Something For The Weekend (172)
This might be a daft name for a film but it sort of summed up my feelings, after Villa narrowly missed out on a very precious and longed-for win against Liverpool on Monday. With the Red Scouse looking rather sub-prime this term and with their American owners stomping all over employee and customer-relations, hopes of a win, for resurgent Villa, looked more favourable than for a very long time. But it was not to be.
As it turned out, Villa OB Crouch, did what poetic injustice required him to do and he punished his old employers with a goal which prevented a result, that would have sent Villa spirits rocketing. Instead we were left to seek a quantum of solace, in the fact that Villa were only a very slender margin (better decision-making) away from beating one of the big four, on their own patch.
With the headlines screaming 'Marvellous Marlon' and with Villa's some time striker's shaved bonce glistening under the floodlights, it was impossible not to think of the erstwhile more famous 'Marvellous one, as O'Neill's summer punt went from zero to hero, with his man-of-the-match performance, crammed into the last fifteen minutes, at the once-upon-a-time fortress of Anfield.
Since his rather inauspicious display in Villa's collapse at Whitehart Lane, when Marlon's contribution was crucial in several ways, in converting a stroll for Villa into a Lilywhite siege, it has been a long way back for the bloke.
Forget the money and forget the glamour. Days like that hurt a player deeply and Marlon's confidence got shipped-wrecked that night. So it was great to see him notch up the sort of performance which he must wish he could bottle and I just hope he kept the shirt and has had it framed as a reminder of what he can do.
Having seen rather too many Rocky films, the thought of Marlon training in the woods near Bodymoor Heath, to the sound of some cheesy rock-music, was unavoidable, as he prepared for the big bout with his self-doubt, over the past few months. The big galute knows that he's always going to lose out to a split-decision for the plaudits, when it comes to the flashy Sugar Rays of the game, but like Hagler, he'll know that history will see him right in the end.
See Marlon fighting his doubts and doubters here:
Liverpool and Villa are chalk and cheese right now and while the fans in claret and blue struggle to make the connection between their team's superb form, confidence and fantastic spirit, and the fact that they have a small squad, the Liverpool fans take it for granted that their own failure to offer a realistic challenge for the Premiership, has a lot to do with having too many players and a continental-style rotation system.
Liverpool say they have given up on the title and I suppose, as Villa have the same number of points, O'Neill will have to bite the same bullet. Fourteen points is really too much to overhaul at this stage of the season. But the funny thing is that even if you only play a casual game of what-if, you can gather together another five or six points and the gap suddenly ceases to look insurmountable.
Yeah, what if?
In the meantime, as we enter the last week of the transfer-window, a lot of Villa fans are waiting with baited breath to see who O'Neill will sign, if anybody. It certainly is an interesting time of year and it will be fascinating to see how many players Keegan can sign in the course of a week. I can't wait to see if he can overturn the orthodoxy and sign the sort of players, usually associated exclusively with teams in the Champions League. He's said to have both the charisma and the cash, so lets see if he can debunk the most often heard excuse in football, 'I want Champions League football'. But even if it is true and it actually is the great draw and the motivator, if the cash and charisma thing is correct, then he should be able to strip every middling club, of their better players, at his mere say-so.
Villa play yet another crucial game tomorrow - as every game seems to be lately. Like Portsmouth, Blackburn are one of those teams often compared with Villa, just as their manager is compared with O'Neill. A loss will pile a lot of pressure onto Villa and the tensions about the lack of signings, will mount as the fans attempt to deal with the disappointment, while contemplating the depressing prospect of no relief arriving, to consolidate their present favourable position. A win would take them into fourth place, which would be well worth celebrating, albeit for just a single night.
Let us hope so.
Meanwhile, I'll be singing:
Ashley, put your wanger away,
That pecker's going to get you into trouble one day