and favourite. But say what you like, being a Villa fan over the last few years, has left me feeling like a man in a pound-shop with only 50p, and I can't quite shake it off.
Once again O'Neill finds himself with yet another crunch match this Saturday, as West Ham visit Villa Park. The home side needs to not only beat a team, considered to be still in terrible difficulties, but I suspect will have to do so, with a modicum of style, if the fans are going to legitimately feel that the club has turned a corner and that the Irishman, is spending the Lerner dollars wisely. With Maloney in the squad and the two new boys, presumably favourites to start, it will be a very different looking Villa than the fans have got used to and this needs to show some improvement, if the old favourites are not to be missed, or unfavourable comparisons made.
But one thing is for sure (as Brian Little used to say), throughout Villa's ups and downs of the last couple of seasons, captain Gareth Barry has been possibly the most consistent performer and there is no one more deserving of his England call, than Villa's model professional. Throughout the long period when he was ignored, unjustly the fans think, he has not faltered, or shown the slightest hint of losing either his self-belief or the absolute dedication, which he has carried with him from the day he joined the club, through the triumph of winning the FA Youth Cup and then on to establishing himself as the first name on his managers' team-sheet. There is no certainty that he will get a game against Spain but I am sure the Holte End will enjoy chanting his name for England all afternoon. Matthew Upson will get an equally warm Villa Park welcome for his debut for the Hammers too. The fun will be had by all, I am sure.
So, Villa have changed their manager, changed the owner and have now begun to change the team. The question remains, as to whether all these things can now add up to a real change of fortune?
But one thing is for certain: by the time Villa start getting things right, in both attack and defence, you'll not get a ticket.
By Steve Wade