Something For The Weekend (204)
Its been quite a week and whether it was the closing of the transfer window, or the takeover of Manchester City, it has been Manna from heaven for all football natterers and obsessives. And, joy, for the first time in a long while, it was suddenly possible to read a newspaper from the back to the front and not have to dwell on the torments of front-page atrocity or meretricious political debate. At last, I could leave the theatre of democratic Punch and Judy to those, who it concerns and those whose interests it perpetuates. Besides, Lawrenson has always been more sincere than Paxman or Littlejohn, and by a long way.
Football is back and properly so.
First there was Villa's rather dour battle with Liverpool, which our Martin and his best pal Rafa, did their best not to lose. Their individual team-talks must have consisted of a request by O'Neill, that Villa might prove they could keep a clean-sheet, which they duly succeeded in doing, while Rafa asked his lot to prove that they are a good team when Steven Gerrard is not playing; which they subsequently failed to confirm. Once Torres had limped off, a stalemate looked likely, if not inevitable, and the only thing left for the fans to do, was to phone up their favourite radio show and moan about it - proving to the Villa's owners, that they have succeeded in raising expectations, at least. It's been a long time since Liverpool were considered a shoo-in.
It was the sort of game which usually takes a great striker to win - a great striker, being that special breed of predator, who scores when he seems to have no right to do so. It was the sort of thing which made Shearer so damned annoying, but as of yet, Villa do not own such a goalmouth raptor and certainly on Sunday, unless Villa's strikers got the perfect assist, which did not arrive, they were not going to score. It was with this acknowledgement in mind, that Villa fans were left holding their breath until midnight on Monday, as they awaited the arrival of the bigshot, which would have made every Villa punk's day, week and year.
It didn't happen and Shaun Maloney's departure began to look like a significant loss, especially as one of Villa's front two, looked a little distracted.
Not to diminish the suffering of those who paid good money to stand for two hours in damp clothing, with nothing more than a wind-chilled balti pie, to raise their temperature, it was a good result for Villa; as the idea of entering the two week International break, with two losses under their belts, was just not to be contemplated. A fortnight is a very long time, to be thinking about, where the hell your next win is going to come from. A respectable draw against a 'top team' brings with it some very consoling escape-clauses and excuses, which are essential for keeping things on track and people on side. Disillusion, if it must be faced, should be saved for late April, not served up in late August.
I am not quite sure what the Villa fans would have done if Villa had signed Robhino but I suspect hysteria might have broken out, not far short of that which brought most Man City fans to the verge of a calenture, this week.
Paying £200m, plus whatever debts they have, and then splashing another £32.5m on a single player, looks rather too exactly like what Thorstein Veblen called conspicuous waste, to make much sense, but it certainly makes Villa, who actually still own their own ground, look like the bargain of the decade, especially when you consider that the cost of Robhino is almost exactly half of what Randy Lerner bought the whole of Villa for.
The rain falls hard on a humdrum town.
What worries me, is the affect the transformation will have on the Man City fans - a person's choice of team is such a measure of personal values, philosophical outlook and inherited family memes. City and United are the yin and yang of the city's football clubs, although strictly United are geographically, not actually in Manchester and their mentality resides somewhere in the home counties. Man United are for children who have everything, while City are for Children who must stoically learn to live with nowt. Man United are for those children who cried when they were given out at cricket, or were allowed to win every family game by their parents. City are for Children who got broken toys for Christmas and felt guilty if they won anything, and grow up to write songs about it.
A dreaded sunny day so I meet you at the cemetery gates.
Without Manchester's native misery where would Morrissey and Liam Gallagher be? It is really worrying, what sort of affect the transformation of City will have on their artistic output. Will Oasis get Benny and Bjorn, of Abba fame, to produce an album of happy-go-lucky, singalong hits? The thought of Liam singing along to We Are The Champions, is not something we are ready for, quite yet. I've never seen the lad do happy and I am not sure he can.
There's a club if you'd like to go
so you go, and you stand on your own
and you leave on your own
and you go home, and you cry
and you want to die
Joking aside, the addition of owners said to be many times richer than Abramovich to the Premiership pantheon, certainly seems to have rather ominous implications for most other clubs. Adding another club with resources to challenge for a top-four berth, makes it a little bit more difficult for Villa but that is as nothing compared to the threat it poses to the indebted giants, like Arsenal and Liverpool. Cut either of these clubs off from the income from the Champions League, for a couple of seasons, and they start to look very vulnerable. But no one can deny that it will definitely improve the television product and make everyone even richer, if not successful.
And, it might reveal whether Michel Platini is really concerned about English clubs' debts, or, its just their wealth, he objects to.
Even with pockets as infinitely deep as Man City's new owners, I don't see them winning the Premiership any time soon. The management structure is just too cumbersome and unwieldy to efficiently transform that wealth into success on the pitch, despite all Mark Hughes's fine qualities. Such money can only produce an obscene level of very conspicuous waste. Without total control of the whole culture of the club, it is hard to see how any manager can turn resources into silverware. No matter who's money it is they are spending, Ferguson and Wenger, remain their clubs greatest asset: both brought a new ethos to their respective clubs, and without that ethos it is hard to believe that they would have won so much, as rich as they are. From George Ramsay, Herbert Chapman to Bill Shankly and beyond, success has always been entirely dependent upon one man having the license to create a winning ethos. City's new owners, seem more intent on building a brand.
But I tell you what, it's going to be interesting, very interesting, as Barry Davies might say.