Something For The Weekend (209)
Curtis Davies wasn't the only one who fell into the hubris trap laid by the BBC last week.
My assumption that Villa had somehow sneaked under the radar, proved as dodgy as Villa's favourite pub-player's form, against Chelsea, in a game of humbling one-sidedness, beneath the twinkling chandeliers of Stamford Bridge. It was a test, which turned into a lesson, a bit of a come down, a rebuke, and then almost a much touted rout. But Martin O'Neill's response to it was, as ever, total class.
Hopefully, magic Mart's self-abasement before the football gods, will have set things right, and Villa's day of nemesis can be put behind them, excused, understood, and thrown in the bin marked 'whoops!'.
No doubt Herr Finkelstein and his colleagues, will expose it as a football myth, in their forthcoming book, but the little distractions of media exposure, and all those 'How did I look?', 'How did I do?' thoughts, seem to distract enough to take the edge off most player's form. Even the turbo-gobs in tracksuits, technically known as managers, seem to get the big come-down, once they have received a Manager Of The Month Award. Old beetroot-face up at Old Trafford knows this all too well and I seem to remember Ryan Giggs was 28 before he was allowed to give his first interview and he's taken no such risks himself, with the BBC, since they became the spawn of Satan.
The lesson, of course, is that should Villa plan to meet Real Madrid, in the final of the Champions League in a few years time, then they might have to get used to a little bit of attention from the media. Not to mention Curtis Davies captaining England for the 2014 World Cup final against Brazil. So he'd better get used to the idea.
Whether England will get to South Africa or where ever it is finally held in 2010, remains to be seen but beating Kazakhstan this Saturday looks like it might be important.
Its crucial in a number of ways and with Croatia still reeling from their massive fine of fifteen thousand pounds, for their racist taunts, I expect the full weight of FIFA's power to fall on England, should any fans dress up as Borat, by way of an attempt at cultural misunderstanding. I am sure if Blatter has anything to do with it, or even Platini, Wembley will be closed and all home games will have to be played on Tristan da Cunha, should the fans step out of line.
That might sound ridiculous but no more so than the rumour that is doing the rounds, that Capello is going to drop Barry and resurrect the Lampard - Gerrard partnership in midfield. This might make perfect sense when the opposition is unlikely to attack but it is my prejudice that even if England were playing the Women's Institute, I still would not expect it to work.
But it might give Gareth a rest though, after his rather demanding exertions of late.
The good news is that its on the telly (ITV1?), so hopefully the Villa fans will be able to gather plenty of evidence, to prove why dropping Gareth was such a bad idea. Forgetting past history, which is rather difficult, it actually would make sense to drop Gerrard for the Kazakhstan game as his tendency to knock it long might not be ideal when the opposition has ten men behind the ball. Using the pace of Wright-Phillips and Walcott to get behind them, might be a better idea. Gerrard might then be brought back on the left, to give England a bit more defensive solidity, if they are not to get lost in the woods and marshes, of Minsk, later next week, where the home team might be expected to mount the occasional attack.
Unfortunately England's recent match-winner Joe Cole, will also be out after a certain Stiliyan Petrov injured his foot with a late challenge last week - tut-tut. But of course, what we are dying to see, is Theo Walcott running through the Kazakhstan ranks, like a streaker in a dog pound. I don't think it is a case of whether they will kick Walcott but how often and how hard.
But I gather from the various guesses of newspaper pundits, that no one really has any idea what England's starting eleven will be, and the absence of Owen seems to have made anything seem possible: Wright-Phillips, even thought it wise to announce publicly, that he'd prefer not to be put in goal.
Trawling the web sites and blogs, I was very pleased to find that the fans of other clubs were very disappointed that neither Ashley Young or Gabby had made the squad. This was very pleasing, especially when it is the likes of Liverpool fans saying it, who must surely know a player when they see one. I am not quite sure Wright-Phillips has really done enough in an England shirt to warrant his selection over Villa's Ashley Young, who has been sensational at times this season, while wee Shaun's final ball is still a matter for concern. And what has Downing ever done?
With Terry out with an injured back, after slipping over while practising penalties, I am equally disappointed that no Villa defenders have made a convincing enough case to be touted as a replacement. But I am convinced, that had Curtis Davies managed to put in one of his more accomplished performances against Chelsea last week, in front of the watching England manager, he might have found himself in the squad for Saturday's game. As far as I am concerned, Lescott has had a lousy season so far and I would put Curtis ahead of him on this season's form. I'm not a big fan of Wes Brown and as an ex-Bluenose, Upson should naturally be considered ineligible.
Despite the lack of a few more Villa players, I am foolish enough to be looking forward to it. But I will not be committing hubris by predicting a repeat of England's performance against Croatia, so I'll just expect the usual - a frustrating two-nil against Kazakhstan and a scrappy nil-nil in far off Belarus.
But if Ashley was playing..........