Something For The Weekend (188)
Latest estimates have the forthcoming London Olympics costing £14b, for three weeks of sport, and everyone knows that it will cost a lot more than that, by the time that potlatch has run its course. And then, of course, part of that three weeks will consist of welly-tossing, porridge-diving and a whole host of other minority sports, which will be seen by no more than a handful of geekish aficionados, and add nothing to the TV ratings. Add in the certain knowledge, that a drugs-cheat will win at least one of the main events, and the Premiership begins to look both morally irreproachable (almost) and fantastic value for money, for ten months of enthralling soap-opera and spectacular thrills - even if Manchester United always seem to win the fecking thing.
In the face of blood doping, bollock-shrinking and clitoris-enhancing cocktails of designer-drugs, Steve Bennett's kind-hearted decision to not send Paul Scholes off, against Wigan, begins to look like a trivial peccadillo. And, even if the contents of every brown paper-bag, ever slipped under the table at any number of motorway service-stations, since the game began, was added up, the sums would amount to no more than petty-cash, compared with the amount of graft and slush involved in your modern Olympic games.
So, in short, when it comes to providing entertainment, value for money and keeping its house in order, I declare the Premiership the winner by a country mile. But I won't be forgetting too quickly, that football only offers a relative sanity, compared to the sheer madness of the Olympics, and that with Scudamore still muttering about his 39th game, football still has its share of madmen in the attic.
I realised I am not entirely devoid of madness myself, as I found myself having a mild sulk, at the thought of Man United winning yet another title. Hilariously, the rationale for sticking out my bottom lip, is that it makes it harder for Villa to catch up. I know it's completely and utterly daft but somewhere inside my head, there is a twelve-year-old kid who thinks that the start of our game of catch-up, is imminent and that twelve-year-old, just won't listen to reason.
Villa finishing sixth wasn't bad and they were only two decent performances away from fulfilling my greatest hopes for the season - fifth and automatic UEFA qualification. I indulged in a little mardiness but my grumps didn't last very long and the thing that snapped me out of my grouchy Sunday sulk was the news that the bearded one, the one and only Olof Mellberg, had bought a shirt for every away supporter, at the West Ham game.
Away supporters are a very special breed and deserve such largesse.
I can't even find the words to describe how this made me feel. It was the reminder that I needed, that Villa have become a very special club, with an almost unique relationship with their fans, and it was almost impossible to think of any other club or any other player who would have made such a gesture. It seemed, obviously, to have been directly influenced by the generosity of Randy Lerner, and the sense of well-being and goodwill, that his own gesture generated. It was, as if, since Randy treated the fans, that the same sense of generosity, was moving outward like ripples on a pond. Unexpected generosity, is always the best generosity of all. And I have to confess, my own generosity, is always totally unexpected.
This was a very special feeling, which swept all traces of disappointment away.
Olof - you're d'man!
This marvellous gesture from our departing legend pushed Villa into the top-four of the Premiership's happiest clubs and depending on who wins the Champions League final, might see them finish as high as second. Liverpool and Arsenal fans seem to be quite disappointed with their respective seasons. Arsenal's failure to convert their sheer brilliance into trophies, still rankles, and if the sight of Man United lifting a trophy, sends me to my bedroom for a good sulk, it must send a Gooner to either the nearest madhouse, or their nearest tall building.
Meanwhile Liverpool paid £26m for Torres and still got out-scored by Villa, while their American owners have had more public squabbles than Hillary and Obama. Amazingly, Portsmouth, who might or might not feel rather better come Saturday night, seem to have been a bit flat, ever since they booked their place in the Cup Final, and every time you see Redknapp on the box these days, he's being a right old grumpy bollocks, because the crowds have been so low.
So, have no doubt, when it comes to the feel-good league, Villa are Champions League shoo-ins.
But as smugly beatific as a lot of Villa fans might be at the moment, they are also aware that the club needs some big signings, if they are to either consolidate, or, if possible, improve on this season's sixth-place finish. What with the bearded one nipping off to Juventus and Scott Carson returning to Scouser land, while Sorensen and Berger have both gone off looking for that 'fresh challenge', Martin O'Neill will need to bring in half a team, just to break even. And, the fans can only hope that he avoids, a Summer of European Championship TV punditry, a la Big Ron, and devotes his time to adding substantially to Villa's barebones squad.
Villa have been in this exact same position before, just on the edge of things, and no one needs reminding that, so often in the past it fizzled out, as previous regimes have failed to make the crucial bold steps, to build promise into real success. Things are supposed to be different this time around but there are a lot of Villa cynics out there, for which only seeing will prompt belief.
But despite a few lingering doubts, it has been a very satisfying end of season for Villa fans and what with them being able to see at least one former Villa player in the Cup Final, and sharing Gary Cahill's and Gavin McCann's joy at retaining their Premiership status, there's not been much to regret about the season's outcome. I had mixed feelings about Birmingham City being relegated - I couldn't decide whether I was merely delighted, or totally ecstatic.
You can only feel sorry for the Blues fans because they have put up with an awful lot from their cheap-skate owners, but the management at St Andrews has always been particularly hostile towards Villa supporters, with their spiteful pricing policy for visiting away fans etc. And, their total mishandling of their abortive sale of the club, which saw the departure of the best manager they have had in a very long time, exposes them as the bungling amateurs we had always assumed them to be. Gladly, I welcome West Bromwich Albion back to the big time, and feel sure, relations between the two clubs will be rather more cordial, than those Villa have enjoyed with Small Heath Alliance, over the last few years.
But for Blues - just send in the clowns.