Something For The Weekend (192)
So, I settled down on the rank quagmire which is my sofa, for my three weeks of torpid telly-watching, last weekend, and waited to be delighted, enthused and entertained. Unfortunately, the first two days of this much-lauded festival of European football, was one long boring week in Dullsville, on the planet Drab in the constellation of Perpetual Insipidness. It involved the crappest opening ceremony, ever, and looked like a Blue Peter project, which had got out of hand - and with Mr Pastry obviously in charge of the sticky-backed plastic. The fact that it was held at some place called Wankdorf, seemed to sum it all up very nicely. It then got worse - the football started.
I was reminded of that line from Woody Allen's Sleeper, where the denizens of the future world, think that those who were guilty of crimes against the state, used to be made to watch dull baseball games. My investment in cheap lager and Twiglets seemed like profligate waste and sucking the stains on my sofa, might have been more appropriate, for the stuff on offer.
There were consolations of course, mostly in the shape of a really drab performance by the French, who looked every bit as clueless as their Roast Beef rivals across the watery sleeve. Scarface Ribery more than filling the fat Frank role, of having had a superb season for Bayern Munich but looking a bit crap in his shirt of Gallic blue. It was a strong reminder of what we were definitely not missing from England and how teams like Romania, just bring the game into dull disrepute, their Italy performance notwithstanding.
But then......but then... the Dutch turned up and Wowee!
The Dutch win was a little bit controversial, what with that odd off-side ruling but what it really proved, was that those who offer themselves up as pundits, don't actually know the rules of the game, and the one person who did (wee Gordon) was laughed at, for being conversant with both lore and law. It was indeed bizarre but I couldn't help but wonder how the old Arsenal would have played, if their off-side-trap had included a goalkeeper, who kept stepping behind the goal-line, at exactly the same time as Adams and Co had taken their step forward - what a farce of an Arse that would have been. Italy were brilliant too and despite the score-line their margin of defeat was actually very small indeed - technically very sound but with their best defender missing and lacking a bit of pace, they weren't quite the team which won the World Cup.
Then the Spanish took it a notch higher, with a wonderful win over Russia, which included a superb hattrick from David Villa Sanchez, ably assisted by the pace and unselfishness of Fernando Torres. The fact that Cesc Fābregas can't get in the team suggests they have the sort abundance of talent, England can only dream of. And, it was the sort of game, which was well worth the extravagance of opening a few beers which were of slightly better quality than my stock of Tesco's own-brand swill.
Thanks to Holland and Spain my spirits were lifted enough, to see me through, any other disappointment, which I might have to cope with through the rest of the week - even Ronaldo scoring for Portugal.
Petty jealousies apart, I still find it difficult to swallow the suggestions of some the less realistic hyperbolists, that Ronaldo is the best player in the world, even if he thinks so himself. But I seem to have managed to unravel the cryptic messages offered by the likes of Hansen. His opinion runs along the lines, that there are 'no better candidates'; which seems to suggest that in the absence of a Zidane or a Ronaldinho, in top form, then Ronaldo might be considered as amongst a few outstanding players, but who might not quite deserve the accolade of greatness. This, if my interpretation is correct, would be where I would certainly rank United's Portuguese young pretender.
Strangely, I had no difficulty in supporting Germany through the week, but I put this remarkable change of heart down to seeing a nice interview with Der Hammer, which was done in his delightful brummie-tinged English - and I was just charmed into submission.
With teams like Poland, the joint-hosts and a few other less than outstanding make-weights in the mix, it does seem amazing that England weren't good enough to qualify for the tournament, but
watching Croatia beat the Germans, you could see why England might have found them more than they could handle. Their technical accomplishment, which means that they can control the ball rather better than we have come to expect from our lot, combined with a prodigious work-rate, makes them a very decent side.
Unfortunately, for them and Adrian Chiles' mom, its a style which takes such a toll on them physically, that I think they will be knackered by the third week. Despite, what was a very humiliating defeat, which left Der Kaiser speechless (fassunglos), the Germans still seem capable of going all the way, as their style seems so economical by comparison. If Villa were to sign the superb Philip Lahm, there would be no complaints from me. Frings might be the ideal midfield replacement, should such a gap need filling. Holland's Engelaar, looked even better. But having seen Turkey's Kazim Richards look superb, I was reminded that these tournaments are a distorting mirror to talent, and offer less than reliable evidence, for confident assessments of a player's suitability for the Premiership.
All this amounts to very small beer for most Villa fans, as they attempt to digest the certainty that Gareth Barry will be leaving the club.
Once the news hit the headlines, a little while back, it all looked rather inevitable and since then it has all been about the various parties, haggling over the price and handling the PR. The incurable sentimentality of the fans will ensure that the speculation will continue, as to who is to blame, and the rest of the whys and wherefores. My own view would be that it is simply a case of a player finding that his personal stock is at an all-time high, and that he has the one certain chance of his career, to move to a top-four club, who offer a guarantee of Champions League football - jam today rather than tomorrow. But absolutely key, is that the move offers the incredible advantage of him being able to play along side a player, he seems to have a natural understanding with, and if successful, which it looks likely, would cement his place in the England team, and establish his career at a whole new level. This, for me, is far more important than any other factor I can think of, or anyone else can dream up.
For the player its a no-brainer but its a real blow to the fans and a set-back for the manager and the prospects of his team. For those who will be deeply hurt by the departure of such an important player, I will ask them to think back two years and think of the Gareth Barry of that time, when he looked like a player without an established position and was considered to be lacking a bit of pace for left-back and was not quite skilful enough for a midfield berth. It would be no exaggeration to say that Gareth's development into the sort of player, who looked so at home in an England shirt, had an awful lot to do with the present coaching set-up at Villa, and what can be done once, can be done again. Therefore, I don't see Gareth as a unique talent , that might be impossible to replace - I do not see his loss as such a severe blow, as losing either Platt or Dwight Yorke.
There will certainly be life after Barry but I can't help regretting the loss of such a fine long-serving and popular player, who many fans had grown to think of as Mister Aston Villa.
I wish I could say it ain't so but I can't.