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Something For The Weekend (191)



Now where is that fondue set?

As the European Championships open proceedings in Austria and Switzerland, I can't help but think that it has all the promise of that famous Swiss dish - the fondue. For those unfamiliar with the dish, and I suspect younger generations might not tend to put the required kit on their wedding-list these days, it is the sort of dinner which relies upon a multiplicity of accompaniments, rather more work than I prefer at mealtimes, and more cheese than an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. And, just like the ALW musical, there is no guarantee of satisfaction by the end of it, especially if you go for the bourguignon option.

Certainly, after the American-sized portions of the spicy meat and potatoes of the Premiership, its going to seem a bit insubstantial, for football's gourmands and gundyguts. If you start to add in Switzerland and Austria's dinky stadiums, with the sort of miniscule crowd-capacity which might embarrass an ambitious Coca-Cola Championship club, the whole thing seems to take on Lilliputian proportions.

Obviously, England and the English will be missed, even though the Schweizers are more used to the sandals-with-socks variety of our happy breed, rather than the tattooed representatives of our ongoing urban experimentations.

Personally, the only thing I miss about England not being there, is all the flag-flying, which has lately become the tradition before these tournaments, and even if our hapless team is not there, I still miss the big build-up, with its party atmosphere, those posters of players who never made the squad and supermarkets actually begging me to buy their patriotic beer and Twiglets.

I won't miss watching England though, as I have grown to associate those miserable occasions with a sense of betrayal, which arises from the fraudulent misrepresentation of their prospects by the big fat fibbers of the collective punditry. Even if I know that these muppets are probably only responding to the demands of those nutty patriots, who insist that if you say this country is the best, often enough, it will suddenly become true, I still feel cheated.

Sadly, England's failure to win the European Championships is a bigger indictment of the failings of English football, than any number of ignominious World Cup exits. No real minnow has ever won the World Cup in modern times but what with Denmark, a country with a population less than Greater London and Greece (11m), no such impediment seems to exist in the European tournament. Now it only
needs Portugal to win it, for England to be left as the only country of substantial size, which might fancy itself as able to kick a ball in a straight-line, who have never won the damn thing. Even with all the
advantages of being hosts in 1996, and with Shearer, Sheringham and Gascoigne in their pomp; England still managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

But like the rest of the panoply of glaring failings, which add irony to our Nation's tendency to strut upon the world stage, I think I can learn to live with it.

So, watching the tournament, and I hope not to miss too many games, will be an innocent pleasure, which will have the added interest of watching Martin O'Neill, as he does his special brand of slightly spaced-out punditry for the BBC.

There's no doubt that he will get hammered by Hansen and co, as to whether Barry is off to Liverpool or not, and I suspect he will continue to delay his reply until he thinks the Villa fans have had enough time to come to terms with the loss and accept it. But the craic will be fierce.

As ever, I will watch our very own enigma Mart with rapt fascination and I fully expect him to arrive in the studio, after tackling some huge Coupe Matterhorn (a Coupe is a sort of Swiss knickerbocker glory), with a dab of cream on the end of his nose and start quoting from The Return Of The Native, to explain why the Czech 4-4-2 is really a Christmas tree, while Shearer flicks snot balls at him, from under the table. The only thing that is going to spoil the fun is the absence of Ian Wright, who does passion and enthusiasm better than anyone else in the business. Its just a pity that he went off in a huff because no one would treat him like he is Isaiah Berlin, or something. For some, being loved is not enough - (Gareth?).

But I suspect most Villa fans would prefer Martin O'Neill not to be spending his precious time offering opinion or adding colour, for the delectation of a television audience, and would rather have him exercise his talents in beguiling the several players Villa so desperately need, into his anorexic squad. What with the increasing doubt about Barry (or is it now certainty?) and the squad looking not quite fit for the purpose of tackling a long European campaign, right now, the fans can't help but feel a little anxious. It really is a test of one's confidence in Martin, to take it for granted that he will be able to sign enough players in the few weeks leading up to their Inter Toto games. The cynics think not - the dreamers bite their lips and just hope.

In the meantime, the fans must face the torture of Tantalus, over the three weeks of the tournament, as they drool over various players, who they can be absolutely certain won't be coming to Villa - Martin just doesn't work like that. O'Neill just doesn't do impulse-purchases, or at least, not until he has run out of both time and options. Gladly, there is going to be plenty of football to take our minds off such things, and it is time to lie back and not think of England.

Herr Kellner! Does that come with chips?
The Journalist

Writer: Steve Wade Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday June 6 2008

Time: 7:38PM

Your Comments

Brilliant article but I think you may have missed the point Steve. Is it MON or the real powers that have reportedly rolled over where Barry is concerned. If they are saying 'Take the money, lets make a profit' then whatever MON wants is lost. I would not be suprised to see him toddle off to pastures new as soon as a club with more ambition than Villa seem to have comes and asks for his help. I mean, 14m it just a joke. I've been a Villa fan since George Cummins played Stanley Matthews off the park,even through the horrible Ellis years, but giving Barry away at that price will probably finish me. I'm now getting too old for the aggravation.
Obediah
I don't even want to start... But I will. It has to be nothing les than 30m. Either that or sit it out and go on a free. We will NEVER make top four if we constantly allow the teams currently taking up those bearths to cherry pick. Stand tall. Be firm, and in the words of Zammo - "Just Say No".
Adam Deuce
As a Villa fan of many years, (not quite as many as Obediah) I have witnessed many changes at the club,both good and bad,and for me this is the the most positive spell in the clubs history, If MON wants to spend time at te Euro's SO WHAT! If fans expect MON to spend every wakeing hour chained to his desk at VP then they are very much mistaken. The man is entitled to have free time to do with it as he sees fit. AS for Barry he wants to leave of that I'm sure. He is not worth 30 million, in real terms he is a 18-20 million player. If we get Crouch and 8 million thats about right in my view. Also MON is not the type of manager to buy superstars, he seems to be the type of manager who values the dressing room and the mood within it, Hense the reason why Barry will be leaving and not left to rot in the reserves. I have evry confidence that MON will build the club slowly, making steady and sustained progress, not quick knee jerk signings with a short shelf life. Leave MON to do his work and we will see a long and prosperious future. Thats how you build a good club/buisness with good foundations Unlike the Leeds model.
gappy65
Why would we want him to "rot in the reserves" Make him see out his contract and do what he's contracted to do - play for Aston Villa FC for the next two years. By the end of those two years if we are not in the CL then OK. See a GB. I know things aren't quite as simple as that but they could be.
Adam Deuce
I agree with Adam make him see out his contract. If we're not in the CL then leave for nothing or less than we would get now. If we are, sign a new contract!
industrial_musical
"In the words of Zammo just say no!" LOL Adam.
The Fear
I'd let him see out this coming season, if we are still no closer then fine, maybe let him listen to other offers.
The Fear
If you all honestly believe that Barry will see out his contract at VP you must all be deluded. IMO he wants to leave and he will!!! You just can't expect a player to see his contract in this day and age! Firatly you will have a very unhappy player and dare I say it Captain, who will not give his all, and secondly, what effect will that have on the dressing room. So my friends you have very little option but to let a player rot in the reserves if you make them see out the remainder of a contract.
gappy65
We all saw GB's reaction when the news broke about the offer from the scoucers when he put in a lacklustre performance against Wigan.....
gappy65
Top notch article. One of your very best, and theres been some damn good ones up to now too. Great read.
glensider
 

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