Something For The Weekend (193)
They say you should try everything once, except folk dancing and heavy-petting with a camel, and for many years I would have included cheering for the German national football team, on that little list, of things best avoided. So it was quite a novel experience last night, to find myself doing a little dance in my creaking and rather fetid Lederhosen, as Bonzer Ballack scored the goal which ensured, there was going to be some close-ups of Ronaldo's tearful mush, to delight in, as the 'best player in the world' took the exit door out of Euro 2008.
But, I might add, Ronaldo was not the only one in tears by the end of the night, as I discovered that all that thigh-slapping, which is a special feature of German folk-dancing, really can make your eyes water, should you get carried away. And, did I get carried away.
But never mind the tears and my smarting legs, I opened a few more bottles of Löwenbräu (Lions brew - very appropriate for Villa fans) and regaled the night with a loud blast of my Rammstein and Böhse Onkelz collection.
You get the idea:
There is something about the Germans, which can get under an English skin, because they look like the team England could and should be, if our lot had the same sort of self-belief and discipline. We can't be Italians or Spanish, and not even Russians or French, but the Germans always look annoyingly within reach.
This German team is particularly annoying because they have so many ordinary players, who seem to be actually not as good as their English counterparts. Our very own much-loved Tommy Hitzlsperger, would be very unlikely to make the England squad but there he was last night, in the starting-eleven. And there was Schweinsteiger, looking like Rooney with a joke wig on his kopf. Then there's not so super Mario Gomez, who has made Crouch look like Gert Müller. Michael Ballack, however, has been the player Steven Gerrard was supposed to be, but while Germany's number 13 cruises around the pitch with the insouciance and presence of the pocket-battleship Bismarck, Gerrard always dashes about gurning with patriotic distress.
Germany have not looked great and even the German press have described their teams progress as the triumph of ugly football. All I say is, if that's ugly football, its about time England got ugly. As ever, while the gods frowned down on France, they seemed to grin knowingly in the direction of the Germans, as a quick look at the draw quickly reveals, Germany's likely easier passage into the final, compared with the Netherlands tricky pairing, with either Spain or Italy.
Once again, the Krauts find themselves one game from the final, while we still wonder what happened to France. Undoubtedly, incredibly unlucky, but if I remember rightly, they were the nation who were held up as the ultimate example, to England, of how to get things done, and our whole obsession with having a national youth academy was inspired by an ambition to emulate the French example. How come, if it is the Rolls-Royce solution, which we were told it was, they were forced to field such an ageing side? The emergence of Karim Benzema was more to do with the youth academy at Olympique Lyonnais, than their national establishment, I believe.
It all seems to go to prove, that you can have the best facilities in the world but unless you have the sheer luck to produce the genetic freaks, which world-class sports stars usually are, no amount of expenditure can turn a seaside donkey into a world-class thoroughbred. But even so, perhaps passing a football, might usefully be squeezed onto the British national curriculum.
But whatever the cause, England are not there and it will take a total jingoist, to believe that the tournament has really missed them. In many ways, England not being there has been a real bonus, as looking at the better sides on display, it is hard to believe that England would have done well and an actual humiliation of an early exit cannot be entirely discounted. For me, it has been absolutely totally brilliant, without the usual downside of England misery. I've loved listening to Martin doing his punditry too and I can understand why he might be such a superb mentor, or even life coach. I would even go so far as to say, that just knowing him would probably be enough to make someone's life better.
Hopefully, as the clouds cleared in Switzerland and the mountains at last revealed themselves, Martin O'Neill will have taken himself off to Grindelwald and had a gander at the Eiger Nordwand, which towers above that village. He might usefully remind himself, of the task he has at hand, as he attempts the equally precipitous slopes of the upper-reaches of the Premier League. He might remind himself of the risks of making a hasty retreat from 'Death Bivouac', as demonstrated by John Gregory, when his brave attempt stalled in bad financial weather in 2002. Gregory threw in the towel but the rescue-party was still desperately needed in the end. Martin might remind himself that Gregory's fall, was all but fatal.
Are Villa ready for another attempt?
I have to say, that it looks unlikely at this stage and as ever, O'Neill seems like he is waiting for perfect conditions before he makes his attempt at the summit. The arrival of Sidwell is still an unsubstantiated rumour and with Barry's move still in limbo, conclusions are impossible to reach.
Fans are getting increasingly nervous and pleas for patience, are unlikely to appease those champing at the bit, for the new season to start and for the squad to take on the look of a club that is on its way.
You never can tell.