Ex-pats, eat your heart out, this reluctant English Springtime.
The cherry trees are dreadlocked with blossom and the daffodils lean like yellow trumpets in the syncopated breeze. The sun goes hide and seek behind gleaming mountainous cumuli, which sail their way to a distant sea. The lilac flaunts its profligate pink profusion, like some girl-child's dream of Cinders' ball. The white-van-men rev, dodge, and career, with their flags of St George singing like ship's-rigging. The bitter beer stands frothing on the bar, to quench the thirst of working men. The barmaid's smile as warming as a meat-pie on a cold day; while the depth of her ample bosoms, promises comfort, with pride but no prejudice. The sap rises up young men's legs, as day-long sun bursts the bud.
Oh yes, and Villa won four-nil.
Well, actually, despite my feeble peroration, its been a bit chilly and although the trees are struggling into leaf, there is still the feel of winter about the place. But when the Villa stick four past any team, never mind Bolton, you can't help feeling a little more pinky and perky, and a definite spring returns to your step. Its been a difficult few weeks and it was a pretty good feeling, waking up on Sunday morning, for a change, with the prospect of seeing four Villa goals replayed, as many times as the TV schedules would allow. Oh, to be in England, when the Villa's knockin' 'em dead.
As we all know, dwelling for too long on the bigger picture, often robs you of the sheer joy of the moment, and Gareth Barry's performance was something to delight in. With two goals and two assists, it would not be an exaggeration to say he had a superb game, and it was no surprise that stories of Chelsea's interest emerged later in the week. For the middling clubs, where form can be a bit hit and miss over a long season, the only way you ever know you have an exceptional player, is when the top teams start sniffing round. It happened with Platt; it happened with Yorke and now its happening with Barry. You then find out if you are a big club, when they go. Its just something you have to get used to. Just as Man United have to deal with a rumour about Ronaldo going to Spain, about once a fortnight. Add in a brilliantly taken goal from Gabby me babby, to Barry's captain's performance, and I was ready to get totally shit-faced and rip up my throat with a bit of celebratory karaoke, come Saturday night.
Yeah, read 'em and weep.
It was a grand feeling, even if we didn't learn much we didn't know already - not as good as Manchester United but a lot better than the relegation fodder. Even so, after our series of losses, it was a brilliant reminder of how there us nothing like that winning feeling.
In the matter of a month we were just forcibly reminded that Portsmouth are a team of big strong lads who bully us, Sunderland are not as hopeless as we had assumed, and that Man United are probably on a different planet. Obviously, there seems little we can do about United, unless there's another Ronaldo going cheap, somewhere we haven't heard of, but we can't help hoping that Martin O'Neill has some remedy up his sleeve.
In Mart we will trust - 'nough said!
The plight of Bolton stands as testament to the way a club can depend entirely on the force of one man's personality. We all know that Anelka left for bluer pastures but whatever the Allardyce Bolton had, they seem to have lost. It looks like the same set of players, who could make life, for more fancied teams, very difficult, but the thing that made them better than the sum of their parts, seemed to evaporate, the moment big Sam drove his Aston Martin off the car park.
Obviously, Allardyce was unable to create the Bolton culture, just as Cloughie failed at Leeds, but there is little doubt that good managers are like gold dust. In the end, the greatness of any manager should be measured by his ability to walk into club and impose his own ethos on every fibre of the place. Even the richest clubs' success depends entirely on the power and personality of their manager. Neither Manchester United or Arsenal are immune from that fact.
Talking of Arsenal, I thought I was looking at the English Arsene Wenger, when I saw Tony Mowbray's Albion play their passing game in last week's semi-final. Obviously, not quite as dynamic as the Gunners, but the way they moved the ball around was a pleasure to watch. Their failure to score, reminded every amateur tactician, how with every gain there is a loss. While Kevin Phillips played deep in the little Rooney position, which gave Portsmouth all sorts of problems, there just wasn't anyone in the box to put the ball in the net. If he'd discovered the trick of being in two places at once, I am sure Albion would be in the final. Typically, a handball by Baros was enough to give the advantage to Portsmouth. In the other game, there were several moments of real quality from ex-Villan Peter Whittingham, including the assist for the goal. He was so good in fact that I thought he was Yossi Benayoun, in a Cardiff shirt - surely he could play in the Premiership.
Adrian Chiles and his girls might have shed a few tears, at their, so near, yet so far, day out, but for me, it was a perfect weekend of Villa goals and Rock n Roll.
Yeah, and it did seem like a long time, since the last time.