Something For The Weekend (201)
I gather Martin O'Neill is not planning to take his holidays in Scotland any time soon, as he not only has the distinction of being a rather too successful Celtic manager, as far as the Blue half of Glasgow are concerned, he nicked Rangers' best player this week (SPL player of the year), for a fee usually associated with more ordinary players than Carlos Javier Cuéllar Jimenez.
I haven't quite sussed out the pronunciation of Villa's incoming Spaniard's name but as he's been living in Scotland, I'll probably opt for Jimmy.
I am not sure whether Martin had some kind of epiphany in his Notts Forest days, concerning the likes of Larry Lloyd and Kenny Burns, but he sure seems to like centre-backs and with Villa's brand new arrival, he now has four quality players to fill two berths. But surely, no matter who he chooses for Sunday's opener against Man City, Villa's workload, this term, will mean that there will be plenty of opportunities for all concerned, especially as, should Villa avoid early exit from the UEFA cup, they will be playing two games a week, even before other cup competitions get underway.
His logic seems pretty sound, as no one could really help noticing, that last season's little slump, coincided with the injury to Curtis Davies. He's not exactly over-endowed in all areas of the team though and getting some quality cover for the striking positions still looks like a priority.
There's plenty of reasons to keep a squad on the smallish size though, as it ensures all the players don't feel too far removed from the action - Arsenal's squad of almost fifty bodies and Man United's forty, totally dwarf Villa's present squad of twenty-five. Liverpool have thirty-two and Chelsea, a surprisingly compact twenty-eight but with more to come, we must assume.
Villa's twenty-five must surely be seen as the minimum resources required to maintain their present status, in the second rank of Premiership teams, but as far as I'm concerned, anything much over thirty starts to look bloated. I just can't see how the guy wearing the number 55 shirt in the Arsenal squad (Sanchez Watt), can feel truly involved, unless Wenger plays 25-a-side, to perfect their passing game.
One thing's for sure, I was rather glad I wasn't too vehement, with my accusations of Villa boardroom parsimony, over the last few weeks and I regret my crack about Jimmy Hoffa having Lerner's wallet. If my sums add up, Villa have out-spent just about everyone and there are certain habitually carping Villa critics, who have been attempting some pretty challenging contortions, this last couple of days, trying to distance themselves from some of their former bitter accusations.
Here's one - take note of the familiar blue underwear.
Although to be honest, I was having to do a few back-flips myself, the other night, as I was caught congratulating Channel 5, on the wisdom of them screening the Villa game, after certain witnesses were ungracious enough to remind me, that my usual reaction to their habit of screening early games in the UEFA cup, is to say something along the lines of, 'Who the flip, wants to watch this?'
Alas, my double-standards were exposed and some feelings got hurt.
After Gareth Barry scored the opener and settled Villa down, I was scratching my head, trying to remember whether I'd said anything really nasty about him, when I thought he was going to leave but as no one poured too much scorn on my jiggy-jiggy dancing, it looks like I probably did not.
Whether he finally goes or not, it was clear from his performance that he is a great player and a great professional: although with Capello sucking on a piece of frozen Icelandic cod, in the stands (they'd run out of Cornettos), he didn't have a lot of choice, if he wants to keep his England place. But setting aside his amazing ability to still perform, while being at slight odds with the club and its fans, he is truly a quality player and the bullshit-free efficiency of his play, shone out amongst some variously ragged performances, from certain players who will remain nameless.
As we all know, Villa can't really afford to lose him and Sidwell will have to be bloody good, if he must fill his shoes - both of them together might be interesting, though.
Villa's defence hardly looked convincing but new 'keeper Friedel, displayed the sort of assured handling, which reminded me that those Yankees, sure know how to play catch. He has the sort of hands which might be useful for hanging around a mangrove swamp, and he can catch the ball one-handed - he sure would be good at picking watermelons.
So a new season's about to start and things don't look substantially different in the Premiership, to suggest a massive shift in power is imminent.
Liverpool have both added and taken away from their squad and its hard to see them improving much. Man United must do without Ronaldo for a few months and only if they sign Berbatov, would a shoo-in look likely. Arsenal seem to have the same problems as last term, while Chelsea and Scolari look the big unknowns, in the pack. Although actually caring who wins the Premiership, these days, gets more difficult with every passing year.
IF Villa can keep Barry, they look far better equipped and given even luck, sixth or even higher looks a good possibility. Lerner has literally cast his bread upon the water and he like the rest of us must wait to see what good comes of it.
Sixth or seventh, with a cup of some description, would bring delight all round, I am sure, and would sure have us thinking we were going up the country.
Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts and get ready for take-off.