Something For The Weekend (202)
Even Villa fans holidaying on Brean Down (the Brummie Riviera), with the rain battering their caravans, last week, must have enjoyed a warm glow, or more likely, a slight thawing of the extremities, as Villa opened their Premiership with a resounding win, against Man City.
I'll not dwell too long on the two they let in, because, let us say, the referee was more than generous in awarding Citeh the penalty which kept them in the game but which certainly failed to knock a sprightly Villa out of their stride.
Mark Hughes might not have been too pleased with some of his teams defending but no one could fail to notice that Villa's goals came from top quality play - quality creation from Ashley and Gareth, and quality finishing from big John and Erdington's very own Gabriel Imuetinyan Agbonlahor.
When he insisted his team was always in the game, Hughes was acknowledging the fact, of his team's undoing, arising from Villa's superior quality.
I don't know whether I am showing the first signs of an old man's tendency towards over sentimentality, but just like I got all choked up the other week, when I saw the Supermarine Spitfires on Top Gear, I couldn't help noticing that I got a lump in my throat, when Gabby was put through by Gareth, and he scored his one-on-one, with majestic and transcendent ease, to finish off his perfect hattrick. No one can deny, that the local boy, truly looked the business.
Having 6ft 5ins of hairy-arsed goalkeeper looming down on you, can be quite a test of nerve - a test, only top class players consistently pass.
Whether it was he who walked on water, scoring his one-on-one on his debut (April '72 v Torquay), or whether it was Sir Dennis against Liverpool (Jan 81), or David Platt against Arsenal (Dec '89); the one-on-one has always been a real measure of class. Even though I am not old enough to remember Gerry Hitchens (children, it was the steam-age), I am well acquainted with the legend and by all accounts his singular ability at the one-on-one, took him all the way to a successful career in Italy, where the likes of Greaves notoriously failed. Of course, I could mention Alan Macinally's goal against Millwall (Nov '88) but that was more of a one-on-eleven than a one-on-one, but you get the picture. And, Dalian will certainly not forgive me, if he doesn't get a mention, for his goal against Wimbledon (another one-on-eleven), and I'm still hoping he'll get me a deal on a Hyundai, so I mustn't upset him.
Gabby my boy - you were total class!
Although it would have been no more than he deserved, I was rather glad Gabby me babby, didn't get called into the full England team, on Wednesday, as a night chasing shadows like the preferred Defoe, would hardly have been much of a boost to his confidence. I would much rather see him keep his powder dry and save his legs for Villa.
It was a typical ragged performance by England and only a last gasp equalizer from Villa-target, Joe Cole, saved the nation's blushes. I was even more glad that Gabby missed out, when I heard Capello decided to single out Gareth Barry for what sounded too much like criticism, for my liking. Rather than pick on Barry, I think the nation would much prefer to know, why fat Frank has been rubbish for countless games, rather than why Gareth was slightly off-colour for one. Similar questions might easily be asked of Rooney, so why pick on our (sic) Gareth?
All talk of Capello's meritocracy has now gone out of the window and it looks like he will continue the tradition of having special favourites who will be kept in cotton-wool. With the usual wrangling within the old-boy network of the FA, resulting in the ousting of Brian Barwick, it looks like nothing has changed and we can expect the same outcome.
As most people can't help noticing, the fantastic performance of the British Olympic team in Beijing, has only been made possible by proper professional organisation and large amounts of money. The FA, by contrast, have the money but sadly none of the organisation. As ever, the FA's change of personnel, will lead to yet another change of thinking, another change of ego - which is just what you want, when you are trying to qualify for a World Cup. Not.
But hopefully, England matters and old men's machinations, will be the last thing on the Villa player's minds, as they travel to Stoke this weekend.
To suggest that Stoke City might be up for this their home debut, in the Premiership, might be a bit of an understatement. Villa beware! All the pundits predict that Villa will have to cope with an aerial bombardment from the Potters, with no doubt the likes of Leon Cort leading the line at set-pieces. Stoke are owned by an Icelandic consortium and Villa fans can only hope that their team will dispose of them in the same way as Hafnarfjordur (good test for the spell-checker that one).
Obviously, I am hoping for some more shock and awe from Villa but a simple competent win will do.
Two wins on the trot and six points out of six, will set out Villa's stall, very nicely.
Add in a couple of quality signings, later in the week, and I will start to think of this, as a fantastic summer - even for damp brummies shivering on Brean Down.